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Title: Old Friends an New Fancies - An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen
Author: Brinton, Sybil G.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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OLD FRIENDS AND NEW FANCIES

_AN IMAGINARY SEQUEL_

_TO THE NOVELS OF JANE AUSTEN_

BY

SYBIL G. BRINTON

LONDON

HOLDEN & HARDINGHAM

ADELPHI

1913



In this little attempt at picturing the after-adventures of some of Jane
Austen's characters I have made use of the references to them which she
herself made, and which are recorded in Mr. Austen-Leigh's "Memoir."

More grateful acknowledgments than I can ever express are due to my
friend Edith Barran, without whom this book could not have been written.

The difficulties, as well as the presumption, of such an undertaking,
are alike evident; but the fascination of the subject must be our
apology to those who, like ourselves, "owe to Jane Austen of the
happiest hours of their lives."

S.G.B.



_The following characters are introduced into the story:--_

     From _Pride and Prejudice._

     Elizabeth Bennet (now Mrs. Darcy).
     Jane Bennet (now Mrs. Bingley).
     Mr. Darcy.
     Mr. Bingley.
     Miss Bingley.
     Mr. and Mrs. Hurst.
     Kitty Bennet.
     Mr. Bennet.
     Georgiana Darcy.
     Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
     Miss de Bourgh.
     Colonel Fitzwilliam.
     Mrs. Gardiner.
     Mrs. Annesley.


     From _Mansfield Park._

     William Price.
     Mary Crawford.
     Henry Crawford.
     Mrs. Grant.
     Mr. Yates.
     Mrs. Yates.
     Tom Bertram.


     From _Northanger Abbey._

     James Morland.
     Eleanor Tilney (now Lady Portinscale).
     General Tilney.
     Captain Tilney.
     Isabella Thorpe.


     From _Sense and Sensibility._

     Elinor Dashwood (now Mrs. Edward Ferrars).
     Edward Ferrars.
     Robert Ferrars.
     Mrs. Jennings.
     Lucy Steele (now Mrs. Robert Ferrars).
     Anne Steele.
     Mr. Palmer.


     From _Persuasion._

     Captain Wentworth.
     Anne Elliot (now Mrs. Wentworth).
     Sir Walter Elliot.
     Miss Elliot.


     From _Emma._

     Emma Woodhouse (now Mrs. Knightley).
     Mr. Knightley.



Chapter I


There is one characteristic which may be safely said to belong to nearly
all happily-married couples--that of desiring to see equally happy
marriages among their young friends; and in some cases, where their
wishes are strong and circumstances seem favourable to the exertion of
their own efforts, they may even embark upon the perilous but delightful
course of helping those persons whose minds are as yet not made up, to
form a decision respecting this important crisis in life, and this done,
to assist in clearing the way in order that this decision may forthwith
be acted upon.

Some good intentions of this kind, arising out of a very sincere
affection for both the persons concerned, and a real anxiety about the
future of the younger and dearer of the two, had actuated Elizabeth and
Mr. Darcy in promoting an engagement between Georgiana Darcy and Colonel
Fitzwilliam. Georgiana was then twenty, and had lived entirely with her
brother during the three and a half years of his married life. Reserved,
shy, without self-reliance, and slow to form new attachments, she had
been accustomed to look upon the Colonel as, after her brother, her
eldest and best friend, a feeling which the disparity of their ages
served to strengthen. She had therefore accepted the fact of their new
relations with a kind of timid pleasure, only imploring Elizabeth that
nothing need be said about marriage for some time to come.

"Elizabeth, when I am married, shall I have to go and stay at Rosings
without you?" she had asked; and on being assured that such might be the
terrible consequences of matrimony, she had manifested a strong
inclination not to look beyond the present, but to enjoy for some time
longer the love and protection she had always met with as an inmate of
her brother's house.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh had thought it necessary to go through the form
of expressing displeasure at the whole proceeding, in consequence of
Darcy's omission to ask her advice in the disposal of his sister's hand,
but in reality she so thoroughly approved of the match between her
nephew and niece that she forgot her chagrin, and talked everywhere of
her satisfaction in at last seeing a prospect of a member of the Darcy
family being united to one who was in every respect worthy of the
position.

Mr. and Mrs. Darcy were seated in the library at Pemberley one April
morning when the engagement was about six months old. Their two
children, a handsome boy of two, and a baby girl of a few months, had
just been taken upstairs after the merry games with their parents to
which this hour was usually devoted, and Elizabeth was arranging with
her husband the plans for the day.

"What has become of Georgiana and Fitzwilliam?" inquired Darcy. "I
understand they were going to ride together; but they both said they
would prefer to put it off till twelve o'clock, when I could go with
them."

"They have been walking on the terrace, but Georgiana has gone in now,"
replied Elizabeth, glancing out of the window. She returned to her
husband's side, and, sitting down, began to speak with great
earnestness. "Do you think that they are really happy in their
engagement? I have been watching them closely for some days, and I am
convinced that Georgiana, at all events, is not."

Mr. Darcy's manner expressed surprise and incredulity. "What fancy is
this you have taken into your head, Elizabeth? No, certainly no such
idea had ever crossed my own mind. You must be mistaken."

"I do not think so," said Elizabeth. "Their relation to one another has
not, since he has been staying here this time, its former ease and
naturalness, and I have noticed other indications as well, which make me
think that freedom would bring them mutual relief."

"I am sorry for what you say, Elizabeth," said Darcy gravely; "but it is
possible you lay too much stress on what may be merely a passing mood.
When we first consented to the engagement I thought them to be
excellently suited to each other, and so far I have not seen anything to
modify that opinion. What has Georgiana been saying to you?"

"She has said nothing, but knowing her so well, I can see she is not
happy. She is nervous, restless, unlike herself; she tries to escape
being alone with Robert; she avoids with a painful embarrassment any
reference to her future plans; nay, you must have noticed incidents like
that of yesterday, when she almost cried and begged to be excused from
going with us to Bath next week."

"That is mere foolishness; there is no shadow of reason why she should
be more afraid of her Aunt Catherine now than she ever was."

"There is more reason, if she dreads to hear her marriage talked of as
rapidly approaching, and herself and Robert referred to as a most
fortunate and admirably-assorted pair--you know how your aunt harangues
them on all occasions."

Darcy smiled slightly, then rose and began to pace the room. "If your
conjectures are correct, Elizabeth, and Georgiana is unhappy in the
prospect of this marriage, of course it cannot go on; but I shall be
deeply grieved for all reasons, and I hardly know how to ask Fitzwilliam
to release her. Excellent fellow though he is, he might well resent
being thrown over after half a year for what seems like a girlish
caprice."

"I do not believe that in any case he would resent it," replied
Elizabeth. "There would be regret on both sides--regret that they had
not been able to make each other happy; but I more than suspect that if
we could ascertain his feelings, we should find them to coincide with
Georgiana's. In six months, you know, they have had time to reflect and
to realize what the engagement means to both of them."

"You assume a good deal, Elizabeth. I cannot believe that it is so
uncongenial to Fitzwilliam."

"That is because he is too good, too honourable to show it; and yet I am
sensible that it is so--that his regard for Georgiana is that of a
friend, a brother, nothing more. I suppose you cannot remember the time
when we were engaged, Darcy, and Bingley and Jane also?" she added,
looking archly at her husband.

"My dear, I recollect it all with the deepest satisfaction; but, you
know, everyone does not display their feelings in the same way.
Fitzwilliam is an older man than I am, and was never prone to raptures,
and Georgiana has not the liveliness of mind of my Elizabeth."

"I know they are not likely to be run away with by their feelings, as
Mr. Collins would say," replied Elizabeth, smiling; "but even taking
Fitzwilliam's age and Georgiana's gravity into consideration, this is
not at all the same thing. I am convinced that they do not find that
complete joy in their engagement that people should, and that these two
might if they were each engaged to the right person."

"Do you mean that Georgiana has seen someone whom she might prefer?"
asked Darcy sharply.

Elizabeth gave a decided negative to this, and her husband remained for
some minutes wrapped in thought. At length he roused himself, and said:
"You had better speak to Georgiana on the subject, Elizabeth, and if it
is as you suppose, we will talk it over with Fitzwilliam together. For
my sister to dissolve her engagement is a serious step, and must be well
considered."

His wife agreed, and added: "Pray, dear Darcy, if it should come to an
end, do not show any resentment in your manner towards Georgiana. She
cannot help not caring enough for Fitzwilliam, and it will be painful
enough for her to break with him and to know that she has disappointed
you."

"I will try not to do so, Elizabeth; but you know how much I desire a
safe and honourable settlement in life for Georgiana, such as this
marriage would have been."

"We both wished it so much that I am afraid we were led into mistaking
the real nature of their attachment," said his wife. "At any rate, since
we assisted in bringing the affair about, we must share the
responsibility of ending it--a fact which your aunt is not likely to
allow us to forget, is she, Darcy?"

"True," returned Darcy. "It is regrettable that the engagement was so
generally made known. However, Georgiana may stay away from Bath if she
prefers."

It was a relief to Elizabeth to have fairly talked her husband into
accepting the possibility of such an unwelcome turn of affairs, for
events proved her misgivings to have been well founded. She had truly
gauged the feelings of Georgiana and Fitzwilliam with regard to each
other and to their engagement. Georgiana confessed, with deep distress
and confusion, that she knew it was very ungrateful and naughty,
but--she did not seem to be able to care for her cousin in that way, and
would have said so before, but that she was afraid her brother and her
aunt would be angry. Fitzwilliam admitted that he had long feared his
inability to make his cousin happy, but showed how very great was his
dread of causing her, by his defection, to be wounded, reproached, or
unkindly talked about. Elizabeth had a difficult task to smooth away all
obstacles and to bring comfort to the minds of two very troubled and
scrupulous people, besides her other duty of persuading her husband that
the separation was the right thing, and of shielding Georgiana from all
disagreeables; but in a few days everything had been accomplished except
what time alone could do.

Darcy could not altogether conceal his regret and disappointment at this
termination of his hopes, and Georgiana was miserable in the
consciousness that he blamed her for not having known her mind at the
beginning of the engagement. Had she really cared for Fitzwilliam, he
was convinced that it must have gone on to a happy conclusion; and
naturally his cousin could hardly be the one to uphold a different
opinion. Fitzwilliam could only assert and reassert that Georgiana was
undeserving of the slightest reproach, and endeavour to divert his
cousin's attention to himself.

It was arranged that he should accompany the Darcys as usual to Bath,
where they were to meet Lady Catherine, and meanwhile Georgiana accepted
an invitation from Jane and Mr. Bingley, which on a hint from Elizabeth
was warmly extended to her, to go and stay with them at the same time at
their house on the other side of Derbyshire.



Chapter II


Lady Catherine de Bourgh, with her daughter and Mrs. Jenkinson, had been
established in her favourite lodgings in Pulteney Street since the
middle of March. It had been her custom of late years to spend six or
seven weeks in Bath every spring. She had considered it to be good for
her daughter's health; she also considered that her own constitution and
spirits benefited greatly by this yearly change of social environment.
The Rosings' card-parties lacked variety. Mr. and Mrs. Collins remained
admirable listeners, but their conversation, like their civilities,
occasionally wore a little thin. Lady Catherine, would she but have
admitted it, thought that Mr. Collins was too much interested in his own
asparagus-beds and too little in her peach-houses; and the ailments of
the children kept Mrs. Collins at home on several evenings when it would
have been convenient to the hostess at Rosings to make up a
quadrille-table. Obviously the most suitable spot in which Lady
Catherine and her daughter could have sought change of air would have
been the residence of her nephew; but Darcy and Elizabeth had very
early in their married life made it clear that they did not intend their
house to be turned into a hydropathic establishment for their ailing
relatives, and that they would entertain their visitors at such times
and for as long as they chose; consequently Lady Catherine had been
reduced to the expedient of going to Bath in the season, and to
Pemberley when she was asked. She, however, reserved to herself the
right of insisting that her relatives should visit her at Bath, and
Darcy, who wished to give no occasion of offence to his mother's only
sister, was in the habit of taking his wife and sister down there every
spring for a short stay at one of the hotels, thus forming among
themselves a pleasant and independent little party, which was usually
joined by Colonel Fitzwilliam. This year Lady Catherine, having been
there for some weeks previously, had been collecting round her a circle
of acquaintances, some more and some less likely to be congenial to the
relatives whose visit was pending.

"Elizabeth," said Mr. Darcy to his wife, as they stood together in Lady
Catherine's drawing-room at a large reception which she was giving in
their honour, two days after their arrival, "I think I see General
Tilney over there; and, unless my memory is failing me, surely this is
his daughter coming towards us, whom we made friends with last year."

"Why, so it is; what a delightful surprise!" exclaimed Elizabeth. "Dear
Lady Portinscale, how glad I am to see you again! Do not say you have
forgotten me, or I shall find it hard to forgive you!"

"No, indeed, Mrs. Darcy, I was coming to introduce myself, in fear that
you might have forgotten me. How do you do, Mr. Darcy? Lady Catherine
told me that she was expecting the whole party from Pemberley this
week."

"Yes, we have come to put in our period of attendance, as you see," said
Elizabeth, "but I never dreamed of anything so pleasant as meeting you
again, after what you said last year."

"The truth is that my father has not been at all well, and as he felt
himself obliged to come here for a short time, he begged us to join him
for two or three weeks."

"Your husband is here this evening?"

"Yes, he is in the next room; I see him talking to Colonel Fitzwilliam."

"And are your brother and his pretty wife in Bath this spring? I
remember her so well."

"No, they are at home; but we have a brother of hers staying with
us--James Morland. He has a curacy in a very unhealthy part of the
Thames Valley, and he has been extremely ill with a low fever, so we
have brought him here for a fortnight in the hope that it will do him
good."

"How very kind of you to take care of him! He is fortunate to have such
friends."

"Oh, no, it is a very small thing; and he is such an excellent young
fellow--sensible and agreeable, and so hard-working! My husband has the
highest opinion of him; and were he less amiable, it would be a pleasure
to be of service to anyone connected with Catherine."

"You oblige me to repeat that anyone who has you for his or her advocate
is indeed fortunate, Lady Portinscale," answered Elizabeth, smiling;
"but now that you know your character, pray perform the same kind office
for some of the people here. They are nearly all strangers to me, and
if my husband were not listening, I should say that I wonder how my aunt
manages to pick them up."

"Lady Portinscale will soon gauge your character, Elizabeth, if you make
such terribly outspoken comments," said Darcy, smiling. "You must not
mind her, Lady Portinscale; my aunt's presence has a demoralizing effect
upon my wife. It is a very sad thing, but I have often remarked it."

"Not her presence in the ordinary way," said Elizabeth; "but to-day we
have been through such a stormy scene together, that I may be excused
for feeling that my aunt and I must go diametrically opposite ways for
the rest of our lives."

"Really?" said Eleanor Portinscale, with the faintest suspicion of
laughter in her eyes. "Poor Lady Catherine! I recollect last year that
you and your sister-in-law were continually brewing some kind of
rebellious mischief against her."

"That is just the cause of the trouble now," responded Elizabeth. "My
sister-in-law became engaged to Colonel Fitzwilliam last November; but I
saw that they were both so extremely unhappy in their engagement that I
was instrumental in breaking it off, and this happened only last week;
so that is why Robert Fitzwilliam is looking ten years younger,
Georgiana is sheltering safely at home, and Lady Catherine is furiously
angry with everyone all round, especially with me."

"I am sorry," said Lady Portinscale with gentle sympathy. "These things
cannot be done without regrets and heartburnings. I hope it will mean
real happiness for them both in the end."

"One has to take that part of it on trust," was Elizabeth's answer; "in
the meantime it has upset my husband dreadfully, and I am afraid he will
never be quite reconciled to it until he sees Georgiana happily married
to somebody who has at present not appeared on the scene."

"I suppose she felt altogether disinclined for coming with you to Bath,
else she might have met friends here who would have distracted her
thoughts."

"Yes; but, of course, she would not come, and I could hardly persuade
her even to accept an invitation to go and stay with my sister Jane for
part of the time that we shall be away. We left her in such terribly low
spirits that it is really some consolation to see Colonel Fitzwilliam
looking as if a weight had been taken off his mind. It would be a sad
pity that we should all have got into hot water with Lady Catherine and
nobody be a penny the better for it."

Lady Portinscale smiled. "He is a very handsome man, and extraordinarily
young-looking; he is nearly forty, is he not?"

"Yes, one would not suspect him of it. There is Captain Wentworth
talking to him now; they seem to come here every year. Mrs. Wentworth
and Georgiana became rather friendly, and they correspond. But those
relatives of hers are impossible! Why, what is going on? Lady Catherine
seems to be carrying off Colonel Fitzwilliam; poor man, he was in such a
congenial group! Whom can she be introducing him to? They are people I
never saw before."

"I do not know them myself, but I have several times seen them with Lady
Catherine," replied Lady Portinscale. "They are called Ferrars; at
least, one of them is Mrs. Ferrars, I am not sure which."

The persons who had attracted Elizabeth's attention were three in
number; the two ladies somewhat resembled one another, being rather
thin, small in stature, and very elaborately dressed in the height of
the fashion. One of them might have been considered pretty, but for her
sharp, almost shrewish features, restless eyes, and the discontented,
irritable lines which had formed themselves in her face. The other had
these characteristics in a more marked degree, together with a general
air of much less refinement and sense. It was not to be expected that
Lucy and Anne Steele would have altered very greatly for the better
since the empty-headed and overdressed fop who now accompanied them had
exalted Lucy to the honour of becoming Mrs. Robert Ferrars. After four
years of family quarrels with Mrs. Ferrars and Mrs. John Dashwood, of
spending more than her husband's income, of scheming to obtain Anne a
husband, of striving to push herself into fashionable society and to
hold her own there; she found her only happiness in visits to gay
watering-places, where she could pick up new acquaintances, and in their
company forget for a time the incessant worries and vexations of her
home-life. Anne spent the greater part of the year with her sister and
brother-in-law, occasionally diversifying her programme by a visit from
Mrs. Jennings, or to Elinor and Edward Ferrars, when out of kindness to
Lucy they would consent to receive her for a time; but these visits of
Anne's to the rectory at Delaford were a trial to all concerned; and
since, on the death of Colonel Brandon, Edward had effected an exchange
of livings with a clergyman in Derbyshire, Elinor ventured to hope that
Anne would no longer find it a convenience to stay with persons who
resided in such an out-of-the-way part of the country. For the present,
both Lucy and Anne were quite satisfied with their surroundings. They
had had the good fortune to become known to Lady Catherine de Bourgh,
and by the exercise of all the tact, flattery and obliging manners at
their command, had rendered themselves indispensable at whatever
entertainments she gave, large or small, and were being treated by her
with such marked graciousness as to rouse their hopes of receiving an
invitation to Rosings, a mansion of the glories of which they had heard
much, as had all Lady Catherine's friends. The introduction, on this
evening, to such a handsome, soldierly and aristocratic-looking man as
Colonel Fitzwilliam was a piece of good luck which exceeded Anne's
wildest dreams; and although, as soon as the proper civilities had been
exchanged, he seized the first opportunity of returning to his men
friends, Anne lost no time in confiding to Lucy her extreme satisfaction
at the addition of such a very smart beau to Lady Catherine's party.

"Don't be a fool, Nancy," was Lucy's answer, in somewhat discouraging
tones; "what's the good of expecting a man like that to look at you?
And, besides, isn't he engaged to Mr. Darcy's sister?"

"No," Anne answered eagerly, "the engagement's broke off. Miss de Bourgh
told me so to-day. And fancy Lady Catherine introducing him to us at
once! She must want us to be all friends together, mustn't she?"

"Well, it's likely you'll go and spoil it in some way; you never caught
the doctor, for all his attention," Lucy responded with true sisterly
candour, "and I expect we'll find we don't see much of Colonel
Fitzwilliam. He's staying at the hotel with the Darcys, and from the
look of Mrs. Darcy I don't know as she'll want to do just what Lady
Catherine tells her, all day long."

"I shall go and sit by Miss de Bourgh," said Nancy, after a moment's
contemplation of this dismal prospect, "and perhaps Lady Catherine will
introduce me to the Darcys. You'd better come too, Lucy. We can't get
along without knowing them now."

Lucy consented, after some demur; and in the course of the evening their
hopes of an introduction were realized, and their self-importance
greatly increased; for Mrs. Darcy, curious to ascertain what kind of
hangers-on had found places in her aunt's _cortège_ this year, had
conversed for a short time with them both; and with the prudence and
consideration which was characteristic of her, had refrained from
expressing to her husband the full extent of the unfavourable impression
which they created.

"I do not much care for those new friends of my aunt's," Darcy remarked
to his wife when they reached home.

"Why, my dear, you were not even introduced to them," exclaimed
Elizabeth. "Robert, I noticed, did not escape, but you did. Besides,
they are related to the Ferrars at home; there is no getting away from
that."

"I gathered that they were, but I can hardly believe it. That man
brother to Edward Ferrars! I heard him trying to argue with Robert about
Nelson's tactics at the battle of the Nile, and it was enough for me. I
have heard far sounder sense talked at a tenants' dinner--at the end of
one, too."

Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth laughed. "His views upon life in general
appeared to suffer somewhat from lack of breadth," said the former, "and
I can imagine it would be possible to find him a tedious companion. As
for the ladies of the party, I did not have much conversation with
them."

"I think the look of them rather frightened Robert," said Elizabeth;
"but, on the whole, they are tolerably unobjectionable. After all, one
can't always pick and choose at a place like Bath, and, anyhow, we must
be civil to Aunt Catherine's friends--it is not for very long. I am
really going to practise what I preach, so you need not look at me like
that, Mr. Darcy."

The following evening the whole party met again at a concert in aid of a
charity, which had been patronized by Lady Catherine to the extent of
several pounds' worth of tickets. The morning had been spent by the
Darcys and Fitzwilliam in their own occupations; but they had been
obliged to dine with their aunt, and to meet at dinner the Robert
Ferrars, with Miss Anne Steele. General Tilney, Lady Portinscale's
father, and his son Frederick made up the requisite number of gentlemen,
and Elizabeth found much to divert her in watching, during dinner, the
manoeuvres of Miss Steele, who, seated between the two bachelors, was
fully occupied in efforts to make herself equally and incessantly
agreeable to both of them; the dire failure of which might have aroused
some compassion had she not been so completely self-satisfied and
confident. Captain Tilney certainly kept up the conversation in the
style that was expected of him as long as he could, and then turned to
Miss de Bourgh and devoted himself to her, having been informed by his
father that she was a considerable heiress, and his attentions to her
must be regulated accordingly. Colonel Fitzwilliam, for his part, found
three-cornered discussion carried on with great animation between
himself, his aunt, and General Tilney, who sat opposite, on the military
genius of the French generals, considerably more interesting than Miss
Steele's observation on the Bath assemblies and her openly-expressed
predilection in favour of officers as partners. Elizabeth and her
husband were no better off in their respective companions. The inanities
of Robert Ferrars, and the pretensions of his wife, were calculated to
put a severe strain on the good intentions of Lady Catherine's niece
and nephew towards her guests.

"How elegantly Lady Catherine's dinner-parties are always carried out!"
remarked Lucy to Mr. Darcy, in a kind of loud aside, as they unfolded
their napkins. "She seems to be one of those fortunate persons who
always manage to have everything about them as _recherché_ as it is at
home, wherever they may be staying. Don't you think so, Mr. Darcy? No
one else could have made this apartment what it is, but with Lady
Catherine's delightful appointments you could, I daresay, easily imagine
yourself to be in one of the smaller dining parlours at Rosings, could
you not?"

Mr. Darcy was rather taken aback by this speech, and hastily making a
mental review of his aunt's usual visitors, failed entirely to connect
Mrs. Robert Ferrars with the dining parlour, or any other room at
Rosings; so his reply was not very satisfactory to his questioner.

"It seems a pleasant and convenient room. My aunt, I believe, generally
takes these lodgings; and when she settles down in a place for a few
weeks, naturally likes to make it comfortable."

"Oh, but I think it is a special gift of dear Lady Catherine's,"
exclaimed Lucy. "You cannot deny it, Mr. Darcy, knowing Rosings as you
do. Now at our lodgings--well, I daresay the rooms are very little
smaller than this--but try as I will, I cannot give them a home-like
air, though I assure you I brought two large packing-cases of dainty
trifles from our country house."

"Indeed!" said Darcy.

"Yes, but the lavish refinement, combined with substantial comfort, of
Lady Catherine's surroundings always appeals to me so strongly when I
come here. I am sure you understand what I mean, Mr. Darcy, with a home
like Pemberley as a standard to judge other people's houses by."

"I had not regarded Bath lodgings from that point of view," said Mr.
Darcy. "Are you making a long stay here, may I ask?"

"Yes, we hope to remain for some weeks. I always enjoy Bath so much at
this time of year; and so does Mr. Ferrars. I consider it infinitely
preferable to the autumn season, do not you, Mr. Darcy? All the best
people seem to come now, and one is not likely to meet anyone whose
acquaintance one would not wish to continue afterwards."

Mr. Darcy took advantage of this pause, during which his companion
helped herself to fish, to consider what reply he should truthfully make
to such a sentiment; but before Mrs. Ferrars could insist upon his
agreeing with her, he was called upon by his aunt from the end of the
table to support her in a flat contradiction of General Tilney, who was
undoubtedly getting the best of a somewhat heated argument. Elizabeth
was not more fortunate in her companion. The wearisome descriptions of
this or that friend's house, habits, achievements, which were all that
Robert Ferrars could contribute to the conversation, were almost more
than could be endured with patience throughout a long dinner, even by
one who could derive quiet amusement from almost any kind of harmless
absurdity; and it was with a sigh of relief that Elizabeth heard her
aunt's peremptory command that everyone should go and put on their coats
and cloaks, for she would not have her party arrive late for the
beginning of the concert.

The ladies were distributed among various coaches, while the gentlemen
walked on. Elizabeth found that her companions were to be her cousin and
Miss Anne Steele; and during the drive she had leisure to remark, with
great astonishment, the evident intimacy which existed between the young
women. Anne tried to draw her into their discussions; but finding Mrs.
Darcy resolutely silent, she turned to Miss de Bourgh, and began to
rally her on the becomingness of the gown which the latter was wearing,
accompanying her remarks with many giggles, mysterious whispers and
covert references to "favourite colour" and "smart uniforms" which made
Elizabeth wonder that her cousin could tolerate such treatment for an
instant. But poor Anne de Bourgh's nature, only half developed by reason
of her ill-health and her mother's forcefulness of character, had
yielded entirely to the dominating influence exercised over her by a
person nearer her own age, and one who made an effort to understand and
play upon her weakness. Elizabeth soon began to perceive the secret of
the intimacy--Miss Steele, in her anxiety to recommend herself to the de
Bourgh family, had discovered that by enlivening and flattering the
daughter she might best become a person of value to the mother. Anne
Steele's last words before the carriage stopped were intended to be
inaudible to Elizabeth, and put the final touch to her disgust and
dislike.

"Me and Lucy will be _so_ miserable if you give us up now these grand
cousins of yours are come down, Miss Anne!"

Miss de Bourgh made what was for her a vehement motion of dissent, and
when they had entered the room, Elizabeth, having piloted her charges to
Lady Catherine's side, found a seat for herself as far as possible from
anyone connected with the Steele family. Her husband joined her just
before the concert began, and in the double pleasure of listening to the
music and feeling his proximity, she forgot the previous vexations of
the evening.

"Well, how have you been getting on?" inquired a voice behind her, in
the first pause.

"Why, Fitzwilliam!" exclaimed Darcy, glancing round, "what business have
you up at this end? You ought to be squiring the young ladies down there
by my aunt."

"Poor Robert!" said Elizabeth. "He is only off duty for half an hour."

"That is it," replied Colonel Fitzwilliam. "I was exhausted, and seeing
this empty chair, I forthwith occupied it. Besides, I want to hear the
harp solo in peace and quiet. I have not heard the harp played for
years, and I am exceedingly fond of it."

"That is the next one, I see. Hush, now! I know this man is going to
sing out of tune. He looks like it."

"We ought to have some compensation for listening to that," murmured
Darcy, when the song was done. "I believe Mr. Collins would have given
us a better performance."

"He certainly is rather like Mr. Collins," remarked Elizabeth
reflectively. "Here comes the harp--and what a lovely girl! Is her name
on the programme? Yes, Miss Crawford."

Mary Crawford, who since Dr. Grant's death had entirely lived with her
sister, Mrs. Grant, at Bath, had lost none of the beauty and charm which
had captivated the heart of Edmund Bertram: indeed, the four years which
had elapsed since then had given her form and air more regal elegance.
The knowledge of sorrow, and regret that she had so much to injure her
own chances of happiness, had softened her nature, and now, more gentle,
womanly and sympathetic, she was in many ways a different creature from
the brilliant Miss Crawford of former days. Mrs. Grant, while loving her
devotedly and rejoicing in her companionship, still grieved in secret
that no suitor worthy of her dear Mary should ever have succeeded Edmund
Bertram, and that no second attachment should have taken place of one
which, though renounced without bitterness, had nevertheless left a deep
mark upon her sister's character. In Bath their lives were full of
interest, and they made many friends; but Mary always laughed at her
sister's plans for her marrying, and returned the same kind of answer.
"I expect so much, you know, and the chosen he must expect so little,
that I doubt whether we should ever come to terms."

Her sister would protest against this, knowing well the real worth of
the disposition which Mary hid under a careless and sometimes cold
manner; but she also knew that Mary would be more difficult to satisfy,
both as regards her own qualities and those of her possible husband, in
consequence of the better taste she had acquired at Mansfield. This
evening, Miss Crawford, who had consented to perform solely on account
of the charitable object of the concert, was out of humour with herself
and all the world. Her sister being unwell, she had been obliged to
accept an escort to the concert, the company of Sir Walter and Miss
Elliot, whom, as residents in Bath, she had known since the time of her
sister's settling there. Miss Crawford's beauty of face and figure were
exactly what would recommend Sir Walter; and while condemning her sister
as dull and unfashionable, nothing delighted him more than to be seen in
public as squire of the charming and elegant Miss Crawford. Six months'
acquaintance had caused her, on her side, thoroughly to weary of him,
and on the few occasions when she could not avoid a meeting she
endeavoured to converse with his eldest daughter, whom she found only a
degree less tiresome and empty-headed. To-night, however, there was no
help for it. With them she had come, with them she must remain,
unluckily placed at a distance from any of her other Bath friends, her
enjoyment of the music spoiled by her companions' irrelevant chatter,
her only pleasure to acquit herself creditably in the piece she had
chosen to play. This, at all events, was in her power, she felt, as she
ascended the platform and shook off sensations of listlessness and
ennui; and she succeeded so well that the audience were roused to a
display of their delight and enthusiasm, and she had to return twice to
acknowledge their plaudits. Next moment she perceived, or thought she
perceived, that owing to an increased crowd in the lower part of the
room she could not easily get back to her seat without making a little
disturbance; so she slipped into a chair in the front row, which was
allotted to the performers, thankful even for a short respite.

When the interval came, she remained where she was, and, a few minutes
later, seeing the gentleman who had been the chief promoter of the
concert trying to attract her attention, she rose unwillingly, supposing
that Sir Walter Elliot had come to claim her. What was her surprise to
hear Mr. Durand say: "Lady Catherine de Bourgh particularly wishes to
know you. May I present you to her?"

Mary felt that she had not had much choice in the matter, but she found
herself curtseying to a tall and formidable-looking elderly lady,
dressed in rich brocades, who surveyed her as if from a great height,
and said: "Allow me to tell you, Miss Crawford, how much pleased I was
with your late performance on the harp. I have heard every harp player
of note in Europe during the last forty years, and I may say I consider
you quite equal to those of the second rank. Though not a performer
myself, I am quite acquainted with the difficulties of the instrument."

Mary hardly knew whether to be more vexed or amused at this
extraordinary address, and might have been inclined towards the former,
had not Mrs. Darcy, who had seen the beginning of the incident, and
hastened forward lest her aunt's insolent patronage should offend,
interposed with a kindly: "We have all been enjoying your piece so much.
It must be delightful to be able to play like that. My aunt is such a
lover of music that she cannot hide her enthusiasm."

"And why should I hide it, may I ask?" demanded Lady Catherine. "My
judgment has often been of great service to young amateurs, among whom
you might include yourself, Elizabeth."

"Yes, I know," replied Elizabeth, good-humouredly. "But Miss Crawford
cannot be classed with the average amateur. May I introduce myself, as
Mr. Durand has gone away? I am Mrs. Darcy. I saw you sitting with the
Elliots, so perhaps you know a great friend of mine, Mrs. Wentworth."

Miss Crawford was about to enter gladly into the subject of Mrs.
Wentworth, when Lady Catherine interposed, and in a few minutes, before
Mary had quite realized what was happening, she found herself giving the
assurance that Mrs. Grant would be delighted to receive a visit from
Lady Catherine and Mrs. Darcy, and that she herself would be present at
Lady Catherine's reception in Pulteney Street in a fortnight's time. She
hardly knew how it had all come about, and she found herself wondering,
as she was led back to her seat by Sir Walter Elliot, whether it was
Lady Catherine's domineering manner, or Mrs. Darcy's kind looks, that
she had yielded to so easily. The Elliots were eager with their
questions. What? she did not know that that was Lady Catherine de
Bourgh? Everyone knew Lady Catherine, she came to Bath every year--a
very well-preserved old lady, must be quite sixty and does not look more
than forty-eight--people of property--large estate in Kent--"an
acquaintance quite worth following up, my dear Miss Crawford; of course
_we_, with our already large circle of friends, could not attempt to
include persons who only come here for a short time; otherwise we should
have been very happy to have visited Lady Catherine."



Chapter III


The Darcys found plenty to enjoy during their stay in Bath, as after
dutifully allotting part of the day to a call on Lady Catherine, or to
joining her at the Lower Rooms, they were free to make their own
engagements, and passed a good deal of their time with Lord and Lady
Portinscale, Mr. Morland and the Wentworths, Colonel Fitzwilliam
invariably forming one of the party. James Morland, the Portinscales'
youngest guest, had favourably impressed them from the first, being a
young man of sense, education and good address. The experience he had
gained from his somewhat unfortunate friendship with the Thorpe family,
followed by his closer acquaintance with the Tilneys, had been an
incalculable benefit to him in helping to form his character and in
teaching him what are the qualities in a friend which win sincere love
and respect. Hard work, resolution and regret for his own follies, and
the encouragement and kindness he had received from his relations, had
combined to put Isabella Thorpe out of his head, and to recuperate a
heart he had thought blighted over for ever. He had within the last few
weeks been obliged to resign the curacy he had held since his
ordination, on account of the ill effects of the air of the valley on
his health; and was now earnestly hoping to grow strong enough to resume
work in some other part of the country, as he had, of course, resolved
upon remaining a bachelor all his life, and making his church and parish
suffice in place of domestic joys. His somewhat diffident manner in the
society of men so much older than himself as Mr. Darcy and Captain
Wentworth did him no disservice with them; and before they had known the
particulars of his history for many days, Mr. Darcy was meditating upon
the possibility of giving him material assistance in his career.

In the meantime, Elizabeth, independently of Lady Catherine, had
exchanged calls with Mrs. Grant, whom she found anxious to be friendly,
more anxious, indeed, than Mary, who, while appreciating Mrs. Darcy's
kindness and charm, greatly disliked the patronizing manners of the
mistress of Rosings Park. A few days after the concert the sisters spent
a morning in Mrs. Darcy's sitting-room. Elizabeth had never neglected
her study of the pianoforte or of singing, and as Mary, at the earnest
request of her hostess, had brought her harp, the pleasure of the whole
party, sometimes in conversation, sometimes in music, was ensured.

"Colonel Fitzwilliam is very fond of music, is he not?" Mrs. Grant said
to Mrs. Darcy, glancing across the room to where the Colonel and her
sister were engaged in animated discussion of the latest importations
from German composers. "He really does like it, does not praise it out
of mere politeness?"

"My dear Mrs. Grant! He is the most enthusiastic amateur I know. I often
tell my husband that he would never have fallen in love with me if
Colonel Fitzwilliam and I had not struck up a friendship over music,
which made him think there was more in me than he had perceived before.
He himself is not such a good judge of it, but my cousin was greatly
struck with your sister's playing the other night, and it really is
appreciation from him."

"I am so glad: it will be a pleasure to Mary to meet him. Excuse my
asking--I cannot quite understand--does he live with you or with your
aunt?"

"With neither; he is our guest when we are in Bath, and he stays a great
deal with us in the country; but he has rooms in London, and, I think,
honestly prefers town as a residence, but that he is so fond of my
husband and all his belongings."

There was a pause, and then Elizabeth added, a sudden thought having
flashed through her mind: "He is an excellent man; it is impossible for
us to think more highly of anyone than we do of him; but he labours
under what he considers to be an insuperable disadvantage--he is a
younger son, and therefore not much blessed with this world's goods."

She had hardly finished speaking when the door opened to admit two
ladies, whom she recognized as her aunt's latest protégées.

"Dear me!" exclaimed Anne Steele, before she was fairly in the room;
"quite a cosy little musical party, I declare! Lord! what a pity we have
interrupted the music! We wouldn't have if we'd have known! And here
we've run all the way upstairs--"

Lucy managed to silence her sister, and began a kind of tour of the
room, making formal greetings to everyone she knew, and pausing in so
pointed a way before Mrs. Grant and Mary, that Elizabeth, with great
reluctance, was obliged to introduce Mrs. Robert Ferrars and Miss
Steele. This accomplished, Lucy's errand was allowed to be divulged.

"We are driving out with Lady Catherine in the barouche landau, and she
called here in passing, to say if Colonel Fitzwilliam was in she would
like him to come too and make a fourth," she explained, with assistance
from Anne. "We are not going far," she added for the benefit of the
company in general; "only to Monkton Combe and back before dinner. Poor
Miss de Bourgh is so very unwell to-day she did not feel inclined to
drive out; and my sister and I just happened to be calling in Pulteney
Street as Lady Catherine was starting out, so she was so very kind as to
bring us along."

"It is fortunate," said Elizabeth smilingly, "that my aunt was able to
secure your companionship; for, as I have visitors, I am not sure that I
could spare my cousin this morning." She glanced at Fitzwilliam, who was
impatiently waiting for an opportunity to answer. "No, certainly not. I
am much obliged, but I am not able to come to-day."

Miss Steele's manner suffered from a diminution of sprightliness, even
while she urged on the Colonel the necessity of taking advantage of the
fine weather; but Darcy quietly interposed with: "Is my aunt's carriage
at the door?" Lucy was obliged to admit that it was.

"Shall we go and make your excuses then, Fitzwilliam," he continued, "if
our guests will kindly excuse us for a moment? Will you give Mrs.
Ferrars your arm? Mrs. Ferrars, I greatly regret not being able to
detain you, but I know it would not be kind, as my aunt has such a
dislike to be kept waiting, especially in the open street."

The result of this was, that without quite knowing how it happened, Lucy
and her sister found themselves in the hall again almost as soon as the
waiter showed them up; were in the carriage, and driving away, the
apologies of the gentlemen having been graciously accepted, and Mr.
Darcy was saying to his friend as they returned: "The only way with
these people is firmness; you are much too gentle."

"I don't feel particularly gentle after that interruption," replied the
other, "though you got me out of it very well. My aunt seems to have a
special grudge against me this time. I suppose she is working off her
irritation; well, rather on me than on your sister."

"I do not believe it is that," answered Darcy; "she is, and always was,
a tool in the hands of unscrupulous flatterers. If it were worthwhile,
Elizabeth and I would rush to the rescue; but there is sure to be a
tremendous explosion before long; they will all quarrel violently, she
will come and tell us that they are ungrateful vipers, or something like
that, and next year it will begin all over again with someone else."

"Well!" cried Elizabeth, as they opened the door, "did Aunt Catherine
mind?"

"No, he has got off with a whole skin this time," replied her husband,
"or rather, not quite a whole one, for he has had to pledge himself to
join the expedition to Clifton to-morrow instead."

"I had forgotten that expedition to Clifton," Elizabeth exclaimed in
dismay; "I wish it would rain! But if it did, we should only have to go
another day. Mr. Morland, have you been to Clifton? Oh, do say it will
be quite new to you! You can't? Is there no one who has never been
there? My aunt makes up a party every year, for her newest friends, and
we always do the same things and make the same remarks."

Elizabeth's forecast created much amusement, and Miss Crawford said:
"Everything I hear beforehand of Lady Catherine is very alarming to a
stranger like myself. I shall have to have caught a bad cold before her
reception next week, for I shall not have the courage to appear and
play."

"Oh, no, Miss Crawford, you must appear," said Darcy. "We are all too
bad, with our jokes about her, for really she means to be very kind. But
we have got into shocking ways since my wife married into the family."

"On the contrary, I think I have educated you all admirably."

"You are a privileged person, you see," said Colonel Fitzwilliam. "Miss
Crawford, will you do us the kindness of playing again? I want to reap
the advantage of the present moment, as the reception is a long way
off."

The lady acceded with willingness, and at the conclusion of her piece
Colonel Fitzwilliam sat down near her and found himself soon conversing
with more ease and enjoyment than he had done for many months. Their
talk was only of the most ordinary subjects; but the Colonel's
simplicity and culture appealed to the best that was in Mary, and he
found in her a ready sympathy, felt rather than expressed. His views of
London life--so pleasant, so stimulating for the greater part of the
year, but the country was better for a permanent home--exactly coincided
with Mary's; and almost to her surprise, she heard herself vehemently
asserting that town might be the place to make friends, but the country
was the place to enjoy them. "You are a lover of country sports?"
questioned the Colonel; "of riding and driving?" Mary answered
enthusiastically, though repressing a sigh at the recollection of her
first riding lessons. Did she ride at Bath? He could recommend her some
good livery stables. His cousin, Mrs. Darcy, did not care for it, else
some agreeable plans might have been made.

Meantime, the conversation was quite as animated in the other group.
James Morland was asking if the ladies were those whom General Tilney
and his son had lately met at dinner in Pulteney Street.

"Yes, you are right," replied Elizabeth. "Did you hear of that
dinner-party?"

"Lady Portinscale told me. I should not otherwise have known, for I
don't see much of the General and Captain Tilney," James Morland
answered with a smile.

"I thought Eleanor told me all was forgiven?"

"Catherine is, but her relations do not pass the censor. Still, it does
not matter in the least, so long as he is kind to her, and I think I may
say he is."

"I suppose he is often at the Portinscales'?" observed Elizabeth.

"Fairly often, but Lord Portinscale contrives that he does not stay too
long; he thinks it worries Eleanor, and, as you know, she is anxious to
take care of herself and go in thoroughly for the cure."

"Dear Eleanor! I am so devoted to her."

"Yes, indeed, one would be; she is the kindest friend anyone could
possibly have. Do you know, Mrs. Darcy, they insist on my having a
sitting-room to myself, where I can read undisturbed, or I can spend my
time with them, just as I like."

"That is a nice arrangement; and you are better for coming to Bath?"

"Yes, a great deal better. I should be able to get to work in a very
short time now, if only" (rather mournfully), "some work could be
found."

"I am sure it can, if you are patient," said Elizabeth kindly. "The very
thing one wants often drops upon one unexpectedly. Do you know our part
of the world at all? You must come and pay us a visit some time; the
Derbyshire air is splendidly bracing, and would benefit you."

Morland said all that was proper, and Elizabeth, who had been trying
unsuccessfully to catch her husband's eye, continued: "We are fortunate
in our Rector at home, and even more fortunate in his wife; they have
just come to Pemberley, and oddly enough, they are related to these very
people of whom we have been talking, but as different from them as
possible."

"Indeed! the Ferrars, or Steele--I have not made them out yet--"

"Mr. Edward Ferrars, our Rector, is a brother of Mr. Robert Ferrars,
husband of the lady in blue. It is rather difficult to keep Mrs. Robert
Ferrars off the subject when she is with us, as she seems to think it
establishes a sort of connection, although they don't visit their
relations."

"Perhaps they will do so now," said Morland, with a slight smile. "It is
your own parish that you mentioned?"

"Yes, it is a fair-sized village that has grown up round the house, or,
rather, round a much older house that formerly stood on the site. It is
such beautiful country, Mr. Morland! You really must see it."

Mrs. Grant came towards Elizabeth to take leave, and they stood chatting
together while Colonel Fitzwilliam and Miss Crawford rose and joined
them.

"To-morrow, then, at eleven o'clock, you are sure suits you?" the
gentleman was saying. "Mrs. Grant, your sister has been so kind as to
say that, with your permission, I may be her escort on a ride, if a
horse can be found that suits her."

"Riding? She will enjoy that," said Mrs. Grant, with momentary surprise.
"She has not ridden for a long time. We have never tried to get her a
horse in Bath."

It seemed that the whole thing had been thought out--all difficulties
could be got over, Colonel Fitzwilliam assured her, if she would trust
her sister to him for an hour or two; and Mary having expressed a proper
amount of amiability and approbation, the arrangement was confirmed.

"But what about your engagement--the day at Clifton?" Mrs. Grant
unluckily remembered, in the midst of the adieux. Colonel Fitzwilliam
looked as if he were determined to forget the existence of such a place;
Mr. Darcy reproached himself for having furthered the scheme; and Miss
Crawford immediately said: "Oh, pray do not give that up on my account.
We can ride another day, if we care about it."

"Not at all, Miss Crawford. Excuse me, but I should not think of giving
up our plan. It is not at all necessary for me to go to Clifton."

"It would not be fair to make you break a prior engagement. No, let us
put it off from to-morrow," was the lady's response.

Elizabeth interposed with, "If you and Miss Crawford went out a little
earlier, you could still be at Clifton in time for dinner, Robert, which
would quite satisfy my aunt."

Darcy joined his advice to his wife's; and as a matter can generally be
easily arranged by a number of people who are all in favour of it, the
ride was fixed for ten o'clock, and the ladies took their departure
among many promises of meeting again. James Morland shortly afterwards
left, Colonel Fitzwilliam accompanying him as far as his road lay in the
direction of the livery stables; and Elizabeth sat down to write
letters, but she had not got very far before a new idea struck her which
must immediately be acted upon. "Darcy," she exclaimed, rising and going
to her husband, who was occupied with the newspaper, "can you listen to
me? I want to help Mr. Morland in some way. I was thinking about it this
morning while I was talking to him. He ought to have work to do, and he
is such a good young fellow. Could you not make him Mr. Ferrars's
curate, or something?"

Darcy smiled at his wife's earnestness. "You will be surprised to hear,
my dear, that I had already thought of helping him."

"You had? How good of you. You can do it better than anyone else. He
will be an object worthy of your interest."

"But though I had considered the question of the curacy, I had dismissed
it as unsatisfactory. Mr. Ferrars does not want a curate, and Mr.
Morland does want a living. I do not know if I told you that I heard
before I went away that the old Rector of Kympton was likely to resign.
If so, I shall have a living to present."

"And did you think of Mr. Morland? How delightful that would be. The
very thing for him."

"We must not say anything about it at present, for I cannot hurry the
old man out; but I expect to hear in the course of a month."

"I am sure you can bring it about successfully. How well everything is
going to-day! Some dreadful catastrophe is sure to happen soon."

"What else has gone well?"

"Why, Robert's getting on so excellently with Miss Crawford. She is such
a thoroughly nice woman, and it is certain to do Robert good."

"I would not think too much about that, Lizzy. Robert gets on well with
all nice women, and as to Miss Crawford, I should say she is accustomed
to receiving a considerable amount of admiration."

"Nonsense! You shall not spoil my pleasure in it. Why should they not be
friends and nothing more? I took care to do him a good turn too; I told
Mrs. Grant the thing I could about him, namely, that he is not well off.
I knew he would tell them himself, and make the most of it, in that
disparaging way he has, as if it were a great blot on his character, or
some serious personal defect. He has become so diffident the last few
months that I have no patience with him! He does not value himself
properly, and causes people to undervalue him."

"One cannot say that diffidence is a fault of Miss Crawford's other
admirer, Sir Walter Elliot."

"No, the tiresome, dressed-up doll! She is so sensible, that I cannot
understand her having those people for her friends."

"Perhaps she has no choice. Possibly the acquaintance was of their
seeking; she may have made a mistake. Who knows? Even the wisest of us
may sometimes be mistaken in our estimates of one another, may we not,
Elizabeth?"



Chapter IV


The ride duly took place on the following morning, and the circumstances
caused Elizabeth much secret pleasure. Her husband hesitated to attach
any importance to the friendship thus inaugurated, and did not care to
consider the possibilities arising out of it, for the engagement between
his sister and his cousin had been a scheme very near his heart, and
when it failed he was so much disappointed that he could not give up the
idea of Fitzwilliam's being disappointed too. It was difficult for him
to imagine that a man who had lost Georgiana could console himself with
another woman, however talented and charming. It therefore followed that
Elizabeth was compelled to keep her satisfaction to herself, and being
very anxious that nothing should be said to dispel it, she refrained
from giving any account of her cousin when the carriages assembled
before her aunt's door at eleven o'clock. With a warning glance at her
husband, she replied to Lady Catherine's peremptory inquiries that
Robert had an engagement that morning, but he would join them at dinner,
coming over on horseback.

"An engagement!" repeated Lady Catherine haughtily. "I was not aware
that any engagement could have a prior claim, when my party has been
made up for some days. It is very annoying. The result is that you have
an empty seat in your carriage; if we had known, Captain Tilney's gig
would not have been wanted."

"Perhaps Captain Tilney would not mind giving poor little me a seat in
his gig," suggested Miss Steele, who, since she saw that the honour of
sharing a back seat with Colonel Fitzwilliam was denied her, had been
revolving the next most advantageous plan in her mind. Captain Tilney,
who was already in his gig, hoping that his destined companion had not
yet appeared, looked round for a way of escape: but from Lady
Catherine's generalship there was none, and she said, after a moment's
consideration: "Very well, I suppose that must do. I had intended--but
when people are so extremely ungrateful--I sent a note round last night
to Mrs. Grant and Miss Crawford, Elizabeth, asking them to join us. They
actually declined. It is not often that I go out of my way to take
notice of strangers--"

"My dear aunt," interrupted Darcy, "had we not better start? We are
collecting a crowd in the street. Miss Steele, may I help you into the
gig? I suppose your sister and her husband will go with my aunt and Miss
de Bourgh. Take care of the wheel. Tilney, your horse looks as if he
were going to leave us all behind. Now, Mrs. Ferrars. It is a good thing
we have a spare seat, you know, madam. Mr. Morland can take care of the
baskets and the wraps. If you like, we can make different arrangement in
coming home."

The carriages drove off, and Elizabeth, in the highest spirits,
congratulated her husband on his disposal of the Steele faction. The
party, however, was not destined to be so successfully divided for the
whole day, and while they were all strolling about at Clifton, in the
hour preceding diner, Elizabeth was taken possession of by her aunt, to
listen to some severe strictures upon her management of the family
affairs.

"I blame you exceedingly, Elizabeth, for not using your influence with
Fitzwilliam. He ought to go about with the rest of us in an ordinary
way, not wander off by himself, heaven knows where. _That_ is not the
way to teach him to forget that affair, which so unfortunately
miscarried under your guidance."

"But, Aunt, we cannot control his movements as if he were a child. He
naturally goes where he likes and makes his own friends."

"His own friends, yes, indeed! Desirable friends they must be, to cause
him to break an engagement with his nearest relations. I think it is
quite time that he were taken in hand by someone who cares as much for
his welfare as I do. Even at his age a man cannot be trusted to know
what is best for himself. I always thought no good would come of it when
you and Darcy took so much pains to throw him and Georgiana together.
Your own family's matrimonial affairs have always been conducted in such
extraordinary lines--"

"We will leave my family out of the discussion, please, Aunt Catherine.
I do assure you that the breaking of Georgiana's engagement was for the
best in every way."

"Of course, I know you feel bound to defend your handiwork, and I am
only too glad to think that my dear nephew has not suffered more than he
has from the effects. Perhaps next time you will agree that he should be
guided by the advice of those older and wiser than himself."

"Certainly, Aunt Catherine," returned Elizabeth, who only endured these
remarks by making allowance for her aunt's disappointment. "Or perhaps
it might be better to let him choose a wife, if he wants one, entirely
by himself."

"I should prefer that he should choose one of whom I could approve, and
that I could be sure, next time an engagement is made, that it is not
likely to be broken," returned Lady Catherine. "When I was a young girl
a betrothal was regarded as a very serious thing, one not lightly to be
cast aside because of a fancied change of feeling."

Elizabeth had begun to wonder how much longer she could bear this
conversation, when the opportune arrival of Colonel Fitzwilliam caused
his aunt's attention to be concentrated upon him to the exclusion of
everyone else; and Elizabeth was pleased to observe his contented air
and cheerful manner while he laughingly parried his aunt's
cross-examination, and even submitted to the advances of Miss Steele,
who, delighted to find him more approachable than usual, continued to
address all her remarks to him while they visited the Pump Room and
strolled down towards the river. Elizabeth found herself obliged to pair
off with Mrs. Ferrars, but Lucy, who possessed a considerably larger
share of adroitness than her sister, perceived at once that different
methods were necessary to recommend herself to Mrs. Darcy than to Lady
Catherine, and had for some days been endeavouring to show herself equal
to the standard of elegance required by a young lady. On this occasion
she began by expressing warm enjoyment of the concert a few nights
before.

"Yes," said Elizabeth, "it was a good concert, very much above the
average of those things, I thought."

"Oh, it was charming! I do not know when I have been more delighted!
That exquisite Italian song! The air of it runs in my memory still."

"You must have a good memory, for those florid operatic songs are the
most difficult things to remember."

"Ah, dear Mrs. Darcy, I fear you undervalue your powers. We all know
what an accomplished musician and critic you are." Elizabeth disclaimed;
but Mrs. Ferrars continued perseveringly: "You prefer instrumental
music, perhaps? It is no doubt a sign of a more cultivated taste."

Elizabeth was somewhat amused. "I do prefer instrumental music, but only
because it is the kind I understand best."

"Then of course you appreciated the playing of that young lady, Miss
Crawford. I suppose it was very wonderful. Lady Catherine was much
struck by it."

"I do not know that it was wonderful, but Miss Crawford has a great
gift, and plays with all the feeling and charm one would expect of her."

"You know her well, do you not?" asked Lucy.

"Not very well, but I do hope to know her better."

Lucy meditated upon this: it was not very agreeable news to her; if Mrs.
Darcy saw much of Miss Crawford, it would mean that Colonel Fitzwilliam
would see a good deal of her, too. Lucy felt that after poor Anne's many
failures, success did not look more probable here; and the result of her
reflections was the question: "Is Miss Crawford as rich as they say?"

"I do not know what Miss Crawford's fortune is," replied Elizabeth in
cold surprise. "She and her sister appear comfortably off."

"Oh, I only meant--" began Lucy, confused. "She is said to be such a
great heiress, that I often wonder why she has never married." Then, as
her companion did not speak, she added: "They say that perhaps she will
be the next Lady Elliot, and that would be most suitable, would it not?
_his_ title and _her_ fortune."

"I should not think such a match was very probable, but I scarcely know
Sir Walter Elliot," replied Elizabeth.

Lucy could not help pursuing the subject. "Do you think Miss Crawford
very pretty?" she inquired.

"She is very graceful and sweet looking; and her face has a great deal
of animation, which is always so attractive," answered Elizabeth.

"Her complexion has rather lost its bloom, though, and she is so
unbecomingly thin," Lucy ventured to say.

"I have not remarked it," returned Elizabeth, vexed with herself for
having drifted into anything like an intimate conversation with Mrs.
Ferrars. "Shall we join Lady Catherine? She is evidently wanting to
collect the party. It must be nearly time to start for home."

Lucy saw that she had made a mistake, and covered it as well as she
could by saying: "Oh, but I think Miss Crawford charming, I assure you,
and so talented. I wish we could have heard the harp when we were
calling on you yesterday morning."

"You will have another opportunity of doing so at my aunt's reception
next week," said her companion.

Mrs. Darcy had been quite conscious of the undercurrent in Mrs.
Ferrars's mind during this conversation, for she had perceived the
aspirations of Miss Steele, supported as she was by her sister, towards
Colonel Fitzwilliam; and Elizabeth felt the extreme importance of
preventing any hint from being dropped which might open her cousin's
eyes to the situation, or even to the fact that anyone thought there was
a situation. A word of raillery from Miss Steele, or of archness from
Mrs. Ferrars, would be enough to drive him from Bath in disgust; he
would resent nothing more deeply than the imputation of his paying court
to an heiress, and persons of the Steele kind, Elizabeth knew, would be
able to make remarks of a character most difficult for him to bear. The
friendship between himself and Miss Crawford was at that time in the
stage when a very small incident might affect it one way or the other;
and Elizabeth felt miserably uncomfortable until she found herself
safely at home again, and their little party of three collected round
the fireside in their lodgings, Mr. Morland having been dropped at his
rooms.

"Well, Robert, I did not have the chance to ask you," she began, trying
to speak unconcernedly; "did you enjoy your ride this morning, and where
did you go?"

"I enjoyed it very much, thank you," replied the Colonel, "though we did
not go far, only about three miles on the Wells road."

"That was a pity," said Darcy; "you ought to have had a good gallop on
the downs."

"I wished to do so," said the Colonel, "but I fancied Miss Crawford was
a little disinclined for it. She seemed so much afraid I should be late
in arriving at Clifton and always talking of turning back."

"You must go farther another time," said Elizabeth.

"Yes, I hope so indeed," responded her cousin; "it is perfect weather
for riding, and Miss Crawford is a horsewoman such as one seldom sees."

"Talking of horses, either Tilney is not much of a driver, or else he
took pleasure in frightening that Miss Steele to-day," remarked Darcy.
"You did not see, did you, Robert? No, it was on the way up there. He
let his horse gallop down the long hill--I thought the gig would have
been upset--and the silly girl actually caught hold of one rein."

"I thought Miss Steele seemed very unwilling to drive back with him,"
said Fitzwilliam with a smile. "By the way, have you noticed what a
wonderful girl she is for asking questions? She almost equals my aunt."

Elizabeth felt her fears returning, and inquired: "Did she manage to
find questions to ask _you_, Robert?"

"I should think she did. She was trying to extract from me why I had not
arrived earlier and what I had been doing. I had to admit that I had
been riding, and in some way of her own she dragged Miss Crawford's name
in too. I simply pretended not to hear, and began talking vigorously
about something else. How in the world it can matter to her whether I
was riding with Miss Crawford, or Miss Anybody, I fail to understand."

"She is an inquisitive little minx, and I cannot bear her," Elizabeth
exclaimed emphatically. "Fitzwilliam, do let us go home. I don't like
Bath this year, or the people in it. We can ask the nice ones, like Miss
Crawford and Mr. Morland, to stay with us at Pemberley."

"I am quite willing to return, my dear," replied Darcy; "but it would
not do to leave before my aunt's reception, or to admit ourselves driven
away by a Miss Steele."

"Of course we will stay over the sixteenth, but we will go after that;
it only means a week or two less than our ordinary visit. The
Wentworths are leaving, and Eleanor Portinscale is too unwell for me to
see anything of her, and Aunt Catherine has her extraordinary friends to
amuse her; there is really nothing to keep us. You will come too, will
you not, Robert?"

To this the Colonel made no reply, and Elizabeth interpreted his silence
as her wishes dictated.

The next few days passed without any special event to mark them.
Elizabeth wished more and more to leave Bath, and to be able to persuade
Colonel Fitzwilliam to come too; for she felt an uneasiness that would
not be stifled as to the outcome of the various friendships that had
been inaugurated that year. In particular, she suspected the Steele and
Ferrars faction of making some mischief with her aunt; they were
incessantly with her, and it seemed to Elizabeth that Lady Catherine was
becoming what, with all her faults of overbearing pride, haughtiness and
love of flattery, she had never been before, namely, suspicious of evil
motives and thoughts in those around her. When her nephew and niece were
with her she would question them, and hardly accept their explanation of
their occupations at other times; she blamed everybody for what they
were doing, Mr. Morland for accepting the hospitality of the
Portinscales, Lady Portinscale for not entertaining, Captain Tilney for
not marrying, Anne Steele for wishing to do so, Colonel Fitzwilliam for
coming to Bath, and Georgiana for staying away. Mrs. Grant and Miss
Crawford were criticized for being in such an expensive place; but on
the whole, Lady Catherine said but little about them in a general way,
which Elizabeth regarded as a bad sign, for she was sure, that as
friends of _her_ choice, Lady Catherine must have a great deal to say in
private in their disfavour.

As to James Morland, Elizabeth felt there was everything to be said in
defence of his present situation; but she was so anxious for it to be
known that he was on the way to obtaining work, that she wanted to be at
home, in order to set the necessary arrangements in motion; though her
husband laughed at the idea of the vicar's resigning any sooner, because
the patron happened to be at Pemberley instead of at Bath.

It was, however, in regard to the progressing friendship between Mary
Crawford and Colonel Fitzwilliam that Elizabeth felt most troubled, and
as long as she remained in Bath, most helpless. Mary and Mrs. Grant
would not come and see her more often than she visited them; and
although there were numberless opportunities of meeting at the Rooms,
the gardens, the theatre, and other public places, on these occasions
there always seemed to be something to interfere with the enjoyment of
their little party. Either Lady Catherine was there, with the Steeles,
who could be depended on to break up any rational conversation or other
amusement, or, worse still, Sir Walter and Miss Elliot would appear on
the scene, and assuming the privileges of an older acquaintance, would
take possession of Mary and draw her away from her newer friends with
many protests of "having been _quite_ deserted--of having so much to say
to our dear Miss Crawford, whom we have missed so terribly lately." They
had, of course, a slight previous acquaintance with the Darcys, whom
they had intended to become intimate with at one time, as people of
fashion; but to Miss Elliot's intense chagrin, Mrs. Darcy had been quite
unresponsive to her, and had instead formed a friendship with her
younger sister, Mrs. Wentworth. Although the Wentworths and the Darcys
were frequently together, Elizabeth could not well confide her
difficulties to Anne, when it was so evident that Sir Walter Elliot was
another admirer of Miss Crawford, and not at all evident in which
direction the lady's choice would lie! It was hard to believe that she
could find true pleasure in the company of Sir Walter, with his tedious
inanities, or of Miss Elliot, with her artificiality and pride, and yet
at times she seemed to greet them almost with a heartiness, and be glad
to join them, even though she might have been a moment before in
conversation with the Darcy party and showing them her real self in a
charming and spontaneous gaiety. But those who watched closely might
have noticed that these times coincided with the appearance of Lady
Catherine, who, on seeing her nephew Colonel Fitzwilliam, usually
endeavoured to detach him from the group he was in and to join him to
her own. He, on his part, was always most unwilling to relinquish the
society of Miss Crawford, but she gave him no chance to do otherwise,
gliding away with a pleasant word of farewell before Lady Catherine's
insistent "I want you, Fitzwilliam, if you can spare me a _few_
moments," made itself heard. He had no key to her behaviour; sometimes
it seemed to him as if she really liked him, and as if he might venture
to hope he could make her like him more; and then, again, Sir Walter
Elliot was so frequently at her elbow, with the compliments and
gallantries which seemed to be his native language, and were so foreign,
Colonel Fitzwilliam thought, to himself, that, naturally diffident,
distrusting his powers to charm and attract, he often felt as if it were
hopeless even to think of becoming a suitor; while at the same time his
deepening love for Mary compelled him to persevere.

Elizabeth perceived some part of all this, and longed to help; but there
was something about Mary's reserve that made it impossible to win her
confidence, or to do anything more for Colonel Fitzwilliam than his own
powers were able to do for him. Mary never gave him what could be
construed into the smallest encouragement; it was only by observing that
with him she seemed to be able to talk more naturally, to express her
real opinions more frankly, that Elizabeth could surmise his interest in
her to be in the slightest degree reciprocated. Had it not been for the
very strong liking Elizabeth had formed for her new friend, she would
have been disposed to think that her cousin's happiness would best be
furthered by separating him from a pleasure that might become such great
pain. But after a conversation with him, in which he briefly admitted
his growing attachment and the existence of his hopes, she could not
advise him to give up the quest, and could only assure him of her
sympathy and belief in Mary's being a prize worth winning. He confessed
that he felt it was doing a wrong to Georgiana to indulge in such
thoughts so short a time after leaving her, and reproached himself with
his presumption in thinking that so brilliant and admired creature as
Mary could have any warmth of feeling for "a battered old soldier like
this," as he styled himself. Elizabeth tried to reason him out of these
scruples, and to give him all the good counsel that her knowledge of his
character suggested. She found that he did not believe he had at present
the remotest chance of being accepted; he only hoped, while they
remained in Bath, to win his way in Miss Crawford's esteem, and to be
assured that she had no preference for any other man.



Chapter V


Elizabeth was anxious to see as much of Miss Crawford as possible before
their departure from Bath, which was now fixed for the 17th of April,
the day after Lady Catherine's reception. She accordingly made an excuse
to walk down to Mrs. Grant's house on the day before with the piece of
music, which it had occurred to her might be arranged with a setting for
the harp; and she found Miss Crawford in and alone. Mary was wearing her
bonnet and cloak and was wrapping up a parcel when Mrs. Darcy was
announced; and the latter exclaimed that she would not stay, as Mary was
just going out.

"No, no, I am not--it does not matter--I was only going to take this
parcel to Miss Elliot's--pray sit down, Mrs. Darcy--I can send it by the
boy"; and recalling the servant, Miss Crawford handed him the package
with directions to take it to Camden Place. Then returning, she threw
off her cloak and said: "It really does not signify in the least; it is
only a fan Miss Elliot lent me a few evenings ago--as an excuse, she
said, for seeing me again when I brought it back." This was spoken with
a slight blush, but on Elizabeth's repeating her regrets she exclaimed:
"Oh, but I would much rather stay and talk to you. I so seldom see you
alone; one seldom does see anyone alone in Bath, I think. What have you
brought? Some music? How delightful! You will play it to me now."

Elizabeth explained her scheme, and Miss Crawford examined the piece
with great interest, and presently declared she thought it would make an
admirable duet. As she walked across the room to the harp, Elizabeth
remarked: "If you like it, we might play it to-morrow night at my aunt's
reception."

Miss Crawford appeared to be busily tuning the strings of her harp, and
it was after a moment's pause that she replied: "I do not think we shall
be at Lady Catherine's reception."

"Not be there!" repeated Elizabeth, concealing her dismay as best she
could. "I am very sorry for that; we shall all be sorry not to see you
there."

"Thank you," returned Miss Crawford, and seemed unwilling to say more.
Elizabeth, however, could not bear to leave the subject at that point,
and after a few moments suggested that if Mrs. Grant did not feel equal
to going, she herself would be delighted to call for Miss Crawford and
take her to Pulteney Street.

"You are very kind, Mrs. Darcy, but it is not that," said Miss Crawford,
at length turning round and showing a countenance expressive of some
embarrassment. "The truth is," she continued, "and I know I can speak it
to a friend like yourself, that I don't think Lady Catherine really
wants such very small rushlights as ourselves in her firmament of
glittering stars. She cannot be said to know us; she has not called here
since I was introduced to her at that concert, and only sent us a note
late one evening asking us to come next day to Clifton. I do not in the
least mind being invited only on account of my music, but, as Frances
and I always agree, since I am not paid in money, I must be in manners.
Oh! I beg your pardon--" she stopped short, colouring and biting her
lip--"I should not have said that. Lady Catherine has, of course, a
perfect right to do as she likes. I daresay she has long forgotten
having given me an invitation."

"My dear Miss Crawford," exclaimed Elizabeth, whose colour had also
risen, "say no more; you quite put us all to shame. Was there ever such
an ill-mannered family? Of course, I thought that my aunt had sent you
and your sister an invitation in due form. You must let me take all the
blame to myself, for having omitted to remind her; we had talked, we had
assumed all this time that you would be at the reception, which must
account for my unpardonable forgetfulness of what should have been an
early and most pleasurable duty."

Miss Crawford tried to laugh the matter off by saying that it was in no
respect Mrs. Darcy's fault, and that the whole thing was too trifling to
deserve a moment's consideration; besides, she added, Mrs. Darcy had
presented her sister to Lady Catherine on one occasion, and could not
have done more; that she was sure she and Mrs. Grant would not be missed
at such a large party, and that she hoped to have other opportunities of
meeting Mr. and Mrs. Darcy.

"It is because I fear there will be so few more in Bath, owing to our
departure for home, that I am so particularly sorry to lose this one,
and also for the cause of it," returned Elizabeth. "I can quite enter
into your feelings, Miss Crawford, but will you do a very kind and
generous thing, and show that you have forgiven me by availing yourself
of my aunt's invitation if she tenders it in a manner you can accept?"

Miss Crawford could not be persuaded to give a definite assent to this
proposal; she tried to treat the matter of her going to the party or
staying away as no consequence, and laughingly protested that she would
send the harp alone, which would answer all purposes as far as Lady
Catherine was concerned. The utmost she could be induced to say was: "I
should be very glad to give _you_ the pleasure"; and with this Elizabeth
was obliged to be content. Nevertheless, Elizabeth was so extremely
desirous of securing Miss Crawford's presence, partly in the hope that
Lady Catherine might be more kindly disposed to her on a closer
acquaintance, and partly in order that Colonel Fitzwilliam might be
enabled to enjoy her company without fear of interruption from the
Elliots, that on leaving Mrs. Grant's house she hastened at once to
Pulteney Street, trusting to find Lady Catherine alone and disposed to
listen to her errand. In both these objects she was successful; for
though the inevitable Miss Steele was in the house, she was upstairs
with Miss de Bourgh, and Lady Catherine having just had a disappointment
in hearing that some old friends found themselves obliged to quit Bath
before her reception, was in a mood to demand Elizabeth's sympathy and
to discuss matters connected with entertainment.

"It really is exceedingly trying," she said. "I am not prepared for
these annoyances. At my age my friends should take care to spare me
them. I am convinced that Lady Alicia Markham's son is not so ill but
that he could have done without his mother for another two days."

Elizabeth condoled warmly, and listened to a description of the
arrangements for the evening, in which, it appeared, Mrs. Ferrars's
help had been invaluable; and when Lady Catherine named the musicians
she expected, Elizabeth took advantage of the opening thus afforded her,
by suggesting that a more formal invitation should be sent to Miss
Crawford, to ensure her presence.

Lady Catherine stared, and in a tone of offended surprise reminded her
of the first meeting with Miss Crawford. "You were present, I recollect,
Elizabeth, when she was introduced to me, and I gave her the opportunity
of bringing her instrument on this occasion."

"Yes, I remember its being mentioned," said Elizabeth, "but I hardly
think she took it as an invitation. I fancied you meant to follow it up
by calling on her and her sister."

"I may have had some thoughts of doing so," returned Lady Catherine
haughtily; "but in the end I decided that I did not choose it; I cannot
take up with all the new young ladies who come to Bath, and least of all
those who are talked of as much as she is. She is the greatest flirt
imaginable: that foolish old beau, Sir Walter Elliot, and half the men
of Bath are running after her."

"No, indeed, dear madam; you have been misinformed, and I must defend
her," said Elizabeth with more earnestness. "She is not in the least a
flirt, and though men may run after her, they receive no encouragement
to do so. But if you do not like her, there is no more to be said. Now,
whom could you get in her place? I do not know any other lady, but there
is a man at the theatre who is said to play the harp tolerably well."

Lady Catherine was silent for a moment with anger; then she broke out,
as Elizabeth had expected: "There is no one I can get in her place. The
impudent girl! She should be glad to come to a house like this. Probably
she is intending to come all the time, if the truth were known; how can
you tell she is not?"

"Only that when I last saw her she distinctly said that she and her
sister had no reason to think themselves expected."

"No reason! when with my own mouth I said, 'I should like you to come
and play at my house on the sixteenth.' Nothing could be clearer. As to
her sister, if that is the very ordinary-looking person whom I believe
you presented to me one morning, no, I do not recollect saying anything
to her; but it is not she who plays the harp."

"She is a very agreeable and cultured woman, widow of a Canon of
Westminster, and Miss Crawford goes nowhere without her."

"Well, it is all extremely annoying, and I do not know when I have been
so upset. You should have told her, Elizabeth, told her plainly that she
was to come. Really, the airs these people give themselves! Here is a
card; I will write their names and send it round this afternoon, and I
hope after that we shall have no more nonsense."

This by no means satisfied Elizabeth, and the next ten minutes were
spent by her in using every means of persuasion she could think of to
induce her aunt to repair all previous omissions by going to visit Mrs.
Grant and conveying her invitation in person. Lady Catherine at first
resisted the proposal indignantly, and would have continued to do so but
for her knowledge that Miss Crawford's music was to have been an
attractive part of the evening's entertainment, and an uncomfortable
recollection of having told many of her friends that they would hear a
person scarcely known, in whom she had discovered some remarkable
talent.

This she did not betray to her niece, and when the latter left the house
it was without having secured a definite promise, but Elizabeth felt
she had said as much as she safely could, and she walked home, pondering
on what had passed, and wondering uneasily whether what she had done had
been a real kindness to Mary. This question was also raised by her
husband, to whom she had related the affair on her return. He shook his
head over it, and gave it as his opinion that as his aunt had been rude
to Miss Crawford, and the latter was fully conscious of it, they would
not meet in a spirit conducive to future good feeling.

"But it would have been worse," said Elizabeth, "if Aunt Catherine had
counted on Miss Crawford's coming and she had not appeared. There would
have been no healing the breach then."

"Would it have greatly signified if there had been a breach?" inquired
Darcy. "But never mind, my dear, you have done your best, and it will be
interesting to see the result of Aunt Catherine's efforts at
conciliation--the first time she has ever appeared in such a role, I
should think."

Strangely enough, Lady Catherine's efforts were successful enough,
although no one ever knew precisely how she accomplished it. But it was
partly accounted for by the fact that she saw Mrs. Grant alone, Miss
Crawford being out. She had taken only her daughter with her, not
choosing that Miss Steele should be a witness of an interview which was
undoubtedly galling to her pride; and Mrs. Grant, realizing but a small
part of the great lady's insolence towards her sister, and the nature of
Mary's resentment of it, only perceived that Lady Catherine was anxious
to have them at the party, and was willing to acknowledge any remissness
in her manner of issuing the invitation. Lady Catherine was so relieved
at not having to apologize directly to the object of her dislike, that
she became, in the course of the interview, more and more
condescendingly gracious to Mrs. Grant, whom she found, as she
afterwards remarked to her daughter, an amiable, unpretentious person;
and actually admitted that she ought to have called sooner, but the
pressure of engagements in Bath at this period of the season was so
great. The call was strictly limited to a quarter of an hour, and Mrs.
Grant described it all to Mary when she came in with much spirit and
humour.

Mary, on hearing that her sister had actually accepted, was inclined to
be defiant, and to declare that she would have a headache and not go; of
course it was kind Mrs. Darcy's doing, but she did not care to accept
favours thrown at her at the eleventh hour like this, by ill-tempered
old ladies who only wanted to make use of her. Mrs. Grant, whose pride
in, and love of, her sister were unbounded, and who delighted in seeing
her shine by means of her beauty and talents, had great difficulty in
persuading her; in fact, when they met the Darcy party at the Lower
Rooms the following morning, Mary still declared that her coming was so
doubtful that it was not worth while to give Mrs. Darcy the trouble of
learning the duet.

Elizabeth, however, felt fairly confident of seeing her there, and
Colonel Fitzwilliam confirmed this by telling Elizabeth with a cheerful
glance that "she had not actually said she would not go." Their hopes
were realized by the arrival of the two sisters, Mary looking lovely and
sparkling in white with a few fine jewels, the gifts of her devoted
brother. Elizabeth, who had arrived some time earlier, happened to be
near her aunt, and so was able to satisfy herself that their reception
by their hostess was properly courteous, if not cordial. Lady Catherine
even took the trouble to mention the name of her daughter, who stood
close by, and Miss de Bourgh actually exerted herself so far as to make
two separate curtsies, though the remark that it was a cold evening was
taken out of her mouth by Anne Steele, who was standing next to her, and
evidently considered herself included in the introduction.

Elizabeth saw with delight that Colonel Fitzwilliam was impatiently
awaiting his turn after these formalities should be over, and that he
immediately placed himself by Miss Crawford's side. They seemed to have
much to say to one another; and Elizabeth, after greeting the two
ladies, and giving Mary an expressive glance of gratitude which conveyed
much more than her quiet remark: "It was kind of you to come," began to
converse with Mrs. Grant until music should be demanded of Mary.

Elizabeth was very well amused in watching the arrival of the guests,
and in noticing which of them were under the special patronage of the
Robert Ferrars, who appeared to have brought into Lady Catherine's
circle a number of individuals of about the same standing in the world
of fashion as themselves. Robert Ferrars was in his element, as though
he found entertaining in another person's house a much more satisfactory
matter than when the trouble and expense had to be incurred by himself,
besides having the advantage of being able to introduce his friends to
an earl's daughter as their hostess. When all who were expected had
arrived, he, in company with a showy-looking young man, dressed in the
extreme of fashion, began strolling about the rooms in search of someone
upon whom they could make an impression. Elizabeth thought that she and
her husband might at least have escaped Mr. Ferrars's civilities; and
great was her surprise when the young men paused before her, and Mr.
Ferrars begged leave to introduce his friend Mr. Yates, who had newly
come from London. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, he thought, might be interested to
meet Mr. Yates, in view of their intended journey, as Mr. Yates would be
able to give them all information as to the state of the roads.

Mrs. Darcy had scarcely made her curtsey and was about to frame some
suitable reply, when the glance of the newcomer happened to fall on Mrs.
Grant, who was seated on a low chair close by. He immediately pronounced
her name in tones of questioning surprise, and when she looked up,
exclaimed: "Yes, I was sure it was. Upon my word, madam, I take some
credit to myself, considering the length of time it is since we met. I
hope I am so fortunate as to recall myself to your remembrance?"

"You are very good, sir," replied Mrs. Grant, with a perceptible effort.
Her countenance expressed no great pleasure at the encounter. "Of
course, I recall you perfectly. Mrs. Yates, I trust, is quite well."

"Very well, I thank you, madam; and I hope the same may be said of your
fair sister, Miss Crawford--but perhaps she is no longer Miss Crawford?"

"Don't be under any alarm, Yates," struck in Robert Ferrars; "she is
still Miss Crawford, and you can judge for yourself how well she is, for
you will see and hear her to-night."

This speech was so offensive to Mrs. Grant that she cut short Mr.
Yates's compliments, and remarking, "Yes, I am glad to say my sister is
still with me," rose and prepared to move away. Elizabeth immediately
suggested that they should go in search of some tea, and the dismayed
Mr. Yates saw Mrs. Darcy departing before he had uttered a single word
about London, or about the distinguished people he had dined with the
night before last.

"Well, I'm very sorry, Ferrars," he replied to his friend's reproaches;
"I'm sure I didn't want to talk to Mrs. Grant at all, but seeing her was
the greatest surprise; I never dreamt of meeting her here, and, of
course, I had to speak a civil word, or she would have thought it so
strange."

"My dear fellow," retorted Ferrars, "what on earth did that matter? I
should have thought you would understand that Mrs. Darcy is the person
to make yourself agreeable to here, not Mrs. Grant, who is only a
clergyman's widow. I suppose, as you knew her before, that she lived
down at that precious dull place in the country, where you took your
wife from."

"Yes, she did," answered Mr. Yates; "but there's a good deal more in it
than that--not through her. Do you mean to say that sister of hers is
really here, going about in Bath?"

"Of course she goes about; why shouldn't she?" demanded Ferrars. "Is
there anything against it? The women are all down on her, I know--you
should hear my wife and sister--but only because she's such a devilish
pretty girl and proud; she won't have any friends but the Darcys."

"But do you actually not know? Have you never heard all about her and
her brother? Between the two of them they managed to lead my wife's
family a pretty dance. Neither of them can ever show their faces in
Mansfield again, so it was a lucky thing the Grants moved when they did.
To think of meeting Miss Crawford again! I shall tell her that Edmund
Bertram is uncommonly well and prosperous, and Tom Bertram isn't married
yet; and you see how she looks when I do it."

This amiable intention was frustrated, as Elizabeth, who could readily
see that Mrs. Grant was disturbed by what had happened, did not need
even the hint dropped by her that she hoped Mary would not meet Mr.
Yates, as he was connected with the Bertrams, and all that part of her
life that it was painful to her to remember, in order to make her strive
in every way to protect Mary from any disagreeableness. They went to the
tea-room, whither Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mary had, fortunately,
preceded them some time before Mr. Yates's appearance. They were there
joined by Darcy, and all five formed a happily conversing group. Mrs.
Grant whispered a word to her sister, whose countenance changed for a
moment; but she shook off the cloud and gave herself up to the delight
of the present. Once Elizabeth received a message from her aunt
requesting her to "make Miss Crawford play now," and she escorted her
friend back to the music-room and did not leave her after the
performance until she saw Colonel Fitzwilliam safely stationed beside
her. No command to play a second time followed, rather to Elizabeth's
surprise, but having a number of friends to take leave of, she could not
give it much thought before her own departure, which her husband had
insisted should be an early one, in view of the journey on the following
day.

Mr. Yates did not, in fact, come near any of this little party during
the rest of the evening, but might have been observed conversing
earnestly in a quiet part of the room with Lucy Ferrars and her sister,
who, judging by their rapt attention and animated countenances, found
what Mr. Yates had to say deeply interesting; so much so, in fact, that
when his narration was finished the two young women, having faithfully
promised to repeat no word of what he had told them, took the first
opportunity of slipping away unostentatiously in the direction of their
hostess; and having drawn her aside, with a hint of having something
very important to communicate, poured into her ears that whole story
just heard, a story which, as may be imagined, lost nothing in their
version of it. Lady Catherine was so exceedingly angry that her
instantly expressed desire was to have both Mr. Yates and Miss
Crawford--the latter being, of course, the heroine of his tale--brought
before her, with some confused idea in her mind of proving to the world
at large that her dislike of Mary Crawford had all the time been well
founded; but Lucy's extreme terror of the consequences of this act and
her part in it, while Mr. and Mrs. Darcy were there to protect their
friend, caused her to implore Lady Catherine to suspend pronouncing
judgment till the following day. There would still be plenty of
opportunities of meeting Miss Crawford, Lucy assured her patroness. Lady
Catherine would make no promises. Only the necessity of attending to her
other guests, she replied, delayed her from informing Miss Crawford of
her strong disapproval. She would not appear to condone such conduct as
Miss Crawford's had been one moment longer than she could help. Lucy and
her sister thought it safest to mingle inconspicuously with the crowd
until the storm should break over some other heads.

Meantime, Elizabeth and her husband had made their farewells to most of
their friends, and were exchanging a few last words with Mrs. Grant and
Mary. The latter looked unusually lovely, and an expression of quiet
happiness illumined her countenance. Colonel Fitzwilliam did not allow
himself yet to adopt the easy manner of an intimate friend, but the
earnestness of his glance towards Mary, the eagerness with which he
obeyed her slightest request, betrayed the state of his feelings, and
his air and manner were those of a man whose thoughts are wholly
pleasant.

"I am so sorry that this is really good-bye," Elizabeth was saying, "but
I am consoled by thinking it is only for a little while. You will keep
your promise and come to us this summer, will you not?" Mary Crawford
and her sister repeated a cordial acceptance, and the former added: "You
must tell us exactly how to come, Mrs. Darcy, you must explain all the
intricacies of travelling between Brighton and Derbyshire, or we shall
undoubtedly be lost on the road."

"Brighton! Shall you come from there?" and it was explained that the
ladies generally spent the months of June and July at some seaside
place, and Brighton had been thought of for this year. "Or we may be in
London with my brother," continued Mary, "but wherever we are, if you
remember to ask us, we shall come."

The usual protestations of the impossibility of forgetting followed, and
very warm handshakes were exchanged; then Elizabeth, turning to her
cousin, said: "Are you coming home now, Robert? It will be most
unfriendly of you not to, for how else shall we see you again, since you
positively decline to go with us to-morrow?"

Colonel Fitzwilliam hesitated, and said he had not thought of going home
just yet; but Mary interrupted him by saying: "Pray don't let us keep
you, Colonel Fitzwilliam. I am sure our coach will be there now, if you
would kindly inquire. Colonel Fitzwilliam was so kind as to wish to put
us into our coach," she added to Elizabeth, "but it would not be worth
while, just for that, to prevent him from driving home with you and Mr.
Darcy."

"I will go and see, certainly," said the Colonel, moving off; "but
don't wait for me, Elizabeth. I would just as soon walk back, and I will
see you and Darcy at breakfast."

Darcy drew his wife's arm within his, and they made their way to Lady
Catherine, who was sitting very upright in an armchair and wearing her
most stern and forbidding expression. To Elizabeth's civilly-worded
thanks for all the kindness and pleasure which their aunt had bestowed
on her relatives during their stay, she made no reply; but when
Elizabeth referred to their departure on the morrow, she started, placed
her hand coldly within her niece's for a moment, and said: "Yes, you are
going, I recollect. You did not consult me in the matter, but still,
perhaps this year it is as well you are not staying longer."

Elizabeth was too well accustomed to her aunt's insolent speeches to
seek to account for them, and turned away; while Darcy, remarking, "Yes,
we have stayed as long as we care to for this year," also shook hands
with his aunt, cutting her rather short in the midst of a statement that
she could send no message to Georgiana, and without further delay
escorted his wife downstairs.

Mary Crawford watched them from the room, and then said to Mrs. Grant:
"Let us go and say good-night also, Frances. We may as well be
ready--and there will be the harp to be carried down."

"Very well, my dear," returned her sister. "We shall have to take our
turn, for everyone else seems to be preparing to leave at once."

They approached Lady Catherine, and when after a few minutes they
reached her side, to their surprise she addressed them in a more stiff
and stately manner than usual. "Ah! Miss Crawford! I was awaiting you.
Will you kindly come this way?" And she preceded them towards a small
library, where card-tables had been placed, but which was now deserted.

Mary was not the least apprehensive of harm, and even whispered
mischievously to her sister: "Perhaps she is going to present me with a
fee!" so that her astonishment was unbounded when Lady Catherine, having
closed the door, turned to her and exclaimed in a voice shrill with
anger, which she did not attempt to control: "As this is probably the
last time we shall meet, Miss Crawford, you will allow me to inform you
that I have been entirely under a misapprehension in inviting you to my
house, and that I very much regret having done so." The two sisters
gazed at her, both silent from surprise, and Lady Catherine made haste
to continue: "I see you are on the point of asking me what reason I have
for coming to this conclusion. I do not care to enter into particulars;
it must be sufficient for you that facts have come to my
knowledge--facts which, if you search your memory, will no doubt--"

Mary had by now found words, and she broke into Lady Catherine's speech
in a voice that distress and wounded dignity caused to tremble: "I was
not on the point of asking you why you propose to forbid me your house.
In that matter my decision had anticipated your wishes. But I have a
right to ask the meaning of this insult; even your ladyship will hardly
refuse to inform me of what and by whom I am accused."

Lady Catherine drew herself up still further, and said: "I repeat that I
do not care to enter into particulars. I have no wish to say anything
that may be injurious to you in your future life. The facts which have
come to my knowledge are facts which you must be well aware are damaging
to yourself and any member of your family--only in a lesser degree to
you, Mrs. Grant. I shall repeat them to no one. I only wish you to
understand our acquaintance is henceforth at an end."

Mary scarcely heard the last words; she had turned to her sister, who
seemed quite overwhelmed and could only say, almost indistinguishably:
"That dreadful Mr. Yates! I feared--I feared--"

"Frances, dear Frances, do not give way, I implore you. Do not let her
make you unhappy. What does it matter about Mr. Yates? The truth cannot
harm either of us." Then, confronting Lady Catherine once more, with
head proudly thrown back, she demanded: "Now, madam, in justice to my
sister, if not to me, will you kindly state what Mr. Yates has told
you?"

Lady Catherine, who had expected a shamefaced attitude, was unprepared
for this counter-attack, and replied after some hesitation: "It is
evident that you know Mr. Yates has something to tell."

"Certainly, we know exactly what Mr. Yates knows," retorted Mary with
spirit, "but what he may have told your ladyship is quite another
matter. Will you tell us, or are you disposed to wait for the presence
of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy? A message from us would cause them to postpone
their journey to-morrow."

The taunt was a well-judged one; Lady Catherine felt its truth, and
anxious not to involve herself more deeply, she exclaimed: "Mr. Yates
has not spoken on the subject to me; it is sufficient for me that he has
told others, upon whom I can rely, the whole story of your brother's
disgraced connection with that married woman, with whose dishonoured
name I will not sully my lips--is that the true, or is it not? You say
the truth can do you no harm."

"The fact is true," replied Mary, who had grown very white.

"Oh, Mary, Mary!" exclaimed Mrs. Grant, "let us come away now that we
know the worst."

"No," answered Mary, who was retaining her calmness by a great effort,
"we will not deprive Lady Catherine of the pleasure of telling all she
has heard."

"And you express no contrition, you shameless, you bad-hearted girl?"
broke out Lady Catherine, giving rein to her anger. "You think it can do
you no harm to have all known of that shocking affair, which alone
should make you shun the society of respectable persons, but beyond and
above all that, there are your own intrigues with the two brothers of
that wretched woman, one of whom you enticed away from the girl to whom
he was attached, and your own flirtations here, which I will not enter
into, but which I have watched taking place under my very eyes--"

"That will do, I think," said Mary, raising her hand. "You can have
nothing further to say. You have insulted us in every possible manner. I
only hope, Lady Catherine, that by this outrage you will consider
yourself to have taken ample revenge."

"How dare you speak so to my poor sister?" demanded Mrs. Grant, wrath at
last overmastering her distress. "If you only knew the real truth of the
matter--if you only knew who had suffered and who was to be blamed!--God
forgive you your wicked thoughts and your poisonous tongue!"

"Hush, hush, Frances!" interposed Mary, drawing her sister away. "Do not
try to convince her. She is not worth it," and the two sisters left the
room and walked with fairly firm steps downstairs, where they procured
their cloaks, and Mrs. Grant was able, by drawing down her hood, to
conceal the traces of her emotion. Mary directed a servant to bring her
instrument downstairs, and they awaited it within the cloak-room. A few
minutes later the servant knocked at the door, asking for Miss
Crawford, and both ladies hastened forward, expecting the announcement
of their coach, but Mary drew back on encountering the pale and anxious
gaze of Colonel Fitzwilliam, and hearing his eager words: "I feared I
had missed you--that you had gone--I searched for you through the
rooms--and then I heard you were with my aunt. Is anything the matter,
dear Miss Crawford? I fear there is something."

"It is of no consequence, thank you, Colonel Fitzwilliam," she replied,
speaking with cold pride. "You are come a little too late to be of any
assistance. I see the footman has brought my harp, so if you will kindly
allow us to leave the house, that is the most you can do."

"I implore you not to speak so, dearest Miss Crawford," he exclaimed,
though keeping his voice low on account of the persons standing round.
"Is there nothing I can do, nothing I can put right? I could, I am sure,
if only I knew what had happened."

"Lady Catherine can best inform you of that," returned Mary in icy tones.
"May I again request that you will ask for our carriage?"

"One moment only, and I will not detain you," he said hurriedly. "May I
call on you to-morrow, at an early hour? Pray give me permission."

"I shall not be at home to-morrow," answered Mary, and swept proudly
past him towards the front door, where a footman had just announced:
"Mrs. Grant's carriage stops the way."

"Mrs. Grant!" exclaimed Colonel Fitzwilliam, placing himself beside that
lady as she followed her sister, "you will allow me to come and see you?
I will not torment your sister, but--you will not close your door on me
without at least explaining the reason for this dreadful change?"

"Oh, Colonel Fitzwilliam!" exclaimed Mrs. Grant, with difficulty
controlling her agitation, "if you knew all, you would not expect me to
receive you; but I cannot altogether refuse, only I must have time to
reflect, to consider--and my sister must be my first care."

He could only bow and acquiesce; and he assisted her into the carriage,
which immediately rolled away.



Chapter VI


Mr. and Mrs. Darcy were dismayed at the haggard aspect of their cousin
when he joined them at breakfast the next morning. He looked like a man
who had not slept, and whose wakefulness had some distressing cause. To
their inquiries he replied by giving as brief and quiet an account as he
could of the incident of the preceding evening. Elizabeth exclaimed with
consternation when he described Miss Crawford's manner to him at the
door, but refrained from making any comment until he had related how he
had gone in search of his aunt, to obtain, if possible, an explanation
from her. He had had to wait some time, until all but one or two of the
guests had gone and he could be alone with her, but she had been most
difficult to talk to on the subject; when reproached with her treatment
of Miss Crawford and Mrs. Grant, she had admitted that perhaps she did
speak rather severely to Miss Crawford, but the latter's attitude had
annoyed her; that everything she had said was fully justified, and she
was perfectly convinced that Miss Crawford was a most undesirable
person, and one she should never have had in her house.

"Good heavens! can such things be said without impunity?" exclaimed
Elizabeth. "What did you say, Robert?"

Colonel Fitzwilliam replied that he hoped he had controlled his temper,
but it had been no easy matter. His aunt would not even substantiate her
charges, and only referred to the shocking conduct of Miss Crawford and
her brother towards a family called Bertram, adding that though this
information had only just come to her ears, she believed that in London
it was common property. Needless to say, her nephew's assurances that
whatever the brother might have done Miss Crawford herself was
absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing whatever, had not the slightest
effect. Neither was she able to perceive that upon no basis but a shred
of vulgar gossip she had done a vile thing in attacking and defaming two
guests under her own roof.

"That made her more enraged than ever," continued Colonel Fitzwilliam;
"she said it was not vulgar gossip, but a well-founded fact; and though
she evidently was under a promise not to reveal the source of her
knowledge, the word Ferrars slipped out once, so I was assured of what
in fact I had guessed before, namely, to whom we owe this whole
abominable affair."

"It is most deplorable," said Darcy gravely. "We can never regret it
enough. I am sorry for you, Fitzwilliam, and still more sorry for Mrs.
Grant and her sister, but I do not see that there is anything to be
done, beyond apologies from all who are in any way connected with my
aunt. It must be talked of as little as possible, for Miss Crawford's
sake. The Ferrars will do their mischievous part; and it must be the
duty of her friends to take it for granted and ignore it; there is a
modicum of truth in the story, I suppose?"

"I do not know, or wish to know, anything about it," began Fitzwilliam,
but Elizabeth interposed eagerly: "I can tell you all there is to know.
I heard the story, if you can call it so, from Anne Wentworth only the
other day: but I did not mention it again, for there is no use in
reviving these things. It is true that Miss Crawford's brother ran away
with Mrs. Rushworth, who had been Miss Bertram. He had treated her very
badly before her marriage, gaining her affections and then showing her
he did not intend to marry her. Mary Crawford had been on terms of
friendship with the whole family, and one of the brothers, a young
Bertram, had paid her attention. Naturally, the scandal of the divorce
separated the two families; and I suppose ill-natured people can find
some reason why Mary should be blamed for it, but I know of none."

"How came Mrs. Wentworth to be acquainted with these events?" asked
Darcy. Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed to pay little heed; he rose from the
table, leaving his untasted breakfast.

"Because they have a great friend, a naval officer, young Lieutenant
Price, who is also connected with the Bertrams; his sister married one
of the sons. In fact, she was adopted by the family as a child, and
would naturally know all its affairs. I suppose the Ferrars got their
information from that Mr. Yates who was there last night; I do not know
anything about him, but I will ask Anne Wentworth."

"You know my advice, which is, as little said as possible," was Darcy's
reply; and he crossed to the window, to lay his hand on his cousin's
shoulder, and say warmly: "Do not take it too much to heart, my dear
fellow. On reflection, Miss Crawford, when she is a little less upset,
will see that you are not to blame, and Mrs. Grant, who is evidently a
sensible woman, will take the right line when she has had time to think
things over."

"I hope so," returned Colonel Fitzwilliam; but very little hope was
expressed in his voice or bearing.

"I wish we could stay another day or two, to do some good in this
miserable business," exclaimed Elizabeth. "We might even now put off
starting."

"No, Elizabeth, we could hardly do that, and it would not be advisable,"
said Darcy, with decision. "None of us could make my aunt's peace with
these ladies; and if we have to make our own, as well as Robert his, we
can do it better by letter. By the way, Robert, how do you stand with my
aunt?"

"We parted in anger, I fear," replied Fitzwilliam; "it was inevitable,
after the argument we had had. It is immaterial to me; she knows now
that I am an advocate for Miss Crawford, and she will consequently not
expect to see me again."

"In spite of what you say, Darcy, I do think we might do some good,"
Elizabeth interrupted. "Let us countermand the carriage. We can easily
tell the landlord we wish to keep these rooms till Monday."

Fitzwilliam begged his cousins not to put themselves to such an
inconvenience on his account; and Darcy being also unwilling to change
his plans at the moment when the carriages were driving to the door
Elizabeth was obliged to give up the idea, which she did with greater
reluctance through feeling that had she not persuaded Miss Crawford to
go to Lady Catherine's reception, this disaster would not have occurred.
Revolving in her mind plans for the future, when all the parties
concerned should be removed from the influences at work in Bath, she
continued her preparations for departure; and when all was ready, and
the luggage placed on the vehicles, she walked downstairs with Colonel
Fitzwilliam, speaking words of consolation and encouragement to him,
promising to write to Miss Crawford from their first stopping-place, and
urging him to wait patiently and not be deterred by Mary's being
reluctant to see him again for some time after her very painful
experience. He promised not to give up hope, but feared that this might
cause him to lose the ground he had gained.

"You are very good, Elizabeth," he said, as they shook hands. "Whatever
happiness comes out of this I shall owe to you. But it is beyond what I
can expect. There never was much reason why she should look at me, and
now, if she connects me with this wretched affair, there is less than
ever."

Elizabeth once more earnestly begged him to take a more cheerful view,
and immediately afterwards she and Darcy started their long journey
northwards; and their cousin, having exchanged a few words with James
Morland, who had walked round to the hotel a few moments earlier to take
leave of his friends, returned to his own rooms and to the thought of
Mary Crawford, which, indeed, was never absent from him. His eagerness
to be with her once more was only exceeded by his desire to protect her
fair name against the danger which threatened it; and in spite of
Darcy's advice he came to the conclusion, after long thought, that he
was justified in going first to the Ferrars's and then, if necessary, to
Mr. Yates, to demand that whoever was responsible for the calumny should
retract it. He did not wish to pose as Mary's champion until she had
given him the right to take a warmer interest in her than he might yet
assert; but as he could not in any case have failed to be aware of the
insult last night, and as he was at the same time Miss Crawford's friend
and Lady Catherine's nephew, he felt that he could do no less than
endeavour to right the wrong himself, having been unsuccessful in an
appeal to his aunt, which seemed the most direct.

He accordingly repaired at once to the Ferrars's lodgings, the address
of which had been given to him by Anne Steele on one of the many
occasions on which she had begged him to call there--a request hitherto
ignored; and as soon as he was shown into the room he perceived that his
two errands would be accomplished in one, as Mr. Yates was sitting with
the Ferrars and Miss Steele. Fitzwilliam would neither shake hands nor
take the offered seat, and addressing himself to Ferrars and Mr. Yates,
he requested, in a tone as calm and deliberate as he could make it, that
they would immediately and unreservedly withdraw all the accusations
they had brought against Miss Crawford, and would furthermore go to Lady
Catherine and make to her the same complete denial of their previous
statements. He was careful to utter Miss Crawford's name as seldom as
possible, and refrained from demanding an apology to be made to her
personally, as he felt the greatest delicacy about appearing to act on
her behalf, and could judge also that it was not the unkind talk, but
the insult from her hostess, that had given her such deep offence. He
found his present task an easier one than he had expected; and had his
heart been lighter, he could have derived amusement from witnessing the
kind of turmoil which his words immediately created amongst his hearers.
Neither Robert Ferrars nor Mr. Yates was of a quarrelsome disposition;
they were alike in living only for trifles, and in being of an idle,
careless, gossiping nature, tolerably good-humoured when it did not
interfere with their pleasure or comfort. At that moment the matter of
greatest importance to them was to set themselves right with this
extremely distinguished gentleman, who came to them with an air of such
authority; and they hastened with the utmost zeal to assure and protest,
to deny, regret or explain away whatever might have happened to annoy
any friend of his.

Robert Ferrars, who, beyond listening eagerly to the story, had had
nothing to do with the affair, was not long in discovering that his wife
and her sister were really responsible for the mischief; and both he and
Mr. Yates bitterly reproached the ladies for having broken their promise
and carried Mr. Yates's information to Lady Catherine. Anne Steele's
composure was not proof against this attack, especially in the presence
of her admired Colonel Fitzwilliam, and she found a burst of tears the
most convenient resource, but Lucy defended herself with spirit, and
declared that she had only told Lady Catherine what it was right for her
to know, as certainly her ladyship would not wish to receive Miss
Crawford if half of what Mr. Yates had said was true. This produced a
renewed flood of eloquence from Mr. Yates, who denied in the handsomest
manner having said anything to Miss Crawford's disadvantage, and wound
up by boldly asserting that she was a lady for whom he had the greatest
respect; that she could not help the faults of her brother, and that as
for Edmund Bertram, everyone considered that it was _he_ who had treated
her badly, "hanging round her always and never making her an offer--we
none of us knew what he could be at."

Colonel Fitzwilliam intimated that he did not wish to know any of these
particulars; that he was come simply because he had learnt that Lady
Catherine, in consequence of what she had heard, had been led to treat
her guests with great injustice--injustice was the strongest word he
would allow himself to use--and that, for everyone's sake, it was highly
necessary for her mind to be disabused of all false impressions. Mr.
Yates, when it was made clear to him, professed himself perfectly ready
to go to Lady Catherine and give her what he termed the true facts, and
he heartily supported Colonel Fitzwilliam in the latter's request that
Mr. Ferrars should accompany him. Mr. Ferrars looked from his friend to
his wife, extremely ruffled and uncomfortable; Lucy was reduced to such
a state of anger that she could scarcely speak; but Mr. Yates speedily
recovered his usual state of easy _insouciance_ and volubility, and was
the only one of the party able to walk with Colonel Fitzwilliam to the
door and usher him out with many bows and smiles and promises to wait on
him in the course of a day or two to tell him the result of his
forthcoming interview. Mr. Yates was not a man who could long be
disconcerted by anything; and he probably looked forward to his scene
with Lady Catherine as one in which he could play a leading part.

Colonel Fitzwilliam walked away, smiling for a moment at the thought of
the storm of mutual recrimination that was going on in the room he had
just left; he feared that what he had achieved would be of little use,
for his aunt would be much more desirous of believing the first version
than the second. Everything depended now upon the effect of his own
influence upon Mary and her sister--upon whether he could succeed in
atoning to them to any extent for what they had suffered. He greatly
distrusted his own powers, and walked to their house in the deepest
dejection of spirits.

The servant said the ladies were at home, and he waited for some time in
the drawing-room. Mrs. Grant's countenance, when at last she appeared,
was not such as to reassure him. She did not ask him to sit down, and
remained herself standing at a little distance while she explained,
briefly and formally, that her sister was not at all well, and was
unable to receive visitors. Colonel Fitzwilliam's heart sank at this
confirmation of his worst fears. He hastened to reply that he knew he
could not have expected her to be willing to see any member of his
family after what had happened the night before, but that he brought the
sincerest, most heartfelt apologies on his own behalf and that of his
cousins. He was only too sensible that nothing he could say could
obliterate the memory of the treatment to which Mrs. Grant and her
sister had been subjected, but he had been endeavouring to right the
wrong, and hoped that "when Lady Catherine should be brought to
acknowledge--"

Mrs. Grant here interrupted him. "Colonel Fitzwilliam, I must tell you
plainly that it is not of the slightest use to mention that lady's name
to my sister or myself. I know you mean very kindly, but the harm is
done now, and nothing Lady Catherine can do or say can repair it. I do
not wish to go into the whole matter, it is too unspeakably painful; but
if you had been aware of the language she used towards us, you would see
that it is not a thing which can ever be forgotten--I had almost said
forgiven."

Colonel Fitzwilliam admitted it fully. He told her who were the real
authors of the calumny, as far as regarded Lady Catherine, and he could
guess how she had been incited to anger, and how she must have spoken,
even though he had not been present, and he repeated that Lady Catherine
would be enlightened, and would regret as much as anyone having spoken
so hastily; but none of this had any effect on Mrs. Grant. She gradually
realized Colonel Fitzwilliam's anxiety to spare her and her sister pain,
and thanked him for what he had endeavoured to do; but concluded by
saying that she sympathized with her sister in feeling that all
intercourse between the two families had better cease.

Colonel Fitzwilliam's dismay was extreme. He felt himself dismissed, but
rallied his energies enough to ask: "But you do not identify us, Mrs.
Grant, my cousins and myself, with everything that my aunt does? Surely
you must know Mrs. Darcy, at least, better than to include her in such a
condemnation?"

Mrs. Grant appeared confused. "Mrs. Darcy has been very kind," she said
hesitatingly. "I have appreciated it."

There seemed a "but" behind this, and Colonel Fitzwilliam gently pressed
for further reasons, when the lady at last said: "The truth is, Colonel
Fitzwilliam, if you will have it, my sister feels--and I, though not
going the whole way with her, do understand her point of view--feels at
present too bitterly about it to be able to judge impartially. She
thinks that she should not have allowed Mrs. Darcy to over persuade
her--that she did wrongly to go to Lady Catherine's on what was
practically Mrs. Darcy's invitation."

"Good God!" broke from Fitzwilliam; "but she does not consider my cousin
in any way to blame for this behaviour of my aunt's?"

"No, certainly not," returned Mrs. Grant; "she blames herself, as I have
said; but she regrets also that Mrs. Darcy took so many pains to induce
Lady Catherine to show us any civility. Lady Catherine disliked us, and
when the opportunity of showing her real feelings arrived, she was glad
to take full advantage of it."

"Mrs. Grant, believe me, it is not as you think," said Fitzwilliam
earnestly. "My aunt is just now entirely in the hands of some
evil-natured and unscrupulous persons, who can make her act in any way
they choose."

"It may be so; I try to think so; but it does not excuse her conduct,"
returned Mrs. Grant.

Fitzwilliam took two or three turns about the room, wrapped in thought.
At length he approached Mrs. Grant, and in tones which scarcely
concealed his emotion, said: "Forgive me, but I cannot take what you
say as final. It is, of course, for you and your sister to decide, but I
cannot think that you mean to cast us off, myself and my cousins, on
account of this thing which has happened, a thing which you know we
deplore as much as we condemn. May I not hope to be allowed to call upon
your sister, if only for a few minutes? not to-day, I know, but
to-morrow, or the next day? Mrs. Grant, I have no right to say anything;
but I think you can guess what it means to me."

Mrs. Grant's countenance softened, and she spoke more kindly than she
had done during the interview. "I will not pretend to misunderstand you,
Colonel Fitzwilliam; but, frankly, my sister would not see you just now,
and it would do no good to anyone if you did see her. Her feelings have
been deeply wounded--more deeply, probably, than you have any idea of.
It would be far better for you not to think of it any more. You are
shortly quitting Bath; we, too, shall be leaving for the summer; and at
some future time we may, possibly, meet again, and be able then to
gather up the threads of our friendship."

Fitzwilliam had turned very pale; for though partly prepared for the
blow, he had hoped for some mitigating circumstances, and Mrs. Grant's
words conveyed to him at that moment nothing but a counsel of despair.
He could not immediately reply, but mastering himself with an effort, he
said, steadily: "I only care for your sister's happiness, and whatever
she wishes shall be done"; then bowed and quickly left the room.

Mrs. Grant, left alone, reflected with an aching heart upon the scene
that had just closed. Resentful though she felt both on Mary's account
and her own, yet she had been a very unwilling bearer of the message
which she had delivered to her visitor. She had liked him, she liked
him still; she had observed with keen pleasure the growing mutual
attraction between himself and Mary, for she considered him _almost_
worthy of that beloved sister. The event of the night before had not
shaken that belief; whoever was to blame for it, she knew it was not
Lady Catherine's nephew; and when she had partly recovered from her
agitation she had tried to persuade Mary to do him equal justice,
knowing well that he would not let the matter rest and that they would
hear from him again. But Mary had been unpersuadable. The shock had been
very great, not only from the incredible insult, but from the sight of
the buried past, risen up again to be an undying reproach to her. All
that she most bitterly regretted, of her own acts and of other persons',
all that she most wished to forget, had been revived in her mind,
exactly at a time when she had allowed herself to think that a new
prospect of happiness might be opening up before her, in the midst of a
set of people and circumstances with which the past should be wholly
unconnected. But now the painful memories had intruded into the present,
and, thrust upon her in a peculiarly galling manner, threatened to mar
and taint the new life. Mary's mind was in a state of too great distress
and tumult for her to see that their power of doing so lay in her own
hands, that she only could let herself fall back into that wretched,
listless, discontented condition from which she had so lately emerged;
she only knew that the old influences had returned, and she was bitterly
angry at the knowledge. In response to her sister's pleading she replied
that she was determined not to see any of them again, they were all
alike, proud and hard-hearted; they patronized her, they made her do
things she did not want to do, and she wished she had never met one of
them. Mrs. Grant ventured to speak a word on Colonel Fitzwilliam's
behalf, but Mary, sore at heart and suffering the more for knowing she
was unjust, replied that Colonel Fitzwilliam meant well, but really he
ought to keep his most terrible old aunt in better order. She would not
confess even to herself, far less to her sister, how much she had
learned to care for the man whom she was now sending away--through
wounded pride, perversity, anger ... she could hardly have told for what
reason.

Mrs. Grant could only endeavour to soothe and sympathize. She saw it was
better not to continue the discussion of the subject, and looked forward
to the lapse of time, and a change of scene and companionship, to
restore to Mary some measure of comfort and serenity.

Of these blessings Colonel Fitzwilliam was in even greater need. He
walked back to the hotel in an agony of mind such as he had never before
in his life experienced. To the pain of his disappointment was added
hopelessness, for he felt that the cause of his repulse lay beyond his
power to remove. She was too deeply offended to see him, or to hear what
he had to say, and as she would not do these things he thought she could
not possibly care for him. And now, completely cut off from her, he had
no chance of ever winning his way. His anger against his aunt remained
unabated; but even were she persuaded to make all the reparation in her
power, he had been told that it would be unavailing; there was nothing
more that anyone could do.

He called his servant, and gave him directions for leaving Bath early on
the following day, then made a pretence of dining, and threw himself
into his chair for an evening of sad and solitary reflection. It was
nearly half-past nine when a card was brought up to him, and it was
with a start of surprise that he recollected he had been promised a
visit from Mr. Yates.

That gentleman, well-bred, easy and talkative as usual, was shown into
his room a few moments later. Colonel Fitzwilliam had never been more
ill-disposed to receive a guest, but this one must be listened to, and
it was a relief when he passed from his compliments and observations on
the weather to the business at hand, which he introduced with an air of
nonchalance, as if he had only just remembered what he had come to say.

"By the way, Colonel," he began, "I was calling on Lady Catherine this
afternoon, and I took the opportunity of mentioning to her that subject
which we were discussing this morning."

"Did you indeed?" returned Colonel Fitzwilliam. "And I hope you were
able to convince her."

"Why, as to that," proceeded Mr. Yates, settling himself more
comfortably in his chair, "I hardly know; I have seldom found a lady so
hard to convince. But wishing to oblige you, my dear sir, I did my best;
in all honesty, I did my best. I explained, as I told you I should, that
she had been quite misled. Miss Crawford was not at all the sort of
person she assumed her to be, and that was very nearly the end of our
conversation; for I give you my word, Colonel, with all respect to her
ladyship, that she became quite violent; declared that she did not want
to hear the young lady's name or another word about her, that she was
tired to death of the whole affair."

"It is probable she would not like to find she had made a mistake," said
Fitzwilliam, as Mr. Yates paused, evidently expecting some comment.

"Well, no; I suppose that was what caused the sting; for it seemed as
though she did not want to have to think well of Miss Crawford, which
could not be so really, you know. I told her what I had said, I mean,
what I had intended to convey to the Ferrars, that I was surprised no
one knew the story about her brother, and added that I could not imagine
how anyone could twist and turn my remarks--merely general ones, made in
no ill-natured spirit--to Miss Crawford's disadvantage. That set her off
cross-questioning me, as to what there was at the back of it all, till I
hardly knew where I was; and I finally had to point out to her that
owing to my connection with the family I could not enter into the
details of its affairs."

He paused again, and Fitzwilliam forced himself to say: "I am obliged to
you for doing what you could, though I feared it might not be of much
avail."

"True enough, I thought it was not going to be, but just at the end, her
ladyship said, evidently with much resentment: 'There must be something
in all this, though you deny it. Why should Mrs. Ferrars and Miss Steele
concoct a story to tell me? Why should it be in their interest to vilify
Miss Crawford? There was no reason why they should make the worst of
what they had heard.' So, of course, in reply to that, I simply told her
the truth: 'My dear Lady Catherine,' I said, 'you ask why; the reason
is, as everyone knows, that Mrs. Ferrars was anxious to secure Colonel
Fitzwilliam for her sister, and both the ladies were very much
disappointed when he paid attention to Miss Crawford instead.' Why,
Colonel, you are looking quite annoyed; don't trouble to protest, my
dear sir; between friends, you know, it is not necessary."

"I wish you would confine yourself to talking of things you know
something about, Mr. Yates," broke out the Colonel in extreme vexation;
"this is not one of them."

"Nonsense, my good sir; not know anything about it! I could not fail to
see what was before my very eyes. Before ever we started for your aunt's
reception last night, Mrs. Ferrars and her sister were talking of you in
a manner as to make me expect that it would be you who would be in
attendance on Miss Steele all the evening--or at all events, that that
was what she hoped for. Of course, I said not a word, but I could see
that things turned out very differently. And if that were not enough,
Ferrars himself told me all about it during the evening, of Miss
Steele's fancy, and what they had planned, and so on. Really, I can
hardly suppose that being as they are, such friends of Lady Catherine's,
she should not have had some idea of it."

Fitzwilliam had not thought that anything was needed to complete his
disgust and annoyance where the whole Ferrars party was concerned; but
this tale of gossip and vulgar intrigue had that effect, and he was
conscious of a strong desire to get rid of his visitor and hear no more
of the whole nauseous affair. He rose, and again thanked Mr. Yates
coldly for the trouble he had taken, and that gentleman, too courteous
not to take the hint, rose also, though with evident unwillingness to
end the conversation, and, drawing near the fire, stretched out a foot
towards the blaze, and continued: "But I must not leave you with the
impression that Lady Catherine was _not_ convinced. On the contrary, I
am inclined to think she eventually was, for her manner quite changed
after what I had told her; she seemed first astonished at it, and showed
considerable incredulity and indignation, asking how anyone dared to
think or say such a thing, though, as I explained to her, sorry though I
was to have given her any unpleasing intelligence, the idea did not
emanate from me. Upon that, she became calmer and seemed to be
reflecting, then thanked me and asked to be excused, requesting me, if I
was going back to the lodgings, to send Mrs. Ferrars and Miss Steele to
her at once. I was not particularly anxious to be her messenger, and I
fancy she saw this, for she called me back and said that it did not
signify, she would write to them instead."

"I have gathered," said Fitzwilliam, "that Mr. Ferrars did not accompany
you on this occasion."

"Oh, Lord, no! I should have mentioned that at first, but it escaped me.
No, I could not persuade him to come. I fancy he had private information
that his wife did not wish it."

"It was a pity, as he might have confirmed your statements, and afforded
further proof to Lady Catherine," observed Colonel Fitzwilliam.

"He might have said something, no doubt, but I hardly think he would
have succeeded if I had failed," was Mr. Yates's complacent reply. "My
dear sir, I think you may sleep easily. If Lady Catherine is not
persuaded of her error now, she never will be. At this moment she is
very probably explaining to the Ferrars how unfortunately they have
caused her to be mistaken."

Colonel Fitzwilliam felt tolerably certain that his aunt was doing
nothing of the kind, and that the interview pictured by Mr. Yates was
turning upon a different subject from Miss Crawford's rehabilitation.
But even if Mr. Yates's explanation had caused the Ferrars to fall into
disfavour, it would not mean that the harm they had done the day before
would be wiped out; Lady Catherine would not be more inclined to forgive
Miss Crawford because her own friends had made her angry. And angry
Fitzwilliam guessed that she must be at the machinations which Mr.
Yates had casually disclosed. It was always particularly offensive to
her, and her nephew could conjecture that even the tact and ready wit of
Mrs. Ferrars would not be able to avert the torrent of her displeasure.
It was but poor comfort to him to feel assured that she would disapprove
of Miss Steele as a possible wife for him, quite as much as Miss
Crawford; and the very idea that such an alternative could have been
thought of was so repugnant to him that he was glad to dismiss it from
his mind. These people had done their worst, and whatever happened now,
they could not injure Miss Crawford any more, or blight his own
prospects more completely.

Mr. Yates having, as he considered, disposed of the subject in hand,
proceeded to others, but Colonel Fitzwilliam contrived to cut him short,
and to hasten his guest's departure, by indicating his wish to make
preparations for his early start the following morning. Mr. Yates was
desolated to hear that the Colonel would actually have left Bath by
eight o'clock. He himself proposed leaving on the morrow; he had come
intending to stay with the Ferrars for a week, but really everything was
so infernally upset, owning to this tiresome affair--he declared Mrs.
Ferrars had as good as called him a liar!--and that he was inclined to
shorten his visit and go straight to his sister's place in Berkshire. He
feared he could not be ready before twelve noon--would not Colonel
Fitzwilliam delay in starting, and accept of a seat in his curricle? The
Colonel regretted it was not in his power, but thought Mr. Yates was
doing wisely in going away; and in his own mind added the
heartily-expressed wish that that well-meaning gentleman had never
come.



Chapter VII


The Darcys travelled slowly, and they had not been at home for long
before a letter from their cousin, who had gone direct to London from
Bath, was received by Darcy. Colonel Fitzwilliam briefly related what
had occurred after their departure, his application to Ferrars and
Yates, with its more or less successful result, and his totally
unsuccessful visit to Mrs. Grant. He omitted, of course, all reference
to the second part of Yates's conversation with Lady Catherine, and
stated his few facts with the smallest amount of comment, adding that he
was grateful to his cousins for their kindness in the affair, but in the
circumstances he thought it would be better not to return to Pemberley
for the present, but to try to occupy his mind with some work. He had
therefore accepted an offer made to him by one of his brother officers,
to collaborate in writing a history of his regiment; and he proposed to
remain in London, where he would have access to manuscripts and
authorities. Darcy need have no fear that he would not correspond as
regularly as usual, and he would call in at the Hursts' while they
remained in town, so that he would be in continual touch with, as he
said in conclusion, "the best friends a man ever had." Elizabeth sighed
over this letter, but consoled herself presently with the thought that
Mrs. Grant and Miss Crawford might possibly be in town during the
summer. Darcy, on the other hand, was well satisfied with it, deeming
that his cousin had acted with perfect uprightness, and he begged
Elizabeth to give up the idea of trying to bring them all together at
some future time. "Fitzwilliam, my dear, is of an age when he can be
trusted to manage his own affairs, as this proves to us," he said to
her.

"I do not think it proves much, except that Aunt Catherine is the cruel
domineering old woman we always knew her to be," replied Elizabeth.
"Poor Robert! to think of his being so abominably treated! Of course a
true, honest man, as he is, was powerless among these insufferable
people, who have not a word of truth amongst them."

Elizabeth indeed felt acutely disappointed at such a disastrous and
unforeseen ending to her hopes. She blamed herself bitterly for her
share in the disaster, and again regretted having persuaded Miss
Crawford to come to the reception. She had written to Mary, according to
promise, at the first opportunity, but not for more than a week after
their return home was an answer received, and then it was a
disappointment, like all the rest; merely a note, brief and tremulous,
acknowledging Mrs. Darcy's kindness and apologies, begging that no more
might be said as to the offence, and breaking off with assurance of the
writer's good-will, but of her inability to express herself at greater
length. The only sign of the real Mary appeared in the postscript, "I
will write again by and by, dear Mrs. Darcy, if you will not mind very
stupid letters." The lines of the note clearly showed the writer's
shaken health, although her pride forbade her to make it her excuse.
Elizabeth was grieved, and felt herself, for the time being, repulsed;
she resolved to send, after a time, a cheerful letter on different
subjects which might re-establish their friendship on new ground, so
that the painful memories which Miss Crawford at present associated with
the Darcy family might by degrees be eradicated.

These anxieties occupying her thoughts, and her time being taken up with
her children and with Georgiana, who had returned to Pemberley in
greatly improved health and spirits, she still did not fail to remark
the absence of any news of Lady Catherine, for she had fully expected a
speedy communication announcing the lady's triumph over Miss Crawford
and ignoring all that had followed it. When her husband, therefore, in
opening a letter one morning, observed that it was from his aunt, she
was prepared for something considerably more disagreeable than its
contents proved to be.

The letter began by announcing Lady Catherine's recent return home with
her daughter, and the extreme pleasure of Mr. and Mrs. Collins, and of
all their neighbours, in seeing them again. The worthy Rector and his
wife had come up to Rosings to pay their respects on the very first
evening. Mrs. Jenkinson had not yet come back from her vacation; she had
in fact written to ask leave to stay for another week, which was
excessively inconvenient, as dear Anne depended upon her so much. Anne's
sensibility was indeed very great! She might not have inherited her
mother's strength of character, but she had such warm affections! They
sometimes led her to form attachments to people who proved unworthy of
such devotion. There had just been an unfortunate instance of that
during their stay at Bath.

Darcy, who had been reading the letter out loud to his wife and sister,
hesitated at this point, but Elizabeth urged him to go on, saying that
Georgiana knew all about the Ferrars, and was as anxious as herself to
learn whether their reign was over.

"You and Elizabeth have probably heard something of the regrettable
termination to my reception on your last evening in Bath. The young lady
whom Elizabeth was so obstinately anxious for me to patronize must have
acted at some former time with extreme imprudence, to say the least of
it, though I really do not feel it to be my duty to investigate the
rights and wrongs of the matter; still, the information I received was
so positive, that I was bound to act upon it, and to point out to her
that I regretted having brought her into my immediate circle of friends.
I think I may say that she, or, at any rate, her sister, admitted the
justice of my remarks. There I hoped the matter would have ended, but
immediately afterwards I learned that the very persons from whom I had
received this friendly warning about Miss Crawford had been themselves
acting towards me in a scandalously hypocritical and underhand manner.
You will guess that I refer to the Robert Ferrars and Miss Steele. I
cannot enter into particulars of their conduct; suffice it to say that
for all the latter part of their stay in Bath it has been a continual
course of deception, of nefarious and vulgar schemes for their own
aggrandizement. They have traded upon my kindness, and upon the warm
regard which my poor innocent-hearted Anne displayed towards Miss
Steele, to foster the most impudent designs. Never have I been so
mistaken in people whom I regarded as deserving of my interest, never
have I met with such vile ingratitude. You may imagine that I lost no
time in sending for the whole family and informing them that our
acquaintance was at an end, for the reasons I have given, and naturally
I declined to listen to any defence; Miss Steele was utterly confounded,
but Mrs. Ferrars, seeing that her whole plot was exposed, showed herself
in her true colours; she lost control of herself, and used expressions
more insolent than anyone has ever dared to do in my presence. Indeed,
she was so determined to be heard, that it was only by leaving the room
myself and sending my footman to show them out that I was able to rid
myself of their presence. The man is a mere weak fool; I could see that
by the way he ineffectually tried to control his wife, but even he
seemed to have no sense of the impropriety of her conduct and her
sister's.

"It is easily conjectured that after such a shock as this all enjoyment
in Bath for me was entirely at an end. We should have left immediately,
but that Anne was too unwell, on hearing what had happened, to travel
for another week. My indignation at the whole affair is still beyond
words."

Darcy paused, and Elizabeth asked: "Is that all the letter,
Fitzwilliam?"

"Yes," he replied, "that is, she signs her name there, but there is a
postscript which is evidently intended for your perusal."

Elizabeth took the letter which he handed to her, and read: "Were it not
that out of pure perversity Elizabeth always chooses to act exactly the
opposite to my advice, I should suggest that you proceed very cautiously
in any further dealings you may have with the young lady I mentioned
above." Elizabeth flushed deeply and laid down the letter, but
immediately took it up again and re-read Lady Catherine's version of the
Ferrars's defeat.

Meanwhile Georgiana was eagerly asking: "What does Aunt Catherine mean,
Darcy? She writes strangely, does she not? How can those people have
nefarious schemes or designs against her? She does not say how she knew
they had."

"I hardly understand it all," said Darcy, "but you know your aunt has
often been disappointed in people before, when they have desired more of
her favour than she was prepared to give."

"Yes, she takes great fancies, and then forgets about people," returned
Georgiana, "but she really seems to be dreadfully angry this time.
Elizabeth says that you and she did not like those people, the Ferrars."

"No, we did not, for we considered them undesirable," replied Darcy,
"and whatever reason your aunt has for quarreling with them, undoubtedly
it is well she should have done so."

Georgiana perceived that she was not to hear more about the Ferrars, and
dropped the subject, which, in fact, was what Darcy wished for. It was a
distasteful one to him, for they had aroused his dislike more than most
of his aunt's protégés, and he was glad to hear they had fallen from
favour, without being interested in the reason for it. Elizabeth was
quite aware of this, and accordingly refrained from any further
discussion of her aunt's letter with her husband. She could not forbear
a little private smile over the exposure of the "impudent designs," the
nature of which she had quickly surmised; in the circumstances she
thought they had hardly merited such severe strictures as those passed
on them by Lady Catherine, and but for Mrs. Ferrars's unpardonable
conduct towards Miss Crawford, Elizabeth might have spared her some
pity for the manner of her dismissal from Pulteney Street.

Georgiana took an early opportunity of asking Elizabeth about the
references to Miss Crawford. "That is your friend of whom you told me,
is it not, Elizabeth? I wonder what really happened, and why Aunt
Catherine speaks of her so harshly. It seems very unkind."

"It was very unkind, Georgiana. Of course Aunt Catherine was entirely
misinformed; she listened to some malicious gossip, and was terribly
rude to Miss Crawford at the end of the evening after we left. I heard
about it from Robert, who stayed later than we did. And the worst of it
is, that in consequence Miss Crawford feels deeply wounded, I fear, as
regards the whole family."

"Oh, I am so sorry. What a pity it is. Cannot anything be done? Surely
you will be able to put it all right again some time, will you not?"

"I hope so; yes, of course, I shall do whatever is possible: I should be
so extremely sorry to lose sight of her now."

"She must be charming, from all you say," commented Georgiana, and then
asked rather shyly and with a deep blush: "Did Cousin Robert like her
too?"

"Yes, he liked her very much, I think. You know, she played the harp,
and he is so fond of anything to do with music."

"Yes, I know," said Georgiana; and added, in a low voice: "I remember he
would always much rather have listened to my playing than have talked to
me."

"Do not let yourself grieve, Georgiana," said Elizabeth, kissing the
young girl's fair brow; "you know that Robert has the greatest possible
regard for you, and you will find, next time you meet, that you are the
best of friends."

Georgiana smiled rather sadly; she often felt that she must have not
only fallen in the estimation of a cousin she revered, but that she must
also be possessed of no qualities capable of inspiring affection, and
what was even worse, of no heart of her own to give. Elizabeth
understood her well, and tried often to give her more self-confidence
and to raise her lowly opinion of herself; but though she was growing
less reserved, and more disposed little by little to trust her own
judgments, the old habits of timidity, of reliance on the guidance of
those whom she loved, were still strong in her. Elizabeth would often
refuse to decide a thing for her, but when she was helped to weigh it in
the balance, to judge it by all the standards available, her choice
could always be recommended for discretion and clear-sightedness.

The month of May was now nearly half-way through, and the time was
approaching when James Morland was expected to pay a visit to his
friends at Pemberley. So much of their stay at Bath had been productive
of disappointment, that they looked back upon their acquaintance with
this young man as its one circumstance of unalloyed pleasure. Darcy,
whose regard for him had grown very warm, had received letters from home
which enabled him, prior to leaving Bath, to inform Morland that a
living in his gift would shortly be vacant, and that he would have the
pleasure in offering it to Morland when the time came. This important
communication had been received by the young clergyman with a depth of
joy and gratitude which had increased the Darcys' satisfaction in being
able to assist him. The living, though not a rich one, would suffice for
his needs, as he possessed some capital advanced by his father: and its
situation, in a hilly and bracing country district, made it most
desirable for a person whose health, like his own, had to be
considered. The conversation between himself and Darcy, which had been
very short, had taken place only the day before the latter's departure,
and Morland, still scarcely realizing his good fortune, had hurried
round to the hotel the following morning to repeat his acknowledgments
to both his friends and to make his adieux. There was time only for a
very few words to be exchanged at the house door, and Morland found it
difficult to express himself fluently on a subject which lay so near his
heart, but Elizabeth and her husband set him at his ease with a few kind
remarks, repeating cordially an invitation already given, that he come
and stay with them on the conclusion of his visit to the Portinscales.
Since their return home the resignation of the old Rector at Kympton,
the living in question, had been made public. He was to leave within a
few weeks; so that Morland's visit would afford him, as the
rector-designate, an opportunity of getting to know the place and of
meeting some of his future parishioners. Pemberley was not in the
parish, for Kympton was eighteen miles away, but the link between the
two places had always been strong, and the distance was frequently
bridged, for Desborough Park, the home of the Bingleys, was the
principal house in Kympton Parish, and only a mile and a half from the
parsonage house. Morland's pleasure was extreme on hearing that his
nearest neighbours would be the brother-in-law and favourite sister of
Mrs. Darcy. Next to being within a stone's throw of the Darcys
themselves, it was the best thing imaginable.

Morland arrived at Pemberley late one afternoon, just in time to prepare
for dinner, and was introduced to Miss Darcy when they all assembled in
the drawing-room before the meal. Georgiana's intense shyness generally
caused her to appear at a disadvantage with strangers, but there was
something in the young man's open countenance and pleasing, unaffected
manners that attracted everyone to him at first sight, and they were
soon chatting together completely at their ease. Morland was deeply
interested in everything that he could learn of his future home, and
asked eager questions of his hosts. Georgiana had been so lately staying
at Desborough, and had, while there, so frequently called on old Dr. and
Mrs. Taylor, that she was able to give more particulars of the house and
garden than her brother and sister were able to recollect. The evening
passed quickly away with conversation and music, and Morland learned
that on the following morning the whole party were to drive over to
Desborough Park to dinner, starting early that they might have time to
walk through the village and inspect the church and parsonage as well.

The weather proved propitious, and the drive, through some of the most
beautiful vales of Derbyshire, was agreeable to all, but especially
delightful to Morland, feeling as he did that he was within reach of the
goal he had so long desired--restored health and the power to do the
work he loved amid congenial surroundings. It was in vain that Darcy,
not wishing to raise his hopes too high, told him that the parish was
very scattered and the roads bad, that the climate was exceedingly cold
and the distant cottages were almost inaccessible in stormy weather,
that some of the farmers were people of a very independent way of
thinking, difficult to get on with--he could discover no drawback, only
fresh incentives to throw himself into his task. Elizabeth commended him
for his enthusiasm, but added a sly reminder that he might be
disappointed in the house; large, rambling and picturesque though it may
seem when tenanted by the Taylors and their seven children, it would,
she feared, be an inconvenient residence to a bachelor.

"It will be too big, I have no doubt," responded Morland, "but, you
know, I need not furnish more than a part of it. Besides, I intend, as
soon as I am thoroughly settled to have my sister Sarah to stay with me
if she can be spared from home."

Georgiana was interested in hearing of the sister, and James Morland at
her request gave an account of his home at Fullerton, and of his brother
and sisters, eight besides himself and Catherine, who was now Mrs. Henry
Tilney. Catherine was evidently the favourite--there was a smile and a
lightening of the eye when he spoke of her--he wished it had been
possible for her to come and help him with his settling-in, but they
lived such a great distance away--Woodston was forty miles away from
Bath, quite at the other end of Somerset.

Mr. Darcy's chaise and four rolled through the village of Kympton not
long after twelve o'clock, and paused to put down its owner, his sister
and his young guest. There was so much to see, but Georgiana was an
untiring walker, and intended staying with the gentlemen until the
carriage should be sent back to bring them to Desborough in time for an
early dinner. Elizabeth drove on for another two miles, and was
presently alighting at the door of a handsome modern house built in the
Italian style, and being warmly welcomed by Bingley and Jane, whom she
had not seen for some weeks.

Bingley, on hearing what had become of the rest of the party,
immediately decided to walk down to meet them; and the sisters strolled
into the garden, for the weather was remarkably warm and sunny for that
time of year, and they could venture to seat themselves upon a bench
that was sheltered by an angle of the house, whence a beautiful view was
obtained of the wide-spreading park, with its chestnut trees in full
bloom and clumps of pink and white hawthorns. Desborough was not so
imposing and extensive a place as Pemberley, but it was pleasant and
home-like, and the grounds were particularly delightful, including as
they did an orchard, a shrubbery, and lawns and flower-borders laid out
in a series of terraces which sloped towards the park. The Bingleys took
great pleasure in their garden, and had made many additions and
improvements during the two years of their occupancy.

"I am overjoyed that you are come, Lizzie," began Jane, "for I have so
much to tell and ask. I have not seen you since we brought Georgiana
home, nearly a month ago. You really think she is better?"

Elizabeth warmly assented, and declared that Georgiana seemed in greater
spirits than she had been for many months. Jane anxiously inquired after
Fitzwilliam, and Elizabeth made out as good an account of him as she
could, but as she was naturally not at liberty to mention what had
passed at Bath, she could not perfectly satisfy Jane as to his
well-being. Choosing a safer subject, she talked of Mr. Morland, praised
his modesty, ability and good sense, and repeated her conviction that
the Bingleys would find him a thoroughly agreeable neighbour. Jane
listened with interest and promised every kind of help and support to
the new Rector, who was to come with such strong recommendations; but
she was clearly a little preoccupied, and Elizabeth, seeing this, asked
what news she had to communicate.

"I am afraid it is not very good news," began Jane hesitatingly;
"but--you will have guessed it, I expect--I have had a letter from
Lydia. She is going abroad, Elizabeth, fancy, almost immediately! Poor
Lydia! Wickham's regiment is ordered to the West Indies, and he insists
on her going with him."

"I am not sure why it should be 'poor Lydia,'" returned Elizabeth,
smiling; "you have such a terribly compassionate heart, Jane! I should
think Lydia would like the West Indies very much, though she probably
dreads the voyage."

"Oh, no, she does not think she will like them at all; it is so hot
there, and she cannot bear the idea of being waited on by negro
servants. She says there is only one consolation, very few of the ladies
of the regiment are going; there will not be more than six of them, and
no one as young as herself."

"Since so many are staying behind, I should have thought she could have
arranged to do the same; though I confess I think it is much better she
should be with Wickham."

"Yes, you are right, I believe, Elizabeth; she says she would rather
have stayed in England, and that Wickham declares he does not
particularly want her, only he cannot afford to keep up an establishment
for her at home while he is abroad." Jane sighed. "It is very sad that
they talk like that to one another; I only hope they do not mean it."

Elizabeth preferred to waive this question, and continued: "I suppose
she goes on to ask you for money?"

Jane admitted that this was so, but said that Lydia would need a
suitable outfit for the West Indies, and everything of that kind was
very expensive, it appeared. She added that Lydia was anxious to come to
Derbyshire before she went away, if a remittance for the journey could
be sent, but Jane had not made any response to the suggestion.

"No, I do not think that that is at all necessary," Elizabeth remarked.
"Well, Jane, of course I will give you some bank-notes to send with your
own, on the usual condition that Lydia does not know from whom they
come; but I only wish one could believe that they will be used for
paying debts to the Newcastle tradespeople--of which there are sure to
be plenty. Could you not persuade her to give you a statement of what
she owes? You could then perhaps arrange for some of them to be paid off
first."

"I will try; I will ask Bingley about it; but it is very difficult to
help Lydia the way one would like. She does expect the most
extraordinary things! What do you think of her inviting Kitty to go to
the West Indies with her, my father, of course, paying all expenses?"

"I am past feeling any astonishment at Lydia's demands," Elizabeth said;
"but I hope Kitty had too much good sense even to think such a thing
possible."

"Oh, no, I think she knew it would not be allowed, though perhaps the
idea was tempting to her, poor Kitty! But she had her promised visit
here to plead as an excuse; she is coming, you know, towards the end of
next month."

"It has been arranged, then? I am so glad to hear it; she must come on
to Pemberley, and she and Georgiana will enjoy being together again."

"Yes, indeed; but I hope she will stay with me until the autumn. I
wanted her to have come a little earlier; but she has received an
invitation from some people called Knightley, in London, which she is
very desirous of accepting, and my father sees no objection."

"Yes, I know of whom you mean, I think; they are friend of my Uncle and
Aunt Gardiner's, and live in Brunswick Square."

"I fancy it is not those Knightleys, but relations of theirs; still, we
shall hear all about it very soon, for I am expecting a letter from
Kitty at any moment, to give me her direction in London and to tell me
when she will be ready to leave, for Bingley is to go to fetch her."

"Is Bingley going to town? Then I wonder if it could possibly be
arranged for him to escort Georgiana? Darcy had thought of going, but he
would be very glad not to, if Bingley would not find it any
inconvenience."

"I am sure Bingley would be delighted. She is going to the Hursts', is
she not? I have heard mention of it."

"Yes, Mrs. Hurst and Caroline have both written, begging for a long
visit from her. I do not think it can be for more than a month, as Aunt
Catherine is sure to want her to go on to Rosings when she hears she is
so near. Georgiana does not like being away from home for long, nor do
we like to spare her."

"I can quite understand that. She has such a sweet disposition, such
sympathy, and brightness and intelligence, that it is a joy to have her
companionship. And you have improved her so much, Elizabeth. At one time
I thought her very difficult to approach; but her manners have gained so
much ease and elegance that everyone must be charmed with her from the
first meeting. I often think Fitzwilliam must regret what he has lost."

"My dear Jane, let me assure you for the twentieth time that he does not
regret it, nor can he be said to have lost what he never possessed.
Their hearts were never united; but now you will see that each will
marry happily, and their old friendship will survive unimpaired. If you
had seen Fitzwilliam at Bath, you would have wasted no regrets on him.
Now, shall we walk about a little? I want to discover if your lilacs are
further advanced than ours."

Three o'clock brought back the remainder of the party, and Mr. Morland
was introduced to Mrs. Bingley, and found her a most sympathizing
listener to his enthusiasm over his new home. He was full of plans, and
was interested in everything, from the beautiful little church down to
the honeysuckle growing over the Rectory porch. Darcy had promised him
to have certain repairs and renovations made as soon as the Taylor
family should have quitted the house; and faulty chimneys and new
wallpapers formed topics for a kind of discussion which Bingley
thoroughly enjoyed, and he would have presented his young guest with the
contents of several rooms at Desborough, and the greater part of the
stables, if there had been the slightest chance of his accepting them.

There was not time to do more than begin on these important subjects
to-day, for by half-past four the visitors had to be in the carriage
again; but the proposal that Bingley should take Georgiana on her
journey to London was brought forward and approved of by all concerned.
Bingley was also going to his sister's house, and it was immaterial to
him what day he arrived there, or how long he had to wait in London for
Kitty Bennet. He thought he had heard something about a ball for which
Kitty wished to stay, but was uncertain about the date.

It was decided that their next letters from their relations in town
should determine the time of their departure.



Chapter VIII


Morland was easily persuaded to prolong his stay at Pemberley until his
induction to his new living should take place. This was expected to be
not later than the end of June, for Dr. Taylor was anxious to hand over
his duties to his successor as soon as possible. Morland was by no means
an idler; he spent a considerable part of his time in study, and read
and worked with Mr. Ferrars, helping him occasionally in parish duties.
The acquaintance of these two men, formed directly after Morland's
arrival, promised to ripen into a friendship; there were similarities in
their characters that mutually attracted them, and on the tranquil
simplicity of the life at the Parsonage Morland hoped to model his own.
The Ferrars had so recently arrived at Pemberley, having, as has been
said, exchanged livings with the former incumbent, and left Delaford
shortly after Colonel Brandon's death, that there had not been time for
much intercourse between them and the Darcys, though Elizabeth had been
greatly pleased with what she had seen of Mrs. Ferrars. Since the
former's return from Bath, and after her experiences there of the other
branch of the family, she could appreciate fully the immense superiority
of the Edward Ferrars over their relations. Ferrars himself was too
quiet, diffident, and reserved a man to recommend himself easily, but in
his wife all recognized a woman of a rare and noble nature,
distinguished alike by the sweetness of her character and by its
strength. The Darcys rejoiced in the increased opportunities of meeting
afforded by the presence of their guest, and various walks, drives and
out-of-doors excursions were organized, for which the glorious weather
of early June afforded every opportunity.

The first diminution their party suffered was in the departure of
Georgiana for London, which occurred on the seventeenth of the month.
The visit had long been talked of, and Georgiana really looked forward
with no little pleasure to seeing her old friends, for Caroline Bingley
and Louisa took pains not to show to her, of whom they were exceedingly
fond, the cold-hearted and worldly aspect of their dispositions; but
when she found herself actually in the travelling carriage with Bingley,
with her maid seated opposite, she felt, as she did every year, the
sensation of leaving all that she cared for behind her, and of entering
scenes alarming because unfamiliar. Bingley good-naturedly endeavoured
to divert her in every way, talked of the pleasures awaiting her, and of
the friends she would see in London, Kitty Bennet and Mrs. Annesley,
besides her hostesses, and casually mentioned the possibility of her
coming across Colonel Fitzwilliam. Georgiana had been prepared for this
by Elizabeth, and had first shrunk from the idea; but afterwards became
reconciled to the view put before her, that the first meeting, which
must necessarily be painful, must come some time, and it would be best
to get it over in a crowd, with a few ordinary words of greeting, which
would put them on a comfortable footing for the future. She, therefore,
made an effort to reply cheerfully to all Bingley's suggestions, and had
not found the journey tedious when they drew up in Grosvenor Street in
time for dinner on the third day.

Caroline and Louisa could not make enough of her, and the evening was
spent in talking over the plans they had formed for her amusement, and
in detailing the engagements they had entered into. It soon appeared
that the ball which Bingley had mentioned was on their list; for they
were also acquainted with Mrs. George Knightley, whose entertainment it
was, and had secured invitations from her for their brother and their
young friend. Bingley inquired of the date of the ball, explaining how
it affected his movements; and his sisters endeavoured to conceal their
surprise on hearing that Miss Kitty Bennet was staying with the
Knightleys.

"I thought, when you spoke of coming to fetch her, Charles, that she was
with her uncle and aunt in Gracechurch Street," said Miss Bingley.

"To tell the truth, I was not very clear about it myself," returned
Bingley. "Jane told me that she was going to stay over this ball, but
whether she was with the Gardiners or the Knightleys I did not make out
until just before we came away. It does not make a vast deal of
difference, to my thinking."

"There is certainly some difference; the Knightleys live in Portland
Square, for one thing," replied Miss Bingley.

"Do they? I am glad of that, for it means I shall not have to drive so
far round to pick Kitty up," was Bingley's cheerful answer, and he moved
away to speak to Mr. Hurst, leaving his sisters to their speculations
as to how Miss Bennet could have come to know the George Knightleys.
Georgiana did not know, but conjectured it was through Mr. and Mrs.
Gardiner; and the ladies, though they refrained from showing their
perplexity, were even more puzzled to account for the uncle who lived in
Cheapside being acquainted with such people of fashion.

"Have you seen anything of Fitzwilliam, Louisa?" inquired Bingley of his
eldest sister, when he came to have his coffee-cup refilled.

"Really, Charles, what a foolish question to ask," replied Mrs. Hurst,
with affected carelessness. "Of course we see him frequently when he is
in town."

"Very good; I hope he will come round while I am here, and, if not, I
shall get you to give me his direction, for I must certainly look him up
before I go back."

Mrs. Hurst made a vague answer, for both she and her sister were
sincerely anxious to spare Georgiana any embarrassment, and they would
not of their own accord have referred to Fitzwilliam until they knew how
she was able to bear the mention of his name in public. Caroline
immediately began speaking of another subject, but Georgiana, divining
their intentions, felt that she must not indulge in a foolish
sensibility which might give her friends a false impression of the state
of things; so, summoning all her courage, she said, with a deep blush
but a tolerably firm voice: "Yes, I hope my cousin may be in town this
month. Elizabeth and my brother gave me many messages for him, if I
should see him."

She was conscious that the ladies were looking at her in surprise, but
that Bingley noticed nothing but the amount of milk Louisa was putting
in his coffee was a great help, and Caroline, the next moment, said
quietly: "Oh, yes, no doubt he will call," which made it unnecessary for
Georgiana to say any more. Bingley, having secured his cup, next
produced a notebook and proceeded to write down the address of
Fitzwilliam's lodgings and the name of his club, and, as an
afterthought, the various engagements to which he had been pledged by
his sisters. Georgiana found that Mrs. Hurst and Caroline were anxious
she should go with them on the following day to call in Portman Square
and meet Mrs. George Knightley.

Mrs. Knightley, formerly Emma Woodhouse, had, since her marriage, been
able to enjoy a larger measure of the social power and influence in the
use of which she had always delighted. Since Mr. Woodhouse's death she
had persuaded her husband to go into Parliament, and except for short
visits to Donwell, they now lived entirely in London--an arrangement
which just suited Emma, who had long desired some stir and variety in
her life, after having spent so many unbroken years in a country
village. Mr. Knightley still took the greatest interest in the farming
of his property, and as soon as he was trustee to his sister-in-law,
Mrs. John Knightley, for the estate of Hartfield, which had passed to
her on her father's death, he found as much to do out of London as in
it; while Emma, though fond of Donwell, had grown weary of the
neighbourhood, and took a keen pleasure in forming round her in London a
large circle of acquaintances, whom she loved to entertain, and in whose
characters and careers she took the deepest interest.

Mrs. Knightley's ball had become an annual fixture in the month of June,
and this year she had a special incentive for giving it and for making
it as gay as possible. At her sister's house she had met Mrs. Gardiner,
whose husband had long been a close friend in business of Mr. John
Knightley. Mrs. Gardiner was chaperoning a niece, Miss Catherine Bennet,
a slender, blooming young girl, and pretty without being very striking;
but Mrs. Knightley was impressed with her pleasing manners, and the
enthusiasm with which she received the prospect of a theatre party which
was being discussed on that occasion. It was the work of a moment for
Emma to decide that she must ask her sister to bring Miss Bennet to the
ball; but during the remainder of the evening, while she considered and
observed, an improvement on the first idea suggested itself; Miss Bennet
must be invited to stay in Portman Square for the great occasion. What
better arrangement could there be? Isabella would not want to stay late,
but young girls liked to dance till the last moment, and she, Emma,
would have the benefit of Miss Bennet's help in the preparations, and
would be able to introduce her to her partners beforehand. Yes, Miss
Bennet was certainly very pretty, prettier than she had appeared at
first--such a slim, upright figure, such a profusion of hair, such a
delicate fairness of complexion; she would be a great success! It would
be as delightful as when last year, the girl who was at the ball as Mrs.
Knightley's special friend and protégée had finished the evening
triumphantly becoming engaged to the most eligible man present, Sir
William Manvers. Emma felt a thrill at the recollection. The event had
justified all her admiration for Sophia Lennox, and Mr. Knightley, who
had been so sceptical, had been obliged to admit that sometimes people
did marry those whom one had destined for them. There was no Sir William
Manvers this year, it was true; but Miss Bennet was still young, and
there was plenty of time for the right man to appear. In fact, it was
really only her due that she should be properly taken out in London, in
order that she might have every chance, and this her aunt, Mrs.
Gardiner, was quite evidently not able to give her.

What wonder that the upshot of these reflections was a courteous note to
Mrs. Gardiner, begging for the pleasure of a visit from Miss Bennet as
soon as her stay in Gracechurch Street should be concluded. Kitty was in
transports of happiness when all was arranged and she found herself
actually Mrs. George Knightley's guest, with a ball in prospect, and
each day one round of visits and shopping and other delights, with
intervals only long enough to admit of changing one elegant gown for
another, for her mother and sisters had taken care she should be
provided with an ample wardrobe. She soon ceased to regret not having
been allowed to accompany Lydia to the West Indies, and before many days
were over had discovered a reason to rejoice that she had not gone.

Among Mrs. Knightley's frequent visitors at this time was a young naval
lieutenant named William Price, whom she had met a short time previously
at the house of the same Mr. Yates who had paid a visit to Bath in the
preceding spring. Mr. Yates lived in Cavendish Square, and as his wife
was a first cousin of William Price's, they had begged the young man to
make their house his home whenever he happened to be in London. Young
Price had lately been attached to a ship of the line, the _Andromeda_,
which he had been obliged to put into Portsmouth for repairs, and he had
been employing some of the period of his enforced leisure in taking up a
course of signalling and gunnery, as he was extremely anxious to gain
promotion as speedily as possible; but he had found that it was
necessary to use other means than those of mere hard work, and at the
present time he was living in London, keeping in touch with the
Admiralty and endeavouring to recommend himself to every high official
and person of influence with whom he could contrive to become
acquainted. In the intervals he paid hasty visits to his sisters, who
were settled in Northamptonshire, and to his mother at Portsmouth; and
being a young man of excellent address, great charm of manner and marked
abilities, he had gained a deserved popularity, and could not help
enjoying the gaiety of London life, available to him through the
hospitality of numerous friends. Mrs. Knightley was extremely pleased
with him, and with his next brother, David, who was a clerk in the India
Office, and both young men found it a very agreeable house to come to,
especially when to the welcome of their hostess was added that of a
pretty girl who, warm-hearted and impulsive, did not attempt to conceal
her pleasure in their company.

David Price was two or three years her junior, and in him Kitty Bennet
found only a merry and boyish companion; but the manliness of the young
sailor aroused different feelings, and it was not long before she
realized that the visits of William Price were becoming the most
important thing in her life. She dreamt of him before he came, she had
no eyes for anyone else when he was present, and she treasured his words
when he had gone; and although she could not honestly read into those
words more than a passing friendliness, yet she allowed herself to
cherish hopes that each _next_ time there might be something warmer.
Poor Kitty had secretly longed to be married ever since she was
sixteen; and now at last it seemed as if Destiny itself was working for
her, in placing her with so kind a hostess, who was always giving
invitations and affording opportunities, and in sending her such a
splendid hero of romance to fall in love with, for a hero he was, of a
campaign at sea, when he had distinguished himself as much by bravery as
he had on shore by industry; a hero with good looks, an assured
position, and prize-money saved, and at the present moment with nothing
particular to do but fall in love with Miss Kitty Bennet! It was
impossible not to feel, under the circumstances, that the course of
events was plainly marked out. Mrs. Knightley certainly thought so too,
and although she refrained from definite statements, her sympathetic
attitude encouraged Kitty to talk herself into hope and self-confidence.

The importance of the ball itself in the great scheme of things was not
overlooked, and Emma even dreamt now of a brilliant dénouement like last
year's. She had invited a large number of people, and was anxious to
have as many dancing couples as possible, so Mrs. Hurst's request for
permission to bring her brother and Miss Darcy was warmly acceded to,
and it was only a matter of regret that their friend Colonel Fitzwilliam
could not be induced to go to any balls this season. Kitty was delighted
at the prospect of meeting Georgiana again, and when the call spoken of
by Mrs. Hurst was being paid, on the day following Georgiana's arrival,
she availed herself of a pause in the conversation, and a nod and a
smile from Mrs. Knightley, to ask her friend to come to another room for
a few moments, on the plea of showing her some new possessions.

Georgiana duly admired the bonnets and pelisses, and the gold chain
which was Mrs. Knightley's present, and the rose-coloured ball dress
which was to make its first appearance on the much-talked-of occasion.
Kitty's head was evidently full of this event; she dwelt on it
constantly, and from her quick nervous manner Georgiana guessed at some
kind of special preoccupation with the subject.

"And so you are very happy here, Kitty? Perhaps I need not ask that,"
she said, as Kitty turned to unfold another new muslin gown.

"Oh, very, very happy, perfectly happy," exclaimed Kitty with eagerness.
"Mrs. Knightley is so kind, and such nice people come here, you have no
idea, Georgiana. Now, do look; is not that beautiful? A real India
muslin, and the colour just suits me. You ought to like it, for I bought
it with some money Elizabeth gave me."

"Yes, dear, I do like it, of course," returned Georgiana; "but tell me
some more about yourself. How long were you with the Gardiners?"

"I forget just how long, but I came here on the first of June. Oh, I do
not know how ever I shall be able to leave! Georgiana, I must tell you!
I have been longing to do so, and yet I do not know how I can, after
all, for it has not really happened yet.

"Of course you have guessed," she went on, in answer to Georgiana's
affectionately inquiring glance; "it can only be one thing: but pray do
not mention it to anyone, for no one has any idea of it except Mrs.
Knightley. It is so wonderful! Georgiana, do you believe in love at
first sight?"

"I have never thought about it," answered Georgiana honestly, "but I
should think it might be possible."

"Indeed, indeed, it is possible! It does happen. When you see him, you
will know how easily. You will see him on Tuesday night; I do wonder
what you will think of him. You must be sure to tell me quite
truthfully."

"Dear Kitty, you cannot think how glad I am. You mean you are engaged,
or just about to be?"

"Oh, no, no, no!" exclaimed Kitty, "you do not understand. I think--I
hope--but I do not even know if he cares. Sometimes I feel sure he does,
and then, again, he seems to be perfectly indifferent, and it is so
terrible then, more terrible than you can imagine. But you will see--you
will judge for yourself; I shall depend so much upon you for comfort and
counsel, especially if Bingley asks him to come down and stay at
Desborough, as I mean to persuade him to do."

Georgiana was not much enlightened, and her shyness and natural reserve
made her hesitate to ask questions on such a subject, which, had she
been Kitty, she could not have mentioned to any living creature. But
Kitty was evidently longing for sympathy, and poured out her hopes and
fears and her reasons for both, mingling with them a description of
William Price, painted in the most vivid colours and emphasizing his
courage and distinction as an officer, his amiability as a man, his
perfection as a ball-room partner, and the high opinion Mr. Knightley
and all sensible men had formed of him. Georgiana listened, and was
interested almost against her will; she had known Kitty to take fancies
several times before for persons who had not returned her regard or
thought of doing so; but in this case, from what she could gather, the
young man seemed really to deserve Kitty's enthusiasm; they had met
under Mrs. Knightley's auspices, he had been very often at the house,
and certainly, everything considered, it was much more likely that he
should fall in love with Kitty than not. Nevertheless, she hardly knew
how to answer her; to encourage her in hopes which might prove false
would be the cruellest kindness, so, while, murmuring her wishes for her
friend's happiness, she agreed that she must wait for the evening of the
ball before she could really tell how far Kitty's dreams were likely to
be realized.

They talked so long that eventually she had to propose a return to the
drawing-room, fearing to be guilty of discourtesy towards Mrs.
Knightley; but she was glad that only a moment was left for Kitty's
hurried inquiry about her own affairs, as they hastened down the
staircase, and that she could therefore dismiss the subject with a light
word. Kitty was scarcely satisfied, but finding that Georgiana could not
be induced to speak of Colonel Fitzwilliam, returned to her own
all-absorbing topic with the remark, "I do wish you could meet someone
just like my dear Mr. Price!"



Chapter IX


The next few days passed rapidly for both girls, and were so full of
engagements that they were not able to arrange another meeting, and
Georgiana deeply regretted the fact that, except for a glimpse of her at
the ball, she should not see Kitty again before Bingley's departure from
town. She could only hope that all would go well, and looked forward to
a fuller intercourse in Derbyshire in a few weeks' time. Meanwhile,
there were many friends to see, and Georgiana would have enjoyed herself
thoroughly had she not dreaded the first meeting with Colonel
Fitzwilliam, which she felt hanging over her, since Bingley had called
on the Colonel and reported him to be in town, but which she did not
know when to expect. A slight change in her plans, necessitating a short
absence from Mr. Hurst's house, led her to imagine that it would be
temporarily averted; but on the very day of the ball, when she and her
hostesses had remained at home, and a larger number of visitors than
usual happened to be in the room, she experienced a painful shock on
hearing his name announced and on seeing him walk into the room. Next
moment she was angry with herself for losing her composure, even
momentarily, and bracing herself for a possible encounter, she
endeavoured to continue to bear her part in a conversation with two or
three of Mrs. Hurst's friends, who, she realized gratefully, were
strangers to her until that day. It was some minutes afterwards that she
was aware of Colonel Fitzwilliam approaching her, guided by Miss
Bingley, whose kindly intentions of making the occasion as ordinary as
possible only served to intensify its discomfort. Georgiana, however,
thought the fault all hers, as, not reassured at all by Caroline's
cheerful "Colonel Fitzwilliam was so glad to hear you were staying with
us, Georgiana," she found herself only just able to give him her hand
with an almost inaudible greeting, while her face, suffused with deepest
blushes, must, she felt, have made her noticeable to all around. It was
Colonel Fitzwilliam's part to set her at her ease, which he did, to some
extent with a few kindly and naturally-expressed sentences, inquiring
about her journey, and the health of those she had left behind.

Georgiana presently ventured to let her eyes rest on him, and was
startled to see how much older he looked even in the short time since
she'd seen him, and how ill and worn. A terror seized her heart that she
might be guilty of these altered looks, but it passed in an instant;
there was not any doubt that their parting had been for the good of
both; but poor Cousin Robert, it was plain to see that he had been
suffering, from whatever cause, and her sympathy went out to him
unconsciously, even while she could hardly talk to him from
embarrassment of knowing that Caroline Bingley was standing by,
apparently occupied with other people, but drawing conclusions from
every word she could hear.

"I had intended coming to see you, anyhow, Georgiana," said Fitzwilliam,
"but I am very busy, you know--I do not go out much; and you live in a
perpetual whirl of gaiety, I expect." He smiled as he spoke, and
Georgiana tried to answer in the same spirit, telling him that they had
a good many plans, and people were very kind, but she was not really in
a whirl, in fact, the very next morning she was leaving for Grosvenor
Street for a few days, to spend them quietly with her old friend Mrs.
Annesley, who lived in Hans Place, quite away from the bustle of London.

"Mrs. Annesley?" repeated Fitzwilliam; "of course I remember her; she
will enjoy having you, but how have Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley become
reconciled to parting with you even for a week?"

Georgiana explained hurriedly that it had been quite a sudden
engagement; her old friend had been to see her, and had begged for a
short visit from her, if possible, for Mrs. Annesley was on the point of
going to India, to live with a married son who had lost his wife, and
she might not have the opportunity of seeing her former pupil again for
many years. Georgiana had been happy in the opportunity of going to her
friend at such a time; her present hostesses had acquiesced, and a week
was to be spared to Mrs. Annesley.

"But it will be made up in Grosvenor Street next month, I assume," said
Colonel Fitzwilliam.

"I hardly know--I believe Elizabeth and my brother want me at home again
soon--but of course I like being here too," said Georgiana, stumbling
over her words, and feeling that she was disgracing herself. If only
Caroline would not stand there and seem to be observing them so closely!
She did not believe it would be so distressing to talk to Cousin Robert
if only they could be together somewhere among strangers. This thought
impelled her to ask him, quite at random, for she had every reason to
know what his reply would be, whether he was going to Mrs. Knightley's
ball.

"I am afraid not, Georgiana. I think I am getting too old for balls; but
I wish you a great deal of pleasure there."

"Oh, Cousin Robert, you are not too old, but you--" she checked herself
in this impetuous speech, and ended rather confusedly, "but you look
tired"; which was not what she would have wished to say.

Her cousin glanced kindly at her, but turned her remark off with a
laugh; and as he seemed about to move away, Georgiana, in desperation,
and astonished at herself, said timidly: "I hope we may meet again, even
though you do not go to balls."

"I hope so, too, Georgiana. But of course we shall. I must come some
morning and take you all to Kensington Gardens."

Georgiana felt that this would not be a great improvement on the present
situation, but she could not say any more, and supposed their
conversation was at an end, when Fitzwilliam, who had made a step from
her, seemed struck with a sudden idea, and turned to her again, saying:
"May I come and call on you at Mrs. Annesley's? She will perhaps
remember me and--I may not be in town later on."

Georgiana flushed with surprise and pleasure, and her eager assent left
Fitzwilliam in no doubt as to his reception. He stayed only to assure
himself of the number of Mrs. Annesley's house, then bowed and walked
rapidly away, as Miss Bingley approached with the evident intention of
breaking up their conclave. Georgiana had to submit to a certain amount
of comment from the sisters, who, while condoling with her for having
had to pass through a uncomfortable few minutes, appeared surprised that
she should have been able to talk to Colonel Fitzwilliam, but she
herself felt nothing but happiness in having met her cousin again, and
found it possible to think of being on those terms with him that
Elizabeth had predicted.

She spent a part of the afternoon in writing a long letter to her
sister, telling her what had happened; but she did not like to send an
account of her cousin that might alarm them at home, so she contented
herself with saying that he was not looking at all well, and that she
wished Elizabeth would persuade him to go down to Pemberley, as he must
be working too hard in London. She concluded her writing with the words,
"I will leave this open till to-morrow, dear Elizabeth, that I may tell
you about the ball, and how Kitty looked."

Kitty, indeed, was the chief subject of her thoughts when they dwelt
upon the prospect of the evening, and when the time for dressing arrived
Kitty's rose-coloured silk occupied her mind far more than her own white
satin and pearls. When Mr. and Mrs. Hurst's party entered the ante-room
where Mrs. Knightley was receiving her guests, the two girls managed to
exchange a few words, and Georgiana gathered that the hero of the
evening had not yet appeared, but Kitty was separated from her by the
crowd of arrivals, and so it eventually came about that it was their
hostess who performed the introduction of Mr. William Price to Miss
Darcy.

Georgiana's first thought, when she looked at the noble brow and clear
blue eye of the young man, was that Kitty's attachment was easily
understood, and each moment that she spent in his company strengthened
that assurance. She was desirous of liking him, eager to find everything
to praise in the admired--and perhaps the admirer--of her friend, and
the opportunity came at once in the infectious gaiety and good spirits
of the young man and the unaffected warmth of his manner.

He asked her for the honour of her hand in several dances; but the first
two, she noticed, he danced with Kitty, and from the sparkle in Kitty's
eye, and her quick movement as he approached to claim them, Georgiana
conjectured that the engagement had been made previously.

When Georgiana's turn came, among the excellencies that she discovered
in her partner was that of being a perfect dancer; and, moreover, one
who moved through the set as if he enjoyed every step. Somewhat shyly
she commented on this.

"Yes, indeed, Miss Darcy, I am fond of dancing; I began very early, when
I was such a small person that you probably wouldn't have seen me in a
room, much less have danced with me. We all used to jump about as
children, I believe; and on board ship one somehow managed to learn, so
as to be ready for the balls."

"Were there balls so often?" asked Georgiana.

"Yes; wherever we were stationed somebody always seized the opportunity
to give a ball, either a private person, or the Governor, or the
regiment, or someone. There seems to be a connection established in
people's minds between naval men and dancing; anyhow, as soon as there
were a few days' quiet, someone would produce musicians and a waxed
floor, and we were expected to go and perform. So I decided that I had
better like it."

"You are a very fortunate person to be able to be able to like what you
have to do," said Georgiana, highly diverted.

"It is not a matter of fortune, is it? Anybody can do it," rejoined
William Price. "I am sure you can, Miss Darcy."

"No, indeed; I dislike very much some things I have to do."

"But if you found you positively had to do them, and there was no way
out, then you would decide to like them, would you not? It would make
them so much easier."

This was a new idea to Georgiana, and she considered it a little before
replying, with a smile: "I am sure there are some things I should never
like doing, such as sitting on the back seat of a carriage."

"I know that it is disagreeable to some people, but I am sure, if one
thought long enough, one could find a way to make it less so," said the
young lieutenant, with great earnestness. "For instance"--he
considered--"when the window was open the rain and wind would not do so
much damage to the feathers in a lady's bonnet as if she were opposite;
and at night one could shut one's eyes and imagine one was travelling
forwards--it would be difficult to tell the difference." He looked
inquiringly at Georgiana, who was so much entertained by his arguments
that she said, laughingly: "I was right in calling you fortunate, Mr.
Price, for you seemed to have secured a sovereign remedy against all
ills. Do tell me how you would console yourself if you slipped down now
and broke your leg, so that you could not dance any more for a long
time? I should like to know whether your principle always holds good."

"Now, Miss Darcy, you are driving me into a corner. I only said if I
positively had to do the distasteful thing and there was no way out. I
beg to inform you in the plainest language that there is a way out of
your suggestion--that is, not to fall and break my leg, and it is the
way I mean to adopt. But if such a thing did happen to me, I should
certainly try to console myself--as yet I am not quite sure how--yes, I
have thought of a method, but I do not think I had better tell you what
it is."

"He means he would have Kitty to sit beside him and talk to him,"
thought Georgiana. "I wonder what he would be like if he were ill? He
would have just the same merry smile, I believe." Aloud she said: "I am
not so strong-minded as you, Mr. Price, I'm afraid. I should never be
able to think of any way of consoling myself for a broken leg."

"I hope you will never have to endure anything one-twentieth a part
disagreeable, Miss Darcy," her partner replied, dropping his gay manner
for a moment. "Although it helped me to get through my examinations,
even now I cannot think very kindly of it."

"Were you--has it actually happened to you?" exclaimed Georgiana, with a
horrified face; and she never felt less pleasure at the arrival of a new
partner than at that moment. Most unwillingly she placed her arm in his
to be led away, wanting far more to hear the history of William Price's
misfortune; while the young man, full of concern at having startled her,
walked a few steps beside her to say: "It is all right, Miss Darcy,
because, you see, that guarantees that it will not happen again
to-night."

Bingley, who was her partner, asked the name of her companion, and
Georgiana told what she knew of him, describing him as Kitty's friend.
Bingley recollected having heard of him from Kitty, and pleased with his
appearance, and always attracted by a new face, expressed a wish to know
him, and Georgiana looked forward to making the introduction when her
dances with Bingley should be over. This, however, was not to be. Kitty
and Mr. Price were dancing together, and occasionally passed them in the
set, when Georgiana could observe her friend's flushed cheek and air of
radiant happiness; but at its conclusion they were swept away in a
crowd, and Bingley and Georgiana, looking round for chairs, were
accosted by Mr. Knightley, with the request to present Mr. and Mrs.
Yates, who were anxious to know them. The name was unfamiliar to both,
and so were the faces of the couple who approached--Mr. Yates with his
usual aspect of complete self-satisfaction, and his wife, a woman of
fashion, with a considerable share of good looks, but an expression of
countenance from which weariness and impatience were never long absent.

The lady fell to Bingley's share, and Georgiana, on her part, learned
from Mr. Yates that he had heard her name and wished for the pleasure of
her acquaintance, as he had already made that of her brother and sister
in Bath. Georgiana replied to inquiries after their health and Colonel
Fitzwilliam's, whom, Mr. Yates told her, he knew very well indeed, and
he desired to send his compliments to the Colonel, if Miss Darcy should
be seeing him. "He is in London, I believe?" Georgiana assented.

"Ah, yes, I understood that; and the lady is in town, too, I fancy."
Georgiana's look in reply to this was so blank that Mr. Yates, evidently
not caring to trust himself in the deep waters of explanation,
continued: "Do present him my cordial regards, and say I hope he has
forgiven me. I was so unfortunate as to do him a little disservice, but
it was easily put right; I saw to that myself. Lady Catherine de Bourgh,
I am sure, had made _amende honorable_. You know Lady Catherine, Miss
Darcy? Your aunt? Of course, I beg your pardon; I should have
recollected. Do, pray, remember me to her, too. You were not in Bath
this year, were you? Well, you did not lose much; I have known
pleasanter seasons."

Georgiana only bowed; Mr. Yates's familiar allusion to Colonel
Fitzwilliam had not pleased her, and an instinct, which she had not time
to analyse, led her to connect it with her cousin's depressed spirits.
The next moment her companion introduced a more welcome subject by
saying: "I think I saw you dancing with my young cousin, William Price;
a smart young fellow, is he not?"

"Is he your cousin?" asked Georgiana, in some surprise.

"Yes, or rather, my wife's, through the mother; but we have all known
him for years, he seems quite like one of ourselves, and spends half his
time at our house when in town. Though I often tell my wife it is no
compliment to us, for he is for ever playing with our children; we
cannot get him out of the nursery."

Georgiana felt that this was just as it should be; Mr. Price's being
fond of the children accorded him well with the "merry, kind smile" that
was so characteristic of him. She ventured upon an inquiry as to his
naval career, and Mr. Yates, who liked nothing better than to be talking
either of himself or of those belonging to him, immediately entered upon
a description of William's notable conduct at the battle of St. Domingo,
and the extraordinary courage he had displayed in the taking of a French
ship and in defending the colours of his own. Bingley's attention was
caught, and Georgiana was grateful to him for asking questions to
prolong the story, and for interpolating expressions of admiration which
she felt but could not utter. The more she saw and heard of him, the
more delighted she was with the young hero, for such he now appeared to
be; and the more she commended Kitty's good sense in bestowing her
devotion upon such a worthy object. She looked forward to further
opportunities of hearing from Mr. Price's own lips the account of some
of his adventures; but recollecting that if events took the much-desired
course there would be plenty of such opportunities, she decided that it
would be best to employ the remainder of the time which she might spend
in his company that evening by discoursing of Kitty, in the hope of
gaining some assurance of the strength of his inclinations. He knew her
to be Kitty's friend, and the subject of Kitty would naturally become
the chief bond between them when they came to know each other a little
better.

Shortly after supper, William Price claimed her hand for a second time;
and at the first interval in the dance long enough for any connected
conversation, Georgiana began: "Who is that dancing with Miss Bennet? Do
you know, Mr. Price?"

"It is a Mr. Churchill, a great friend of the Knightleys. I believe he
is rather agreeable, but Miss Bennet tells me she does not like him,"
replied William Price, laughing.

"Why should she not like him, I wonder?" asked Georgiana.

"Oh, I hardly know. Just a fancy, I think. He and I had a great set-to
here one day--an argument, I mean; and I was fairly worsted--it was
about foxhunting, so perhaps I deserved to be; but Miss Bennet very
kindly took my side, and was quite vexed with Mr. Churchill when he
retired with the honours of war."

"Kitty is so loyal to her friends," said Georgiana.

"Yes, she is a delightful girl, and Mrs. Knightley, too, is the kindest
person imaginable. She has been so good to both my brother and myself,
and I have never enjoyed my leave so much."

"It must be a very pleasant house to stay in," said Georgiana. "Miss
Bennet is very sorry to be going away, I know."

"Yes, is it not a pity she has to go? And down to the depths of the
country, too. I must not disparage it, Miss Darcy, for I am reminded
that it is your home as well; but when people go so far off one is
desperately afraid of not seeing them again. You are not leaving town
with Miss Bennet, are you?"

Georgiana was explaining their respective plans when the summons came
for them to rejoin the set; but an interruption soon occurred in the
shape of a slight accident. A lady dancing next to William Price, in
turning sharply, trod upon her dress, with the result that she slipped
and fell upon the polished floor with her foot twisted under her. The
young lieutenant sprang forward, lifted her with skillful and gentle
touch, and carried her, pale and suffering, to an adjoining room, where
Mrs. Knightley and several friends hastened to her aid. A servant was
sent for a surgeon, and William Price returned to Georgiana with the
news that, pending his arrival, the lady was being treated for what
appeared to be a severe sprain.

"Poor thing!" said Georgiana, trembling. "I am so sorry for her. It must
have caused intense pain. I was afraid she might have broken it."

"No, it is bad enough, but fortunately it is not broken; I could
perceive that," replied the young man. "You must not prognosticate such
sad things, Miss Darcy; you see they very nearly come true."

Georgiana looked into his face for enlightenment, then broke into a
smile. "Oh, Mr. Price, you are unkind to assume that I was responsible
for it. I only suggested a broken leg, and it was you who said it had
been a reality in your case. How did it happen? Was it in action?"

William led her to a seat, as the incident had unnerved her for more
dancing, but could not be persuaded to give a narrative in the style of
Mr. Yates; he only laughed and said that it had been about as glorious
an affair as falling down in a ball-room. "One of our fellows had
foolishly got himself into a very awkward place at the storming of a
fort, and I was so stupid as to get in the way of a shower of falling
rocks, one of which, when it reached me, decided to stay as close to me
as it could; so I was severely reprimanded, and had to spend six weeks
in hospital at the very busiest time."

Georgiana listened with interest, certain that there was another version
of the story which would show her companion up in a different light, and
she inquired: "What did you say about examinations?"

"Only that I had some books, and a good friend who helped me to the
utmost of his power, so that while I was lying by I contrived to work up
my subject enough to have scraped through."

They talked for some time longer, until William had to go in search of
his next partner, while Georgiana was carried off by her hostess, who
placed her at a small table to drink coffee with herself and Mr. and
Mrs. Gardiner. The Gardiners were, of course, no strangers to Georgiana,
and she showed the pleasure she felt in meeting them again.

"Is it not kind of Mrs. Gardiner to have lent Kitty to me for so long,
Miss Darcy?" said Mrs. Knightley. "I feel I can ill spare her now; I
shall miss her after the happy time we have had together."

Georgiana said what was proper, and Mrs. Gardiner added: "Perhaps she
will be able to come to you another year."

"Indeed, I hope so. I should like her to come any time; but another
year, you know, she may not be so free; the claims of a house of her own
may be paramount."

"Certainly they may be; but it seems early to anticipate that," said
Mrs. Gardiner.

"Early? Oh, no, I do not think so. I shall not be at all surprised to be
asked to help in buying Kitty's wedding clothes before Christmas,"
returned Mrs. Knightley, smiling mysteriously.

Mrs. Gardiner expressed inquiring surprise, while Georgiana listened
with interest for what Mrs. Knightley would say, regarding her as the
chief authority in the affair, as far as it had gone.

Her hostess proceeded: "It is quite between ourselves, you know, Mrs.
Gardiner; I know I am perfectly safe in mentioning it, as you are
Kitty's aunt and Miss Darcy her greatest friend; and you can imagine
whether it is a pleasure to me to find that two young people in whom I
am interested are so much interested in each other."

"Undoubtedly," said Mrs. Gardiner; "but pray enlighten me, Mrs.
Knightley, as to who the other person is."

"You have met him to-night, Mrs. Gardiner, the young naval officer, Mr.
Price, whom I introduced to you."

Mrs. Gardiner was very anxious to learn more particulars, and Mrs.
Knightley gave her full information as to William Price's career and
prospects, while as to Kitty, she affirmed she had every reason to
believe that both were equally attracted, and that an engagement would
shortly be formed between them, subject to the approval of their
friends.

Mrs. Gardiner agreed that it was very good news if the young man was all
Mrs. Knightley believed him, and remarked what a delight it would be to
her sister, Mrs. Bennet, who had always wanted Kitty to be settled.

"Mr. Price _is_ all we think him, I can assure you; Mr. Knightley will
answer for him. But, pray, do not mention a word of this to anyone; let
it not go beyond us four; I am most desirous that the affair should pass
to its easy and natural conclusion."

"I quite understand that, and of course we shall wait until Kitty tells
us," said her aunt. "What do you think of it all, Miss Darcy? Has Kitty
mentioned the matter to you?"

Georgiana replied that she had, and on further questioning owned that
she felt sure that if what Mrs. Knightley expected came to pass, it
would make Kitty very happy. Mrs. Knightley called upon her to join in
commendations of the young man, and this she could sincerely do; and she
rose from the table feeling as if everything were settled, and it only
remained to congratulate the two persons most concerned.

A minute later she met Kitty, flying in search of her. Kitty seized her
friend's hand and drew her into a quiet corner of Mrs. Knightley's
morning-room, where the two girls could seat themselves on a sofa partly
hidden by a screen and be quite secluded.

"I wanted so much to see you before I went, Georgiana," began Kitty in
an excited undertone. "I thought I should never get to you, and this is
my last chance, as we start so early on Friday. Now do tell me what you
think of him. You can judge now, cannot you? Is he not delightful? Is he
not handsome, and a noble creature? Is he not all I said?"

"Yes, indeed, dear Kitty, he is," responded Georgiana, with tender
sympathy. "I can quite understand your feelings. I am sure anyone would
be very proud to have gained the affection of such a man."

"Oh, I am so glad to hear you say so. Do you think I have gained it?
Sometimes I think so; sometimes I am not sure. Mrs. Knightley thinks I
have."

"I know she does; I have heard her say so, and she would not mislead
you, Kitty, I am sure. She cares so much for your welfare."

"Yes, indeed, she has been very kind. I cannot tell you what I should
have done without her. She has done everything, she thinks of
everything. To-night, when she was arranging the supper partners, I was
standing near him, but not very near, and he had not asked me; I suppose
he was waiting to see if he might, as we had already danced together a
great deal, and she looked up from her list and said: 'And Mr. Price, I
do not think I have put anyone down for you: will you take Miss Bennet?'
in that kind way, not to make me feel uncomfortable, as if it had been
planned. So he came and offered me his arm with such an air! And, after
all, we did not talk much at supper; I was too happy, but when I asked
him if he liked my dress, he paid me such an elegant compliment on
it--something about a rose."

"He is a most agreeable companion," said Georgiana. "I should never tire
of hearing him converse. The marvellous adventures he has had! It is
like a glimpse of a new world to meet a person who has actually been
through those things, and who describes them with such modesty and
simplicity. Such a man seldom comes into our quiet lives."

"Oh, but they are so horrible, it quite frightens me to hear about them;
if I were married to him I would never let him go to sea again, for fear
of his coming back without an arm, or a leg, or an eye."

"But it is his profession, Kitty."

"I know, but it is a horrid profession, the only thing about him that I
don't like, except for the uniform, and a man in a black coat looks
positively nothing beside him."

"Oh, Kitty, as if the uniform mattered! Do not let me hear you talk so
foolishly," said Georgiana, really pained.

"Well, perhaps it is foolish, but it does make a difference, you know.
Bingley has been teasing me half the evening about a young man that he
says they have got for me down in the country, whom I shall be sure to
like, the Rector of Kympton, I believe. As if I could possibly look at a
clergyman after knowing William Price."

"Perhaps it is not fair to compare two such different types of men, but
Mr. Morland is very nice, Kitty; I am sure you will think so."

"I am sure I shall not; I don't want to see him: how can I think anyone
nice when I am away from here? Oh, if I could only see Price once more,
just once more, to make sure; but as he says, how can one ever see
anybody down in the wilds of Derbyshire?"

"Kitty, here is the music beginning again, and we shall be asked for,"
said Georgiana, standing up. "Do not be unhappy or over-anxious about
this, and do not show too much what you feel, for I am sure it will all
come out right if you have patience."

"Do you really think it is so? That is such a comfort; but I wish he had
spoken to-night. Mrs. Knightley thought he would."

"Dear Kitty, whenever it comes, I wish you all the happiness in the
world; write to me very fully, and, as I said, have patience and
self-command. Now we really ought to go."

Kitty pressed her friend's hand, and Georgiana tried to calm her as they
walked back to the ball-room, by talking on indifferent topics, for she
feared the girl's burning cheeks and nervous manner would betray her
agitation and its cause. Miss Bingley met them as they entered the room,
and asked Georgiana if she was ready to go, as Mrs. Hurst seemed
inclined for it.

"Yes, I am quite ready," said Georgiana. "I think I am engaged to Mr.
Bingley for another dance, but he will not mind missing it."

"Charles is over there, talking to Mr. Price, but I have told him we
want to go, so he will be expecting us," said Miss Bingley, and led the
way across the room, Kitty not unnaturally following. Mr. Bingley
welcomed them warmly, calling out: "Here, Kitty, come and add your
entreaties to mine. I want this young gentleman to come down to
Desborough and shoot our pheasants in November, but he is not sure if he
can manage it; I never heard such nonsense. If anyone is entitled to ask
for leave when he wants it, I should think he is."

Kitty was rendered perfectly incapable of speech for the first moment
after hearing these words; never had a wish been so suddenly and
gloriously placed in the way of accomplishment; but she found an
unexpected ally in Miss Bingley, who supported her brother's invitation,
having, like him, been attracted by the young lieutenant's agreeable
demeanour and high reputation. William Price stood still, looking
diffidently from one to another, and expressing in disjointed sentences
his gratitude, his uncertainty, and his extreme pleasure should he be
able to accept. Mr. Bingley exerted all his powers of persuasion, and
Kitty's bright eyes shot glances not less eloquent. Georgiana turned a
little away, feeling suddenly very tired and spiritless, and Mr. and
Mrs. Hurst, who came up at that moment, remarked on it.

"Georgiana tired?" exclaimed Bingley; "then let us go at once. You are
not used to these late hours, and I don't know what Mrs. Darcy will say
to me if I take them a poor account of you. We are all neighbours in the
country, you know, Mr. Price. Then that is settled? You will come to us
if you can possibly get away, and I hope nothing will prevent it. You do
not expect to receive the command of the Mediterranean squadron, do
you?"

"No, sir," replied William, laughing, "neither that nor any other
command this year, I am afraid."

"Well, well, I wish you luck. Shall I see you again before I leave
town?"

William was beginning to reply negatively, when Miss Bingley, who was
leading the whole party towards the cloak-room, turned and asked Mr.
Price if he would not come and see them some time in Grosvenor Street.
She called on her sister to ratify the invitation, which Mrs. Hurst did,
and it was courteously accepted. There followed a confusion of good-byes
and a getting of cloaks, and the three ladies were placed in the coach
while the two gentlemen prepared to walk. Georgiana had warmly embraced
Kitty at parting, and had intimated that she knew how much the
arrangement by Bingley meant to her friend; and her last impression of
Mrs. Knightley's ball was of William Price waving farewell in the
doorway and then ascending the steps to where Kitty awaited him in the
vestibule.



Chapter X


Colonel Fitzwilliam had come to London because he thought it was the
place where he would be most likely to meet Miss Crawford again, and he
had taken up literary work merely to pass away the time until that
longed-for event should occur. Two months had elapsed before he heard of
her arrival, with her sister, but it was not many days after that he
contrived to be present at the house of a mutual friend, where he knew
her to be expected. Her manner of greeting him on this occasion was not
free from embarrassment; it was neither cordial nor unfriendly, and so
brief was the encounter that he could discover but little from it of the
state of her mind towards him. Another casual meeting seemed to promise
more hopefully, but hardly had they exchanged a few sentences when the
appearance of Sir Walter and Miss Elliot turned the conversation into
channels more congenial to the new-comers, and Colonel Fitzwilliam was
forced to stand aside and see Miss Crawford taken possession of without
any semblance of unwillingness on her part. He then devoted himself to
Mrs. Grant, and tried to propose an expedition, a theatre party, but
that lady hesitatingly replied that she could arrange nothing without
her sister. Colonel Fitzwilliam applied for permission to call, which
was readily accorded, but on availing himself of it the following day
only learned that the ladies were gone to Richmond with a party. The
manservant obliged him, unasked, with the information that it was Mr.
Crawford's party, and the Colonel was left to speculate gloomily on the
chances of Sir Walter Elliot being one of the number, and what was of
greater import whether, if it was so, it was with Miss Crawford's
approval.

He had gone to call on the Hursts after leaving Mrs. Grant's house, and
had not again seen the object of his thoughts and hopes, when, a few
days later, he directed his steps towards Mrs. Annesley's residence in
Hans Place. He could scarcely believe it was but three months since the
severance of his engagement with Georgiana, it seemed to have retreated
so far into the background of events, but he had pondered earnestly over
their interview in Grosvenor Street, and from her demeanour had
concluded that his presence was not objectionable to her, so that any
further meeting might help to re-establish their old cousinly relations,
a result which their friends would rejoice in. It was therefore with a
tolerably easy mind that was ushered into the presence of the two
ladies, and found Georgiana in great good looks and far less shy and
confused than on the previous occasion; indeed, in a few moments any
awkwardness between them seemed to have quite melted away, and she was
readily answering his questions about Mrs. Knightley's ball.

"It certainly seems to have been a great success, for I never knew you
so enthusiastic about a ball before, Georgiana," said her cousin,
smiling. "It was better than the Bath assemblies, I gather?"

"Oh--Bath!" exclaimed Georgiana, with a note of contempt in her voice
which spoke volumes. "You laugh at me, Cousin Robert, but it was a
beautiful ball. Even Mr. Bingley said so, and he must have been to a
great number."

"Hundreds, if not thousands, I should think," returned her cousin.
"Bingley's shoemaker must have made a fortune. But who were the partners
who contributed to such enjoyment? for they are usually the really
important part. Two Mr. Prices you have mentioned, Captain Carter and
Mr. Dixon; who else?"

"Oh, I forget who else; Mr. Hurst and Mr. Bingley, of course, and Mr.
Knightley, but he was very grave and terrible, I was almost too
frightened to move, and Mr. Gardiner, and then there was Mr. Yates, but
I did not dance with him. Do you remember him, Cousin Robert? he said he
knew you at Bath."

Georgiana had been so disagreeably struck by Mr. Yates's way of speaking
of her relatives whom he had met, that she had not intended to mention
it to Colonel Fitzwilliam, but the rest of his talk had eradicated his
first impression, and she had unguardedly given utterance to his name.
Fruitless regret and vexation overcame her when, glancing up at her
cousin, she perceived his countenance darken, and noted the change in
his voice as he replied, with an effort: "Yes, we did meet in Bath, but
not in the pleasantest of circumstances. Mr. Yates may be a more
agreeable man away from the companions he then had."

"I do not think he was particularly agreeable," said Georgiana,
falteringly, "but I thought--he appeared to me to be an interesting
talker."

"Yes, that is quite his line; if Yates can do nothing else he can
certainly use his tongue," replied Colonel Fitzwilliam, not without
bitterness. "But do not let us concern ourselves with him, Georgiana;
what about the walk in Kensington Gardens that we had thought of? Will
Mrs. Annesley very kindly let me escort you both there this delightfully
fine morning?"

Mrs. Annesley willingly acceded, and the two ladies having attired
themselves, a hackney coach was called, which conveyed them a mile on
their way towards Kensington Place. Georgiana was somewhat silent during
the drive. She did not wish to speculate on her cousin's private
affairs, but having been the innocent cause of recalling painful
thoughts to him inevitably produced the wish to atone, to help; and she
found herself wondering, while trying not to wonder, what could possibly
be the connection between Mr. Yates, Cousin Robert and a lady in Bath
now said to be in London. To be sure, it was none of her business, she
had no right to wish to know, and yet she did wish she knew whether that
had anything to do with Cousin Robert's looking so sad and worn.
Stay--that letter of Lady Catherine's which her brother had read
aloud--a lady in Bath, a friend of Elizabeth's--a
misunderstanding--Georgiana felt for one instant, with a thrill of fear
and excitement, as though she had laid hold of the thread; and was
almost glad when the stopping of the carriage obliged her to let it go,
by scattering her thoughts and her bringing her back to the present
moment. She reproached herself for prying into others' secrets, and
pressing close to Mrs. Annesley's side, she eagerly responded to that
lady's eulogies of the beautiful scene around them. The gardens were
indeed looking their best in the glory of their June array, and crowds
of well-dressed persons strolling gaily about added to the general sense
of brilliancy and festivity.

They had taken a few turns, and Fitzwilliam had greeted several of his
acquaintances, while Georgiana was beginning to think that she, too,
might see someone she knew, when her attention was arrested by some
comments of Mrs. Annesley's, made in a low voice, on the singular beauty
of a young lady who was approaching them, escorted by two gentlemen. The
lady was dark and extremely animated, and her fine eyes seemed to be
glancing in the direction of their party. As the two groups slowly
passed each other, Colonel Fitzwilliam's bow was acknowledged by the
lady and her friends, and she half paused, as if about to speak, but
passed on without doing so. Mrs. Annesley, seeing the recognition, made
a laughing apology to her companion. "I beg your pardon, Colonel
Fitzwilliam, I did not know you knew that lady, but really, she is such
a lovely creature that one cannot help remarking on it."

"I am quite of your opinion Mrs. Annesley," returned the Colonel, and
Georgiana saw that though he endeavoured to speak lightly something had
happened which necessitated the exercise of a degree of self-command.
"It is very obliging of you to voice sentiments which I am always
wanting to put into words when I meet Miss Crawford. Although no words
can exactly describe her special charm."

"It is her expression, is it not?" said Mrs. Annesley, "so full of
changing life and brightness, and that vivid complexion, and graceful
carriage of the head. All that one can see at a glance. And I imagine we
are not in the minority in admiring her."

"No, indeed," said Fitzwilliam, "she holds quite a little court."

He was interrupted by a gentleman who detained him for a moment, and the
ladies walked on, Georgiana's mind full of tumultuous thoughts. She had
recollected the name Crawford in a moment as being that of Elizabeth's
friend to whom Lady Catherine had behaved so unkindly, but she did not
like to admit her knowledge, for fear it might be painful to her cousin
to have the whole chain of circumstances discussed. What they were,
Georgiana could not help longing to know, but the only one that was
quite clear to her was her cousin's deep admiration for this lady. Her
heart went out in sympathy to him, both for his attachment and for the
difficulties in his way, if difficulties there were. Did Miss Crawford
perhaps not care for him? Yet she had looked as if she wanted to speak.
Were there friends or relations influencing her? He had alluded to "a
little court." But how could anyone separate Miss Crawford from Colonel
Fitzwilliam, if she really loved him, he so noble, so kind, so true?
Georgiana blushed deeply at her thoughts, perceiving the rapid pace at
which they had led her on, and the somewhat inconsistent conclusion that
they had reached, but their very sincerity reassured her, in the
knowledge that her own love for Colonel Fitzwilliam was the sisterly
love that longed to see him happily and suitably united. No idea crossed
her mind of helping towards this end; she had too lowly an opinion of
her own powers as a force in other persons' lives; her only wish was for
an opportunity of showing her sympathy towards her cousin in some
practical form. In vain she tried to plan how this might be done, for
she could not speak of it until he had opened his heart to her, a most
unlikely thing to happen, and not at all could it be mentioned before
Mrs. Annesley.

Fortune seemed to favour her, for when Colonel Fitzwilliam rejoined
them, Mrs. Annesley confessed that she felt a little tired, the heat was
so great, and she would like to rest a while. "But do not come with me,"
she added, as Fitzwilliam instantly proposed moving towards the chairs,
"if you are not tired yet, it is much more amusing for you and Georgiana
to walk about, and probably you would like to go nearer to the music. I
will go and sit by my friend Mrs. Sackville, whom I see over there,
until you are ready."

The cousins accordingly found themselves together, and Georgiana, hardly
knowing how to begin, but feeling no time was to be lost, broke silence
again after a few minutes after a few minutes by saying timidly: "I
think I have heard Elizabeth speak of Miss Crawford; you all knew her in
Bath, did you not?"

"Have you indeed? That is good," exclaimed Colonel Fitzwilliam. "I had
forgotten that you would know her name. Yes, we all met in Bath." He
seemed about to say more, but after a pause concluded with: "Ask
Elizabeth to tell you about her."

Georgiana was disappointed, but told herself that she could not have
expected anything else. How could he make a confidant of her, who had
shown herself unworthy of any trust.

They walked on for some little distance, until Fitzwilliam, observing
two vacant seats in a group of chairs, placed close to the edge of the
grass, asked Georgiana if she would like to sit down for a little before
turning back. It was a charming spot, in the shade of a tree and
immediately facing a large sheet of artificial water, and Georgiana
willingly assented, remarking: "How fortunate that we should be able to
get two chairs. They seem to be nearly all occupied."

"It is generally so; people come and sit here the whole morning when it
is so fine and warm," returned Fitzwilliam, placing himself at her side,
but not resuming their conversation of a few moments before. Georgiana
was not content to be silent, and her cousin was wrapped in thoughts of
Miss Crawford and did not dream of the anxious solicitude for him in
Georgiana's heart. The other man in Mary's party, he reflected, must be
her brother, Henry Crawford; there was a slight resemblance; besides, he
answered to the description Mary had given of him. How well he
remembered her laughing looks and tones as she uttered it: "Henry is not
tall, Colonel Fitzwilliam, no, I allow him every other imaginable
beauty, but he is not tall; thin, dark, rather plain; of course, to me,
singularly handsome; did I not say so? Do you think you would recognize
him if you saw him?" And the Colonel did see him now, for the second
time, a few steps away, approaching with his sister, who walked between
him and Sir Walter Elliot, as before.

Mary glanced towards Miss Darcy, and in an instant the Colonel was at
her side. "How do you do, Miss Crawford? I was sorry to miss you the
other morning when I called. Would you allow me to present to you my
cousin, Miss Darcy? She has heard of you from her brother and sister."

Mary coloured deeply as she returned his salutation, but immediately
complied with his request, pausing only to say to her brother in a low
voice: "Henry, please walk on; do not wait for me." To Georgiana it was
such a surprise and delight to see Miss Crawford being brought towards
her, and to find a wish granted which she had scarcely dared to
formulate, that instead of being exceedingly shy, as she would
ordinarily have been, she forgot to think of herself, and rising and
looking into Miss Crawford's lovely and expressive face, she entered
fully into what she believed her cousin to be feeling towards its owner.
In reality the shyness was on Mary's side, for she could not help in
seeing in Colonel Fitzwilliam's action another proof of the generosity
and devotion of the friend whom she had exiled from her. A few words
passed between them all three about the beauty of the day and their
surroundings, then Miss Crawford, turning to Georgiana, inquired after
Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. This was a subject to unloose Georgiana's tongue and
drew forth animated replies, and Mary, still addressing her, made a few
civil inquiries about her journey to town and the probable duration of
her visit. It was Colonel Fitzwilliam who presently begged Miss Crawford
to take his seat, which, after a slight demur, no other chair being
within sight, she consented to do. He remained standing near them for a
few moments, and then moved a little distance, thinking they might be
able to talk more comfortably if left to themselves.

"You are staying with your aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh?" asked Miss
Crawford, when he was out of earshot.

"No," replied Georgiana, "my aunt is not in town. For the moment I am
with my old governess, Mrs. Annesley, but I am really on a visit to some
other friends, Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley."

"I see; and your cousin is with you there just now?" Mary pursued.

"Oh, no, no, no," said Georgiana, smiling, "no, he has been living in
town by himself for some time. You have not happened to meet him since
you were in London?"

Mary answered that she had met Colonel Fitzwilliam once or twice, but
murmured something about thinking he and the Darcys were all like one
family. Georgiana assented to this.

"He is indeed like one of ourselves; my brother and sister are devoted
to him, and he is the oldest friend I have," she replied. "After my own
brother, he is the kindest and best person I have ever met. People do
not know for a long time how good he is, because he is so modest and
retiring."

Georgiana was conscious that she was perhaps transgressing the bounds of
good taste in this vehement praise; but she did not care what Miss
Crawford thought of her, so long as she would think well of her cousin.
At all events it appeared that Miss Crawford was not offended, for she
smiled faintly and said: "He is fortunate in having you and Mrs. Darcy
for his advocates."

"It is just the same," said Georgiana eagerly, "with whoever speaks of
him. His friends are all devoted to him, and he is so staunch to them,
whatever they do; he never changes, or fails them when they want him."

"I think I know one who would not fail _him_, Miss Darcy," said Miss
Crawford, still smiling; "but, indeed," she added, as Georgiana turned
away her head, "I am sure you are quite right in all you say. Who should
know Colonel Fitzwilliam well, if not his old friends? And I know myself
that he is even loyal to them when he is angry with them, which is the
great test."

Georgiana could heartily agree, though without understanding Mary's
allusion. Their talk drifted to other subjects, in the midst of which
the Colonel returned and tried to interest Miss Crawford in some such
plan as he had suggested to her sister. Mary said "it was kind of him,"
"it would be pleasant," without pledging herself to anything; and
replied, "Pray do," when he asked if he might call to talk it over; but
it appeared that she and her sister were so full of engagements that it
was doubtful if they would be at home any morning before the end of that
week. By this time she had risen, and appeared anxious to return to her
friends. Mr. Crawford, indeed, was seen approaching, so Colonel
Fitzwilliam could only bow his adieux, while promising himself the
pleasure of calling early in the following week, for though he would
have liked to make Henry Crawford's acquaintance for himself, he did not
wish to be responsible for introducing him to Georgiana. She, on her
part, only perceived that Miss Crawford was taking leave, and she
pressed the hand that her new friend extended to her, saying in a low
voice: "It has been such a pleasure--I hope I shall see you again."

"Indeed, I hope we may meet; I should like it," responded Mary
cordially. "You go about so much that I have no doubt we shall. Pray
remember me to your sister and Mr. Darcy."

Georgiana promised, and turned away with Colonel Fitzwilliam, but she
ventured to say to her companion nothing more than a few shy words of
appreciation of Miss Crawford's beauty and charm.

"I am so glad you like her," he replied. "I thought that you would,
though it never occurred to me that we were likely to meet her here.
Elizabeth talked of inviting her to Pemberley, and I hope some day she
will. If we can get up a water party, Georgiana, you must come to it. Do
you think you could persuade Mrs. Annesley to bring you?"

"Indeed I am sure I could, if I am still with her. But I go back to
Grosvenor Street on Saturday afternoon, you know."

"Well, we must contrive it somehow; I doubt if Miss Bingley would care
much for such simple pleasures."

Georgiana laughed, regarding a river party as a very distinguished and
elaborate form of entertainment. Their progress towards Mrs. Annesley
was slow, as Colonel Fitzwilliam was frequently accosted by some friend
or other, one of whom stopped him to call out: "Do not forget that you
are going with us to see Siddons in _Macbeth_ on Friday night."

"Are you, Cousin Robert? How I envy you!" said Georgiana, as they passed
on. "We have tickets to see her next week in _King John_; but I hear
Lady Macbeth is her finest part."

"I am ashamed to say that I have never witnessed any of her performances
as yet," replied Fitzwilliam; "I hardly know how I have missed them, but
it behooves me to make up for lost time. I shall come round on Saturday
morning and harrow your feelings with a description of the play."

"Do, please, and then I can write to Elizabeth about it. How much I
shall have to tell her this week; about my coming to this beautiful
place and meeting Miss Crawford."

Georgiana thought her cousin looked happier when they were driving home
than she had yet seen him look in London, and they discussed the details
of a plan to go to Hampton Court and dine there, which seemed to contain
all the elements of perfect bliss. Fitzwilliam was indeed experiencing
greater peace of mind than he had done since he parted from Mary in
Bath, though for what reason he could scarcely explain to himself. Her
manner had been merely that of courtesy, and had not contained a hint of
the old friendliness; and Sir Walter Elliot had been, as ever, at her
elbow. Yet Fitzwilliam felt that each interview he could obtain opened
the way towards her a little more, and he had resolved to press straight
onward, letting no such obstacles arise as he had formed an effectual
barrier between them in Bath, but, rather, making use of every incident
that occurred, such as Georgiana's accidental presence and the ensuing
introduction, to bring himself nearer to her.

He was keeping this object ever in view when he joined his friends at
the theatre a few evenings later, and in glancing round the house after
the first act, observed Miss Crawford with several other persons in a
box at some distance from him. He immediately began to consider the
possibility of going up to speak to her, although unacquainted with the
hostess, for Mrs. Grant was not there, and he conjectured that the party
were in the charge of Sir Walter and Miss Elliot, by the manner in which
that lady and gentleman rose to welcome a visitor who had just entered
the box. Fitzwilliam determined to obtain an introduction through some
friend, and for this purpose to go up to the box during the third
interval, which was the longest of the evening.

The second interval, however, was destined to produce something of a
disconcerting nature. Fitzwilliam was conversing with the wife of his
friend, General Stuart, whose guest he was, and learning from her the
names and other particulars of many of the persons present, for she had
long lived in London and had a wide acquaintance. She was reckoned to be
a lively companion, though the information she gave, and her manner of
imparting it were, the one so positive and the other so vigorous, that
her hearers were tempted frequently to forget, until after they had
assimilated it, that she might have spoken without the best authority.
She had chanced to notice the people in the Elliots' box, and she drew
Colonel Fitzwilliam's rather unwilling attention to them. He did not
wish to discuss, or hear discussed, the Crawfords or their friends, and
implied at once that several of them were known to him. Mrs. Stuart was
all interest, and inquired if it was that charming Miss Crawford that he
knew, and, if so, whether he could explain why it was that she was going
to marry that insufferable old coxcomb, Sir Walter Elliot. Colonel
Fitzwilliam replied, concealing his apprehension as best he could, that
he did not know that she was; he had never heard it.

"Then you are the only one in the population of London who has not heard
it, my dear Colonel. Why, where have you been, to be out of the way of
such a piece of news? At least fifty people have told me, and of course
all of them have it straight from the most reliable source. It is hard
to believe that such a beautiful creature should throw herself away like
that on a foolish, impecunious old fellow who is old enough to be her
father, and has nothing in the world but his title and his tailor to
recommend him. I cannot comprehend why girls do these things; one can
only suppose that she is tired of the single life and wants a suitable
settlement."

"I am almost sure there must be some mistake, Mrs. Stuart," interposed
Colonel Fitzwilliam. "I saw Miss Crawford the only lately, and
she--there was nothing said about her engagement." He stopped, feeling
how very lame such a refutation was, unsupported by any testimony.

"Nonsense, my dear sir. You have been living in your books, or you would
have heard of it. Do you see that short, stout young man over there? He
is a Mr. John Thorpe, and he was speaking of it at our house the other
evening, and asserted positively that he had heard it mentioned in Bath
months ago."

"I am quite certain that Miss Crawford was not engaged when she was in
Bath," was all Colonel Fitzwilliam would permit himself to say.

"Well, you are very uncivil, I must say; you had better obtain someone
else's assurance if you will not accept mine. Though anyone can see how
it has come about; naturally the Elliots have pushed it forward to the
utmost of their power. Sir Walter wants a pretty wife, and as he cannot
support one out of that vanished fortune of his, he must choose one who
has enough for both. And Miss Elliot would like to establish a
connection between the families for the sake of a certain Mr. Henry
Crawford, who is still unmarried--he is a rake, of course, but she does
not mind that. You know which he is?--the dark young man standing up at
the back of the box."

Colonel Fitzwilliam was so excessively disturbed and irritated by this
conversation, which he had endeavoured to check by saying: "You must be
quite satisfied now, Mrs. Stuart, with the answers you have provided to
your own question," that the rising of the curtain was a great relief;
he could sit silent, inattentive to the play, wrapped in his own anxious
thoughts. Mrs. Stuart's was certainly not the last word on this terribly
important matter, for he felt he must hear the facts from some other
quarter before he could credit them. The fine scene of Banquo's murder
was played, as far as he was concerned, to deaf ears, and his eyes
continually sought the box above, where he could just see Mary's white
cloak, and Sir Walter's fashionable attire always, it seemed, in
proximity to it. The instant the curtain fell again he rose from his
seat and made the best of his way towards the exit, but so many
gentlemen were leaving their seats at the same time that he found
himself in a crowd where it was impossible to progress at any great rate
of speed. At this moment he heard his name pronounced behind him, and
looking round, he recognized two friends, former brother officers of his
own, who had remained seated near the end of one of the rows.

Impatient of the delay, he nevertheless went to them and remained a few
minutes in talk, finding that one of his friends, Captain Ross, was
lame and had difficulty moving along the narrow gangways. They were
presently joined by a Mr. Palmer, whom Fitzwilliam knew as a man of few
words, reserved, and of almost unamiable temper, but thoroughly
trustworthy, and too little interested in his neighbours' affairs to be
possessed of any superfluous knowledge concerning them.

Fitzwilliam had a slight acquaintance with him, and after a little
consideration he asked him, as if casually: "Do you know anything of Sir
Walter Elliot, Palmer?"

"As much as I want to," was the reply. "A stupid fellow. If he were
framed and glazed he would be a good deal more useful than he now is, I
consider."

Captain Ross laughingly agreed with him, claiming some knowledge of Sir
Walter Elliot himself, and calling on his hearers to witness the
inequality of human justice, when such a man as that could find a young
and charming wife.

"Is it true then," asked Fitzwilliam, summoning all his fortitude, "that
Sir Walter Elliot is going to be married?"

"Perfectly true," rejoined Captain Ross and his companion, "and you know
to whom--that lady in the box with him now."

Colonel Fitzwilliam had no need to look; it was enough to know that the
worst he dreaded was about to befall. His friends seemed to notice
nothing in his agitated manner of asking "Are you sure?" in such haste
were they to pour out their information.

"Yes, it has been talked of for a long time, but is quite settled now. I
was in the club last night when Elliot was having supper there, and he
told us all to drink to his health to-day, for he would be the happiest
man in the world. So that party up there is doubtless celebrating the
betrothal."

"Besides, do you not recollect," added Captain Ross, "that when I met
Miss Elliot the other night she told me her father would probably have
some legal business to arrange, when Mr. Crawford returned from Paris,
and then, she hoped, would come the announcement of a happy event?
Crawford is there now, you see."

"The legal business in this case may include a settlement to be made on
Elliot himself," laughed the other officer. "Can you understand people
advertising their affairs so freely beforehand? He must have had reason
to feel pretty confident. Well, I shall always think it a great shame.
Miss Crawford is much too good for him, but it is not the first time she
has played with a man in this way, and now, I suppose she finds herself
too much involved to draw back, or Elliot has been sharp enough to make
sure of her, unlike that dilatory young Bertram."

"Why, yes, besides being presumably a better bargain than a mere country
parson," added Captain Ross. "I imagine they will live at Kellynch. When
I last saw Wentworth he told me his sister, the tenant, was just
leaving."

Fitzwilliam felt as if he could not bear more of this, but, making a
great effort, he turned once more to Mr. Palmer and asked if he thought
the rumour to be true. Mr. Palmer looked at him in some surprise.

"Yes, certainly, why not? There is not the slightest reason to doubt it.
We have the evidence of our eyes and the word of one of the principal
parties. My wife and her mother are going to call to-morrow and offer
their congratulations."

Colonel Fitzwilliam hardly knew how he got away, what his three friends
thought of him, or what General Stuart, whom he had met outside the
lobby, could comprehend of his excuses for his abrupt departure. He only
knew that he could not return to his place, watching the woman who
possessed his whole heart in the company of the lover to whom she had
promised herself. He must be alone, in the darkness and silence, to
brace himself to endure the shock of what he had heard and realize all
that would follow from it. He hastened through the streets, and shut
himself up in his rooms, conscious only that this was a defeat, not a
mere repulse such as he had received at Bath, but a defeat the
completeness and finality of which admitted no rally on the losing side.
Long he paced his room, struggling to fight down the anguish of his mind
and to see clearly through his utter wretchedness what had happened and
how. Even in the midst of his sufferings it was not difficult for him to
piece together all the items of his knowledge into a connected whole.
She had wearied of him at Bath; that must have been the beginning of it;
he had not been able to gain her affection in a sufficient degree for it
to be proof against Lady Catherine's attack. That catastrophe had swept
him, equally with his cousins, away from whatever place he had held in
Mary Crawford's esteem; and when he met her again in London, and could
resume his efforts to recover that place, it was already occupied.

Was that, then, why she had seemed not to wish to be too
friendly--because it was too late? He was forced to believe it; he could
indeed easily believe anything that was a proof against her
consideration, her goodness of heart, that had endeavoured to save him
pain. He could and did believe that he had failed to win her, but that
she could have accepted Sir Walter Elliot left him for many hours
stunned and incredulous. That she, with her many gifts of mind and body,
her true elegance, her sensibility, her refinement of breeding, placing
her in almost a different world from the vulgar pretentiousness of Sir
Walter and his daughter, which in Bath had so often seemed uncongenial
to her, should now actually find such a man all-sufficient, and should
consent to join her life with his, was an outrage, a madness--all the
more so if she had drifted into it in the way the onlookers imagined.
She could not know what she was doing. Her friends--what were they
about? She must be warned. Fitzwilliam impulsively strode to the door,
then stopped and flung himself down with a bitter laugh at his own
folly--he to be raging through all the commonplace jealousies of a
rejected lover, like any boy of nineteen! What could he or anyone else
do? Miss Crawford was perfectly free to choose; she had a brother, with
whose knowledge she was probably acting, and there was nothing to be
alleged against Sir Walter Elliot's character. Recollecting the comments
he had heard that evening, Fitzwilliam was forced to the same
conclusions; to acknowledging that Miss Elliot, Mary's own friend, had
in all probability promoted the match; that Henry Crawford, weak and
unstable where women's persuasions were concerned, had allowed himself
to be drawn into the Elliot net, and that his sister, though she could
have little real regard for Sir Walter, wished to settle down and, her
fortune making her independent of means in her future husband, had
chosen where her fancy and a title attracted her.

How mean, how sordid was the whole story! Not the least heartrending of
Colonel Fitzwilliam's reflections that night was that it could not be
his Mary, the true Mary who had shown herself to him for a short time,
who was now taking this step, so unworthy of her best self. For the
woman he knew her to be, what happiness could be in store?



Chapter XI


Georgiana was alone in the drawing-room of Mrs. Annesley's house on the
following morning, practising the pianoforte, when the expected rap at
the front door was heard, and Colonel Fitzwilliam was presently ushered
into the room. She sprang up to welcome him, prepared for a cheerful
greeting, but was unspeakably concerned at the sight of his haggard face
and worn, exhausted looks, the more so because he made no attempt to
account for them, but forced a smile, accepted the chair which she
offered him, and endeavoured to speak as usual. Georgiana begged him to
partake of some refreshment, and expressed a fear that he was ill, not
daring to give utterance to her real conjecture.

"No, no, Georgiana, thank you. I will not have anything; I assure you I
am not ill. I have only come to wish you good-bye, as I have changed my
plans; I--I am thinking of going to Ireland."

"To Ireland!" repeated Georgiana in consternation.

"Yes, I have a friend who owns an estate there, and he has often invited
me to come over and fish and shoot with him, so I shall start to-night,
and take him by surprise, arriving early next week."

"But--to Ireland!" Georgiana could only repeat, so utterly bewildered
was she. "Dear Cousin Robert, I am so sorry; I wish you need not ...
would you not go to Pemberley? Elizabeth and Darcy would so gladly
receive you, or do anything--"

"I know they would; there is nothing that goodness and kindness suggest
that would not occur to them, but I do not think I could go there just
at present. Will you give them my love, Georgiana, when you are next
writing, and tell them of my movements? I will write to them from
Ireland and give them my direction."

"Indeed, indeed, I will, but may I not tell them anything more? Oh, how
I wish I could help you in any way," exclaimed Georgiana, anxiety
showing itself so acutely in every syllable that Fitzwilliam was forced
to get up to avert his face from hers, lest his self-command should be
too sorely tried.

"My dear, kind little cousin, I shall always be grateful to you, even
though I fear it is not in your power to help me just now. Some day,
perhaps, we may speak of it; in the meantime--I have had a great
disappointment, and I think I had better go away for awhile, so as to be
more fit to meet my friends when I return." He came back to her, raised
her up, and spoke with resolution and cheerfulness. "Come, Georgiana, do
not be sad, it is not worth while. I shall probably be at Pemberley in
the autumn, and we must do something then to make up for the loss of our
exploration party now. Do not think of me--at least, only think of me as
catching and eating a great many salmon. I hope you will have great deal
of pleasure still in London. You return to the Hursts to-day, do you
not? Will you make my excuses to Mrs. Annesley?"

During this speech Georgiana had striven to recover her composure, and
she managed at the conclusion of it to look up at him with a tolerably
calm face and to promise to deliver his messages. She felt convinced
that he had been refused by Miss Crawford, and the situation was to her
so dreadful, so far beyond repair, that it was a relief to see her
cousin's courage, and to know that he did not wish to hear vain and
spiritless words of consolation, words which she hardly could have been
able to utter, even had he been able to listen, from the very surcharge
of tender feeling that burdened her heart. Nevertheless, her sympathy
was reflected in her eyes, and in the gentle voice with which she bid
him adieu and wished him well. Fitzwilliam was not insensible to it. It
gave him the only comfort he could have received at such a time; and
pressing her hand warmly, with a very earnest "God bless you!" he
quitted the room.

As his footsteps died away Georgiana sank into a chair and wept
bitterly. So brief had been his visit--a few ticks of the clock had seen
his arrival and his departure; and in those few moments the aspect of
everything had changed. Since their last meeting Georgiana had dwelt
incessantly upon his prospects of happiness, and allowed herself to
think of them as being in a fair way to become realized. The difficulty
which Elizabeth must have referred to, and Mr. Yates had actually hinted
at, could surely be cleared away now that he and Miss Crawford had met
again; and Georgiana had not been able to read cruelty or harshness in
that fair face. Time only--a very short time--would be necessary, and
once Miss Crawford knew Fitzwilliam as he was, the rest would follow as
a matter of course: for how could any woman whom he really loved be able
to resist him? So reasoned Georgiana, and the collapse of her kindly
hopes brought back all her old sense of personal guilt; she, too, was
partly responsible for her cousin's dire fate, for was she not one of
the two women who had failed to make him happy? She who had not been
able to inspire him with a real love, and Miss Crawford who could not
respond to it now it was fully awakened.

The luxury of grief could not be long indulged in, for tear-stained
features must not be shown to her friends, nor was there leisure that
day to pour out her heart in a letter to Elizabeth. Georgiana had to
keep her sorrowful thoughts to herself, and fortunately it was not
necessary to give any explanation of Colonel Fitzwilliam's abrupt
departure from town to Mrs. Annesley; the simple statement that he had
gone, leaving apologies and suitable compliments, was sufficient. With
her hostesses in Grosvenor Street, however, it was a different matter,
and Georgiana lacked courage to introduce the subject until a morning or
two later, at breakfast, choosing the moment when the letters had just
been brought in and everyone had only that remnant of attention to spare
which their meal and their correspondence had not absorbed. Mr. Hurst
asked a question or two, which, as his wife and sister were speaking at
the same time, went so long unanswered that he quite forgot them; Louisa
showed surprise and offended dignity that the Colonel had not paid a
farewell call on her before leaving; while Caroline, with less pride and
a great deal of curiosity, attempted at first to draw Georgiana into
some admission beyond the mere mention of the fact, but remembering by
happy chance to have heard the name of the friend in Ireland, and even
that of his estate, she was able to her own satisfaction to convert the
mysterious journey into an engagement of respectably long standing.
Georgiana breathed more freely; she had dreaded Miss Bingley's
cross-examination, and still so dreaded anyone guessing at her cousin's
misfortune that she even deviated so far from her usual truthfulness as
to say, "Yes, probably he had been intending to go all the time, as soon
as the weather should be suitable."

It was the greatest comfort to feel that with Elizabeth there need be no
concealment. Already a description of the meeting with Miss Crawford had
travelled to Pemberley, but with none but the simplest and most obvious
comment; Georgiana asked, as directed by Fitzwilliam, for more
particulars connected with her new acquaintance, but until she had been
openly admitted to a share in her elders' knowledge she did not like to
speak of what was still mere guesswork. But now, although Elizabeth's
answer had not yet been received, she felt she could write more freely;
she only had been allowed a glimpse of her cousin's inmost heart, she
only had witnessed his grief and had been allowed to surmise its origin;
she could be the indirect means of bringing him the quick sympathy of
his two best friends, and she was justified in telling her sister of all
she knew and all she conjectured. "He had been refused, dear Elizabeth,"
ran one sentence, "it can be nothing else, and I fear it is irrevocable.
Poor Cousin Robert! He feels it so terribly. Can nothing be done for
him? You know her, you know them both, he is sure to tell you all. Do
help him, dear Elizabeth; you always help people who are in trouble."

Her letter closed and dispatched, she experienced a feeling of relief
from strain, having left her cousin's affairs in more capable hands than
her own. His sad face long haunted her, but the words she had written
reminded her of another person who was now probably calling upon
Elizabeth for sympathy and help. Not that Kitty had been by any means
forgotten, but in the silence that followed on her departure, and the
new interest that had occupied the last few days, the ball and its
attendant emotions had been rather pushed to one side. But Georgiana had
returned to Grosvenor Street fully expecting to find a letter from
Derbyshire, or intelligence of Kitty in some other form.

Her own letter to Elizabeth, concluded the morning after the ball, had
contained, in addition to an account of that memorable event, a
paragraph to this effect: "Kitty has something extremely interesting to
tell you. I shall not spoil her pleasure by anticipating her, but only
add that I believe everything is going to turn out just as happily as
she would like and as we should like for her. Pray, pray, give me your
opinion on this important matter as soon as you can form one. I am
longing to have it." A reply to this letter was indeed awaiting her, but
did not give the desired information, as Elizabeth, though anxious to
hear Kitty's news, had not yet had an opportunity of seeing her, and
Kitty herself had not written. She was a wretched correspondent, and the
delights of the first few days with Jane and the children doubtless
absorbed both head and hands. Bingley's own notes to his sisters during
that week were useless. One announced his and Kitty's safe arrival,
another requested the forwarding of some stockings he had left behind;
was it likely that such communications would have any bearing upon an
important matter like the progress of a young lady's love affair? As to
Mr. Price, Georgiana knew nothing, and was prepared for anything; it was
quite possible that he had been unable to wait for the shooting of Mr.
Bingley's pheasants and was at that moment in Derbyshire.

Upon this point, however, elucidation was presently forthcoming. At the
dinner-table that afternoon Miss Bingley suddenly inquired: "Did I tell
you, Georgiana, that we had a call from Charles's friend, Mr. Price, one
day last week?"

"No," replied Georgiana, startled by such an abrupt incursion into the
subject. "I had not heard. Were you at home? Did you see him?"

"Yes, we were all at home. He is an agreeable young fellow; manners a
little too self-possessed, perhaps, for his age, but they are what these
naval men acquire. He asked after you, rather as if he expected to find
you here."

Georgiana said to herself that he wanted the latest news of Kitty, or,
at all events, any he could not obtain from Mrs. Knightley, and was glad
to be saved the necessity of replying aloud by Mrs. Hurst's beginning to
speak. Yes, they had quite liked him; she thought of inviting him to
fill a vacant place at a dinner she was giving the following week, for
these young men who had travelled could always talk entertainingly
enough to be worth while; but she would like to be assured of his
character; she fancied he had been a good deal run after and spoilt, and
certainly he was a great flirt.

Georgiana's heart swelled, and her pulse beat quick at such an
accusation, while she uttered a mild but steady protest against it. Mrs.
Hurst maintained her ground, but her young guest was supported by Miss
Bingley, who said: "Nonsense, Louisa, you know I have told you there is
really nothing in that. All these young officers, especially those who
have seen service, are bound to be run after, whether they will or not.
And as to his being a great flirt, we have seen him once or twice going
about with a very good-looking woman, and that is all the reason we have
for thinking so."

"How can you say such a thing, Caroline? Mr. Price is perfectly at
liberty to go about with as many handsome women as he likes, even if
their brothers are notoriously vicious, but if he is engaged to one of
them--and from all we heard and saw at Emma Knightley's the other night
he certainly ought to be--one has a right to expect a little more
discretion."

"It is not at all certain that he is engaged to Kitty Bennet, I
believe," said Caroline; "you know Emma Knightley's great schemes do not
always come to anything." Georgiana was thereupon appealed to by both
sisters to give a denial or confirmation of the fact alleged, and she
could only say that she believed that at present he and Kitty were not
engaged.

"That rather supports my opinion of him," said Mrs. Hurst. "But I shall
be glad to be proved wrong. Georgiana, if you are behind the scenes, you
must let us know as soon as there is anything to be told."

"And in the meantime, unless you think Mr. Price likely to injure our
morals, you had better invite him to dinner," added her sister.

Georgiana felt unaccountably disturbed by this conversation. She could
not bear hearing a person ill spoken of whom she had every wish and
reason to like and esteem, and though she felt sure her own impressions
of Mr. Price, which differed so widely from Mrs. Hurst's, were far more
likely to be the correct ones, her timidity in trusting her own
judgments caused her to pause and wonder whether she had been too hasty
in being so impulsively delighted with him; ought she not, as Kitty's
friend, to be more cautious until she had been sure that he was not
going to disappoint the hopes of that friend? That he _had_ raised high
hopes, Georgiana knew, but even supposing Kitty's imagination had been
her strong ally, his attentions, and Kitty's willing acceptance of them,
had clearly been such as to expose her to remark. Georgiana sighed over
the difficulties of the whole problem. She could not bring herself to
believe that William Price was a flirt, though the picture of him in
constant attendance upon a handsome woman who had doubtful relations,
when he should have thought only of Kitty, was an unwelcome one. No one
with that countenance, that frank smile and clear honest eye could
surely be other than he seemed, and yet--Georgiana had not to look far
into the past to find a disappointment, as unexpected, as severe, as Mr.
Price's defection could be. The persons who were apparently most
attractive could often fail one most disastrously. With Miss Crawford's
image on one side of her, and William Price's on the other, Georgiana
felt that anything was possible, but she resolved to keep an open mind;
she recollected that Kitty and Mrs. Knightley must know him more
intimately than Mrs. Hurst did, and in trying to obliterate the latter's
words from her mind she fell into a reverie, wherein she lived again
through every joyous moment of Mrs. Knightley's ball.

During the ensuing week the long-wished-for letters arrived, but, as is
usual in such cases, they fell far short of expectation. Which of us has
not looked forward, some time or another, to receiving a letter which we
are convinced will have an important effect upon our minds? It will
clear up a mystery, give specific information, console us in affliction,
or furnish the exact counsels which we need; we depend upon it for one
or all of these things, and we continue to do so, even though the letter
which arrives after so much anticipation is almost always inadequate. It
tells us half instead of all we expected our correspondent to know, its
advice has overlooked our difficulties and does not meet the case, its
words of comfort are few and arid. Yet hope leads us ever on, and the
envelope bearing our friend's handwriting is torn open with as much
eagerness at the fiftieth crisis as at the first. Georgiana put down
Elizabeth's letter with a feeling of disappointment, yet telling herself
that she could not have expected anything else. Elizabeth wrote that
various matters had prevented her from seeing Kitty up to that time,
but that she had heard from Jane all particulars of Kitty's
acquaintanceship with Mr. Price, with additional interest from having
heard his name already from the Wentworths, and was inclined to
entertain the most favourable hopes regarding it; it was difficult to
say more without seeing the young people together, and they could only
look forward to the visit in November, and trust to it to bring about
the happiest results. This was the ordinary, sensible view, and
Georgiana took up Kitty's letter wondering whether she was now calm
enough in mind to be induced to take the same.

"Desborough Park,

"July.

"My Dear Georgiana,

"I make no apology for not writing, for you know what it is like here
the first few days, so much to see, and Jane wanting me all the time,
besides, you have all the news, now that I have left London there is
nothing for me to relate. I received your letter from Mrs. Annesley's,
but pray write again as soon as you possibly can and tell me if you have
seen anything of Mr. P----. I was so enchanted to hear Miss Bingley ask
him to call, as it meant I should hear of him from you. He stayed on
quite a long time at the ball, and Mrs. Knightley told me he thanked her
in such a _particular_ and _unmistakable_ way when he said good-night! I
forgot to ask you, do you not think he dances exquisitely? I have never
worn that rose-coloured gown since. How I long for November! What shall
I do if he is prevented? I cannot describe how thankful I am that I did
not go with Lydia to the West Indies. I have seen Mr. Morland, whom you
told me of, a great many times; indeed, he spends half his time here, as
Jane and Bingley are very fond of him. He is very pleasant, considering
he is a clergyman. He is laying out his garden at the Rectory afresh,
and Jane is giving him a quantity of plants, so we go down there
frequently to help him to put them in. Now I must conclude, as Mr.
Morland is coming to take me out in a boat on the lake. It will be very
amusing, as I have never been able to get near enough to the
water-lilies to gather them, but as I say to Mr. Morland, we can neither
of us swim, and what will happen then? Jane sends you many messages.

"Your affectionate friend."

A postscript on another page added: "Mrs. K. says that Mr. P. is likely
to be made commander very soon. I hope he will not be, for he would have
to join the ship immediately, but would not _Captain Price_ sound well?"

_Captain Price_ sounded very well; even Georgiana could not help
thinking so, as she smiled over Kitty's artless question, which resented
the promotion while it welcomed the title. This letter, too, was just
what might have been expected; Kitty was nursing her attachment in the
country just as she had nursed it in town, and Georgiana was called upon
to supply it with nourishment. She would have to wait until after she
had seen Mr. Price to know whether any was forthcoming.

Mrs. Hurst's dinner-party took place, and closely resembled every other
function of the same kind in fashionable houses, being very long, very
correct and very sumptuous. Georgiana wished that Louisa would place her
next to Mr. Price, but this was not done, and accordingly, though he
walked straight towards her after having spoken to his host and
hostesses, he had scarcely inquired after her health before he was drawn
away to be introduced to his dinner partner, while Georgiana was
accosted by hers, a certain Captain Wentworth whom, with his wife, she
had met in Bath the year before. The Wentworths went there regularly,
and the friendship which existed between them and the Darcy family had
been renewed there in the previous April. On one occasion, when they had
all happened to be in town together, Elizabeth had introduced the
Wentworths to Mrs. Hurst, and the result had been a liking on the part
of that lady stronger than with her cold and narrow disposition she was
usually inclined to form. The liking was not, perhaps, quite so heartily
returned, but Captain Wentworth was sociable and enjoyed mixing with the
world, and Anne's tender solicitude for him caused her to accept
willingly any invitations likely to procure him amusement, both at
Winchester, where they lived, and in the course of their frequent visits
to town.

Captain Wentworth well remembered Mr. and Mrs. Darcy's shy, handsome
sister, and prepared for a pleasant evening when he found in her less of
the former quality, and even more than she had used to possess of the
latter. On her other side was seated the alarming Mr. Knightley, and
Georgiana was glad to find she had at all events one companion so
conversable as Captain Wentworth, who belonged to the profession she was
most interested in, even though he was not the representative of it
which she would have chosen.

Their talk was lively, for Captain Wentworth had the art of treating
subjects amusingly, and of drawing from his companion professions of
opinion which she had not till then known herself to hold. Somehow or
other they had drifted on to the topic of inconsistency in sailors, and
Captain Wentworth gravely undertook their defence against this charge.

"I assure you, Miss Darcy, it is a great mistake, made only because
people are unacquainted with our true character. It is of long standing,
but a fallacy just as much as many other accepted fallacies--for
instance, that parrots always talk bad language, that ladies cannot
keep accounts, that the King can do no wrong, etc."

"Oh, stop, please, Captain Wentworth," interposed Georgiana. "You are
opening up too many vexed questions. I was going to say," she added more
seriously, "that no doubt you are quite right, but I should think if
they are inconstant it would not be so very strange, for they must have
so many temptations."

"Not at all; I protest they have no more excuse on that head than any
other class of man. If a man is inconstant by nature, he will be so,
whether he is a sailor or a butcher's assistant. I speak from
experience, for I know I tried very hard to be inconstant, and could not
succeed, though I had as many temptations as mist."

"Knowing Mrs. Wentworth," said Georgiana, with a smile at that lady, "I
cannot help being aware of how strong a temptation you had to be the
reverse."

"Exactly; and so would it be with anyone who had once given whatever
affection he had to bestow. How have you got the idea, Miss Darcy, that
we poor men of the sea are so fickle?"

"Indeed, no, I have not got it," replied Georgiana, trying to speak
lightly. "I was merely speculating, for I know too little about it to
form any judgments. It was put into my mind through hearing someone say
that young officers were so much sought after everywhere; and I thought,
if that were so, it was only natural that the amiable ones might find,
eventually, that they had formed many more friendships than they could
possibly keep up."

"Very considerately put, Miss Darcy; but, in effect, what you mean is
that they continually 'love and ride away.' Sailors may have more
opportunity for that kind of living, but, upon my word, I do not believe
they have more inclination. But granting that it is so, I gather that
you are prepared to forgive them this little weakness?"

"That is asking rather too much, Captain Wentworth," replied Georgiana,
in the same spirit of gaiety. Had she spoken the whole truth, she would
have said: "Certainly not, if any friend of mine were involved," but not
wishing her companion to think that their chat had any personal
application, she continued: "I shall be able to tell better when I have
met with such a case," and turned the subject off with a smile.

Soon after the ladies returned to the drawing-room Georgiana seated
herself beside Mrs. Wentworth, whose gentle manners, combined with
serenity of temper and the power she had of entering, unobtrusively, but
none the less sincerely, into the feelings of others, had for Georgiana
a strong attraction. They had not met for so long that there was much to
be talked over between them. Mrs. Wentworth presently asked after
Colonel Fitzwilliam, and explained that she happened to know he was in
town through seeing him a few nights previously at the theatre, where
she had been with a party invited by her father and sister. Georgiana
replied that he was well, but had gone away since then; and so as not to
dwell on the subject, asked for a description of the play, which led
them on to other topics of interest, when they were interrupted by Mrs.
Knightley's joining them. Her errand was merely to ask for news of
Kitty, and Georgiana, rather than resenting the smile of mutual
understanding with which the question was put, answered as briefly as
she could without discourtesy.

Mrs. Knightley then began talking of other things, and resettled herself
in her chair, so that Georgiana despaired of having Mrs. Wentworth to
herself any more that evening; but perceiving she was not wanted
elsewhere, she continued to retain her place until the gentlemen entered
the room, simultaneously with the tea and coffee, which the servants
began to dispense. Mr. Price obtained cups immediately, and brought them
across the room to the group of ladies, at once warmly greeting Mrs.
Wentworth. Mrs. Knightley remained beside them, and Georgiana indulged
in a little private regret, partly on her own account and partly on his,
for she knew he must be wanting to talk to her about Kitty, and since
there was music during the evening, the present might be the only
opportunity they would have. She began to think of moving away, for Mr.
Price seemed quite monopolized by Mrs. Knightley, who was endeavouring
to show him off by asking him questions and calling Mrs. Wentworth's
attention to the answers; and though Georgiana was grateful to his
efforts to draw her in, by an occasional smiling glance at her and a
"Don't you think so, Miss Darcy?" there did not seem to be any place for
a fourth in their conversation.

Presently, however, an interruption arrived in the person of Captain
Wentworth, who came, with coffee-cup in hand, to join their group, and
as Mr. Price stood aside to give him room, he exclaimed cheerfully:
"Well, Price, have you and my wife undertaken the conversion of Miss
Darcy yet? Here has someone been deluding her with most horrible picture
of us sailors--'one foot on sea, and one on shore, to one thing constant
never'--you know the rest of it. I have been trying to persuade her that
it is all wrong."

Georgiana, blushing and smiling, began to protest, and Mrs. Wentworth,
to spare her, also treated it as a joke, but Mrs. Knightley, when she
had comprehended Captain Wentworth's meaning, gave her a look of no
great goodwill, and said: "Surely Miss Darcy does not take seriously
what is merely a vulgar tradition. 'Men were deceivers ever' was not
written with special reference to sailors, I imagine, but to men in
general."

"Of course not," said Captain Wentworth, with mock gravity; "but Miss
Darcy does not base her suspicions on those lines only, but on far more
serious premises."

"Frederick, I will not have you tease Miss Darcy so unmercifully," said
Mrs. Wentworth. "It is really too bad. I am sure you have placed words
in her mouth which she never uttered, has he not, Miss Darcy?"

Georgiana, struggling with embarrassment, amusement and not a little
real vexation, as she was conscious of Mr. Price's eyes being turned
silently upon her, could not protest as intelligibly as she would have
wished. "Yes, Mrs. Wentworth, it is quite untrue--I never said anything
of the kind. Captain Wentworth, you are unfair--not that it really
matters--but I said I had no opinion on the subject--I only thought I
could quite understand their being changeable, if they were."

Whether her hearers could extract any meaning from these words, she did
not know, but it was certain that her confusion stood her in good stead,
for Captain Wentworth immediately apologized with just as much
seriousness as was needful. "I am very sorry, Miss Darcy; pray excuse my
stupidity. I was so distressed to feel that we, as a class, should merit
your disapproval in even one particular, that I wanted to clear our
characters--and, after all, you are so kind as to imply that they needed
no clearing."

"I do not think Miss Darcy implied that," said Mrs. Knightley, "and I
confess myself curious to learn why she thinks naval men are likely to
be changeable; it would be interesting to compare notes, for my
experience of them has led me to the opposite conclusion."

Georgiana felt the double edge in Mrs. Knightley's words, and it was
painful to her to be so completely misunderstood, even in such a
trifling matter; but she had hardly recovered her composure enough to
defend herself when Captain Wentworth took the matter out of her hands.

"Miss Darcy's experience of inconstancy in sailors has been a sad one,
Mrs. Knightley," he said solemnly. "It is drawn entirely from books and
plays, and we know how persistently they look on the dark side of human
nature. She only needs to become acquainted better with real life, as
personified in myself, Mr. Price" (with a bow to William) "and many
other admirable specimens of naval men, to form the soundest of opinions
of us. Pardon me, Miss Darcy, for assuming the role of spokesman, but I
fancied the fear of offending my modesty might have prevented you from
expressing such sentiments as you would wish."

"I hope you will always interpret me as correctly as you have done,
Captain Wentworth," returned Georgiana, smiling; and seeing that Mrs.
Knightley was beginning to speak in a low tone to Mr. Price, and not
wishing to hear any of her comments, she turned to Mrs. Wentworth and
proposed that they should move to chairs nearer the pianoforte. They
therefore turned in that direction, but Mr. Price could hardly have any
time to reply to Mrs. Knightley, for an instant later he was at
Georgiana's side, asking if he might find her a seat; and Mrs. Wentworth
being just then drawn away by Miss Bingley, she not unwillingly allowed
him to lead her to a sofa on the opposite side of the room, to procure
her another cup of coffee, her own having been removed, and to sit
beside her, talking quietly and agreeably in a manner that soothed her
nerves, irritated as they were by Captain Wentworth's ill-timed
raillery. She listened absently, without saying much, grateful to him
for not renewing the subject which had just been dropped and hoping he
had not attached any importance to it; but her attention was all alert
when after a pause he inquired: "Have you good accounts of Miss Bennet
since she left town?"

She tried to collect her scattered ideas, to remember what Kitty
expected of her. Yes, she had had good accounts; she thought her friend
was very well and, she believed, enjoying the country, though it
probably seemed very quiet to her after such a long visit to London.

William Price assented, and said that Miss Bennet had so much freshness
and enthusiasm, she could enjoy many things, and enter keenly into them
all.

Georgiana fully endorsed this, but thought that Kitty had had a
particularly delightful visit to town this year and really regretted
leaving.

William Price said that Miss Bennet's friends were very sorry to lose
her.

"This is all very well," thought Georgiana, "but we do not get any
farther. Am I shy of him, or is he shy of me? Oh, I wonder what Kitty
would like me to say? If I were Mrs. Knightley I could probably bring in
the inconstancy of sailors with good effect. I suppose she thinks that I
mean to throw a doubt on Mr. Price; how unlucky that it should have had
that appearance!"

She was assisted in her meditations by Mr. Price's remarking that he had
never been in Derbyshire, and imagined it to be a beautiful county, and
this afforded her the opportunity of descanting on the loveliness of its
scenery and the particular attractions of the country round Desborough
Park. She added that she hoped there would be nothing to prevent him
from seeing it for himself that autumn, and he replied warmly, agreeing
and saying that if he were still his own master at that time nothing
should prevent it. A question or two about Pemberley followed, and the
relative positions of the two houses; he had heard of it as being a show
place from his sister, Mrs. Bertram, who had made a tour through the
midland counties to visit all the cathedrals and old churches, but, he
declared, had actually been so worldly as to look at one or two of the
grand mansions as well. Georgiana questioned its worldliness, and was
told that his brother and sister were the dearest people, but dreadfully
good; they thought everything wrong.

This description, of which Georgiana would have liked to have heard
more, was interrupted by a song, and at its conclusion Mr. Price was
waiting with the inquiry: "Do you return to Pemberley soon, Miss Darcy?"

"In about a month, I think; but I leave town in a fortnight's time to
stay with my aunt at Hunsford."

"I am leaving London almost immediately, I am sorry to say," said
William Price. "I have to go down to Portsmouth, where my mother is
changing houses, and as she has that and a quantity of lawyers' business
on her hands, since my father died, she wishes me to help her."

Georgiana could not but approve of this decision, but she thought it
partly accounted for the young man's being in far less good spirits this
evening than on the previous occasion; he evidently did not like to quit
London. She was endeavouring to think of a way of conveying to him that
she would see Kitty almost as soon as she reached home, when the opening
of a solo on the harp caused her to forget everything but the sound of
the instrument, in which she had always taken extreme delight. Mr.
Price, too, listened with close attention, and when it was over, and
they were commending the performance, he exclaimed: "The harp always
reminds me of one of the most charming women I ever knew, who used to
play it--still does, I daresay, at all events it is associated
inseparably with her."

Curiosity as well as politeness impelled Georgiana to ask for more
particulars, for she privately wished very much to know what her
companion's idea of a charming woman might be, and he answered readily
enough: "She was a lady I first met some years ago at Mansfield before
my sister's marriage; she was a friend of the whole Bertram family, and,
in a way, of my sister's also; but circumstances divided them, Miss
Crawford's people left the neighbourhood, and now I only see her
occasionally in town."

Miss Darcy's start and heightening of colour did not escape him; he
looked inquiringly at her, and question and answer broke from them both
simultaneously. "Yes, I have met Miss Crawford," said Georgiana, "what a
very strange thing! I was introduced to her in the gardens the other day
by--by a mutual friend, and I had heard of her before from my brother
and sister."

"That is indeed strange! I wish I had known when I was with her last. I
have been seeing a good deal of Mrs. Grant, her sister, and Miss
Crawford lately, being myself that abomination, an idle man about town,
but it has just this once had its agreeable side."

Georgiana murmured that she had supposed he was seldom in London for so
long, and he continued, with perfect ease and frankness: "Quite true;
indeed, I have never before had time to see the sights; and Miss
Crawford, who is a regular Londoner, takes me about to them, in order,
she says, to waste my time as usefully as possible. To-day we were at a
picture gallery, and last week we went to see an exhibition of silver,
models of ships, most interesting and unusual it was; I would not have
missed it for the world. The curious design and rigging of them! I
should like to have shown them to you, Miss Darcy."

Georgiana echoed his wish, but was so much interested in pursuing her
theory that Miss Crawford was the handsome young woman Mrs. Hurst had
spoken of, that she ventured one more question: "You said you had known
Miss Crawford for some time, Mr. Price?"

"Oh, yes, for years; looking back on it, I must have been quite a small
boy when we first met; at all events, I regarded her as being one of my
elders. That is a very ungallant thing to say, is it not? I do not know
why I said it. But I always had a great regard for her, and when the
families were alienated I always tried to keep in touch with her and
Mrs. Grant, for the severance was through no fault of hers, only her
brother's--though I know the blame for it has often been laid at her
door."

How easy it is to believe in people, if only we wish to do so! This
speech fully accounted for all that had been heard of Mr. Price, and
acquitted him of any lightness of conduct; he had merely been faithful
to an old friend; and Miss Crawford was only proved more worthy than
before of Colonel Fitzwilliam's esteem. Georgiana longed to inquire
further, to see if Mr. Price could throw more light on the recent
perplexing event, but felt it would be presumption to do so, and he sat
musing for a few moments, unaware of the sentiments he had aroused in
his companion, until, in response to a remark from her, he exclaimed
warmly: "Yes, she is indeed a beautiful woman, and as charming as
beautiful. You would like her, Miss Darcy, if you knew her. I heard this
evening that she was engaged; I do not know if it is true, but I am
inclined to hope not if I heard the name aright; still, one must presume
it will be all for the best."

He spoke the last words somewhat hurriedly, as if not wishing to dwell
on them, but could not overlook the anxiety in Georgiana's face and
voice. "Is she engaged, Mr. Price? I thought perhaps that might be the
case. Do you know to whom it is?"

"I heard a name mentioned, Miss Darcy, but I do not like--I am uncertain
whether it is correct--I should like to verify it first," said William
Price, in some embarrassment.

"Of course, I quite understand. It would not be fair to say anything
until you are sure. But no doubt it is true." And Georgiana, with a
sigh, fell into a reverie, which her companion, observing her with
solicitude, did not venture to interrupt.

They were divided a few minutes later, Georgiana being called upon to
contribute a solo upon the pianoforte, and she could not help feeling
gratified to see that William Price listened attentively to her playing,
for the love of music was in her eyes, an additionally attractive
feature in anyone's character. These were the pleasantest impressions
she derived from the evening, for on the whole they had been sad ones;
she had inadvertently exposed herself to being misunderstood by Mrs.
Knightley, and perhaps by Mrs. Wentworth, for whose esteem she cared far
more; she had not been able to say one word to help Kitty, and would
have no news to give of the kind that Kitty was longing for; and, worst
of all, her fears for her cousin were confirmed; instead of anyone being
able to help him, he could only be told that the disappointment he had
experienced was a final and permanent one. Georgiana's thoughts were all
for him; they hardly even strayed to speculate upon Miss Crawford's
choice, except for a touch of wondering pity for one who had possessed
his regard and thrown it away for another's. No; the world was
determinedly awry, and Georgiana went to bed longing for the comfort of
Elizabeth and Pemberley, and dreading the days to be spent under the
judicial and unsympathetic eye of her Aunt Catherine.



Chapter XII


Elizabeth and her husband desired Georgiana's return as much as she did
herself, but Lady Catherine had been very urgent that her niece should
visit her, and they judged it right that she should take the opportunity
of going, while comparatively near Rosings. Georgiana had never before
stayed there without the protection of her brother's or sister's
presence; but she found it to be less alarming than she feared, for her
aunt was probably disposed to be more complaisant and less dictatorial
to her than to any other living creature; and while not comprehending
her niece's character in the least, wished to make her happy, if it were
possible to be happy, in the best Rosings manner. So Georgiana
obediently played the piano, joined in games of quadrille, drove out
with her cousin in the pony chaise, endured her aunt's admonishments,
and listened politely to Lady Catherine's long stories about her own
youth; and the time did at length pass away, though not until she had
many times decided that London, even with the agitations that it had
afforded this year, was far less wearing to the temper and spirits.

The date of her homecoming was fixed for the fifth of August, and an
escort was unexpectedly found in the person of Mr. Bennet, who had made
one of his sudden resolves to go and stay with his two daughters, Mrs.
Bennet having the prospect of her sister, Mrs. Phillips's, companionship
throughout that month. Georgiana was enchanted when this decision was
conveyed to her, as it ensured that no postponement of the journey would
be made upon any pretext. Mr. Bennet had proposed visiting his daughters
and bringing back Kitty, and the first part of this suggestion was
warmly welcomed; the second they could not promise to accede to, but Mr.
Bennet would be conferring a signal service if he would meet Miss Darcy
in London and bring her home. Mr. Bennet declared himself quite
agreeable; let Miss Darcy name her own day for starting, and it should
be his; but once named, it must be considered fixed, for Mr. Bennet, it
must be noted, had a wife and five daughters, and knew something of the
variability of the female mind. He had, however, never been in less
danger of a change of plans than on this occasion.

Elizabeth had received the first intimation of her father's intended
visit shortly after dispatching to Georgiana the letter which has been
mentioned, and having now so many matters to talk over with Jane, she
determined on going to Desborough without delay. An hour or two's chat
would not be sufficient, and she therefore arranged to stay for a night
and return the following afternoon, and pressed Darcy to accompany her;
but this he declined to do, telling her that he should only be in the
way when she, Jane and Kitty were putting their heads together for a
feminine conclave, and Bingley was as bad as the rest.

It happened that Jane was alone when she arrived, Bingley being out
riding with Kitty and Mr. Morland; but he was not long in returning,
and when Kitty had greeted her sister, and retired to change her dress,
he joined the conference, as Darcy had foretold.

"Well, Elizabeth," he began, "and how do you find Kitty? I never saw her
in better looks. And has Jane told you about my young friend in London,
who, it appears, is an admirer of hers? I declare I had not an idea of
it when I asked him to come down, but it turns out very well as it
happens."

Elizabeth admitted herself informed, and asked Bingley for particulars
of Mr. Price's character, appearance and manners, of which it was to be
presumed he could give a more reasonable account than Kitty. He spoke
warmly in the young man's praise, and mentioned what he had heard of his
family and connections from Mr. Yates.

"It seems most satisfactory," said Elizabeth, "and his being a friend of
the Wentworths is a further recommendation. I am quite looking forward
to meeting him, though time alone will show if there is anything in it."

"Kitty has set her heart on it to such an extent, that I feel extremely
anxious that she may have no disappointment," said Jane with tenderness.
"It would be enough to make her ill, her sensibilities are so acute! One
can see how she watches for the letters from Mrs. Knightley, and the
eagerness with which she reads them."

"Whatever Mrs. Knightley may do," said Elizabeth, "in my opinion we
should not be acting wisely by Kitty in encouraging her to talk and
think much about it. On the young man's side it has not gone beyond a
promising inclination, I infer, and it may never be more."

"You are a prudent creature, Elizabeth," exclaimed her brother-in-law;
"but as regards Kitty, your precautions are too late, as I know to my
cost. There was I thinking I was bringing down the very girl for Morland
to fall in love with--indeed, I had almost told him so--and now it
appears she is more than half engaged to someone else, and what good is
that to a man who wants a wife to establish in that big house of his?"

"Well," said Elizabeth, laughing, "you need not reproach yourself,
Charles. A house and living were promised to Mr. Morland; but a wife, I
believe, was not in the bond."

"It would have been very pleasant to have provided him with one,
nevertheless," returned Bingley. "As it is, they see a great deal of
each other, and are such excellent friends, that if it were not all such
a profound secret it would be incumbent on me to give him a hint of the
state of things."

Elizabeth looked at her sister for confirmation of this, and Jane
replied: "Yes, they are good friends. Kitty seems to enjoy his
companionship, and he has evidently a strong liking for her, so that I
sometimes feel afraid lest it should develop into anything likely to
cause him pain hereafter. But, of course, as I have repeatedly told
Bingley, even in view of such a contingency we have no right to betray
our knowledge of Kitty's private hopes."

As Mr. Morland dined at Desborough, Elizabeth had an opportunity of
observing the young people, and she thought she had seldom seen Kitty to
greater advantage; her particularly delicate beauty was heightened
partly by excitement and partly by the healthful country life. She was
at perfect ease, happy with her sisters and Mr. Bingley, and treating
Mr. Morland much as she would have treated an elderly friend of the
family, not as a man to be captivated. The feeling of frank
goodfellowship which he seemed to inspire was a simple and wholesome
one, and Elizabeth tried to rest assured that Mr. Morland was aware of
Kitty's attitude towards him and wished for nothing more. That, indeed,
was the impression he gave; but the longer she was with him, the more
clearly she perceived that now his circumstances were more settled a
quiet contentment, an evenness of temper, had become habitual to him,
without taking away the earnestness, the steadfastness of purpose, which
underlay the whole. She felt that she did not yet thoroughly know Mr.
Morland; and the following morning, in the course of a brief talk with
Kitty, she suggested to her in the gentlest possible way of the
desirability of not allowing so excellent a young man, who was also a
solitary one, to entertain thoughts of her which might be so much more
easily admitted to his mind than expelled from it. Kitty had just been
giving wings to her imagination in a description of Mr. Price, which
Elizabeth had felt herself hard-hearted to be obliged to check, and the
young girl with difficulty came down to earth again to Mr. Morland, to
assure Elizabeth, with all haste of indifference, that she was positive
that Morland did not think of her in that way; he only cared for his
parish and his house, and as for his being solitary--why, his sister
Sarah was coming to live with him.

Elizabeth was compelled to be content, and, in addition, she secured a
promise from Jane that Kitty should come to Pemberley about the middle
of September. Kitty was delighted with the arrangement, so long as there
was one which secured her return to Desborough for the shooting-party
early in November. Her eldest sister exhibited an almost equal amount of
eagerness on her behalf to settle this important matter; and Kitty, who
had been living in terror lest some cruel fate should intervene to send
her back to Longbourn before that time, breathed more freely when her
sisters undertook to obtain her father's consent to such a long absence.

Mr. Bennet and Georgiana duly arrived at Pemberley, and were welcomed
with all the warmth that affection could show. They had been a curiously
assorted pair of travelling companions, and their relations had
speculated with amusement upon their chances of congeniality. Neither
being talkers, they had at least had that in common, though after their
arrival Georgiana smilingly reproached Mr. Bennet with having intently
studied a book of Latin poetry throughout the whole journey, and Mr.
Bennet gravely apologized for not having selected a volume more suitable
for reading aloud; he was sorry he had not been at more pains to while
away the time for a young lady who was exceedingly punctual, and always
ready when the carriage came round. For his own part, he declared that
he felt himself becoming more conversational with every mile of the way,
in proof of which he twice voluntarily told Elizabeth during the first
hour that he was glad to see her again, and announced that, after his
own library, there was no place he would sooner be in than Mr. Darcy's.

The first evening was a cheerful one, there was so much to say, so many
friends to inquire after, adventures to relate, and plans to detail. The
children were brought in, and, according to the time-honoured custom
everywhere, were pronounced to have grown, though it is to be feared
that Mr. Bennet was not an ideal grandparent, for he so far
miscalculated as to bring them toys which they could not properly
appreciate for some years at least; and Elizabeth wanted to hear of
little William and Elizabeth Collins, with whom Georgiana had often
played at Hunsford Parsonage, and who were described as being strikingly
like their father and mother respectively.

It was not until the following day, when the sisters were alone
together, that any words passed between them concerning Colonel
Fitzwilliam. Elizabeth showed Georgiana a few brief lines she had
received from him, stating little more than the bare facts of his
departure and its cause. "She is engaged, and it is all over for me now.
At all events, I know the worst," he wrote. "Do not be too compassionate
for me, Elizabeth. I have been a fool, to think that anything so bright
and lovely should become mine. Yet I did not think she would bestow
herself where she has. I was a laggard, I suppose, and I threw my chance
away in Bath; and how could she wait until I had reinstated myself? No,
my dream is over. You will hear of her engagement, no doubt, and I beg
you to tell her that I join with you in wishes for her happiness. I
shall be with you at Pemberley before long. Georgiana is an angel. I did
not deserve from her one quarter of the kindness she showed me."

In a postscript he added: "Will Darcy trust me to choose him a horse? I
have seen a beautiful pair of bays, that would suit your large carriage,
besides a perfect chestnut hunter."

Georgiana sighed and smiled over the letter, and Elizabeth said: "Yes,
he evidently does not wish us to think he is overwhelmed by it, though
from what he does _not_ say I can realize the depth of his feeling. It
is incredible; for, of course, it must be Sir Walter Elliot."

Sir Walter's was only a name to Georgiana, a vague recollection from the
last year at Bath, and she replied that she had heard of the engagement
from another source, without particulars. Elizabeth gave a vigorous
description of him and ended by saying that she should wait and see if
the necessity for writing to Miss Crawford arose, for she did not feel
much disposed to congratulate her.

Kitty's affairs were, of course, passed under review, and Elizabeth was
somewhat surprised to find that Georgiana was a staunch upholder of the
notion that William Price was likely to make her an offer, as she had
fancied that the accounts might have been exaggerated, and that
Georgiana would be the one to take a sober and dispassionate view. But
her asseverations of her belief that Mr. Price's truth and steadiness,
and in Kitty's being unlikely to have deceived herself in this case,
went farther to convince Elizabeth than anything she had heard before.

The next few weeks passed in tranquil enjoyment for all the persons in
the Pemberley circle, in which must be comprised the party from
Desborough, as no plan of any importance could be carried through
without the joining of forces, and the inclusion of Mr. Morland on the
one side and the Ferrars from Pemberley Rectory on the other. The
Bingleys, with the two young people, frequently drove over to spend a
day or two days, and when Mr. Bennet removed to Desborough towards the
end of August, it was not felt to be so much of a break-up as a changing
of the scene of their activities. Boating expeditions, rides over the
moors, blackberry gatherings, or evenings spent quietly at home in games
or music, something could always be found to suit the tastes of a party
of people who were bent on finding pleasure in each other's company;
even Kitty felt that only one thing was wanting to fill her cup of
happiness to the brim, for her father had sanctioned her staying on
until November, the month, she hoped, which would see its overflow.

For one person, however, this peaceful time was about to end in pain and
disappointment. Mrs. Bingley and her sister were sitting indoors
together one morning in the middle of September, when Mr. Morland was
observed approaching the house. He was such a frequent caller that it
had become a habit with him to walk straight in, and the ladies, after
waiting for some time, wondered at his non-appearance, and still more at
the intelligence brought by a servant, in answer to Jane's summons, that
Mr. Morland had asked only for Mr. Bennet, and had been shown into the
library.

"What can he want with my father?" said Jane, a suspicion of the truth
shooting across her mind and checking her utterance, as she glanced
anxiously at her sister; but no such idea seemed to have occurred to
Kitty, who innocently conjectured their interview to be a literary
conference, or a discussion that had arisen out of Mr. Morland's
sermon-making.

Mr. Bennet, on perceiving his visitor, might have anticipated something
of the kind, but Mr. Morland's first words corrected him. The young
man's errand was indeed nothing more or less than to make a formal
proposal for the hand of Mr. Bennet's daughter and to request permission
to address her. He was nervous, as men in his situation are apt to be,
but genuine feeling and sound sense enabled him to state his case well,
if not very fluently, as he represented the strength of his attachment
and described his worldly position and prospects.

Mr. Bennet had long ceased to be surprised at receiving applications of
the kind, however unexpected they might be, and certainly this one found
him quite unprepared. What little thought he had given to the subject
had certainly not led him to the supposition of Mr. Morland's becoming
his son-in-law, and he endeavoured to make his answer a discouraging
one.

"My daughter will be much honoured by your high opinion of her, Mr.
Morland, and I have no reason to think ill of your pretensions; but I
must admit that I have not remarked on her part any strong prepossession
in your favour."

"It is one of the things I have found most charming in Miss Bennet's
character, sir," replied Morland, "that she would not easily give her
heart away, or readily suppose a man to be enslaved by her. No one else
could have failed to perceive the depth of my admiration, but she has
seemed quite unconscious of it, though at the same time I am fully aware
that there is no brilliancy or distinction about me, nothing to attract
anyone who herself possesses a full measure of those qualities."

He looked so downcast that Mr. Bennet remarked: "If that were the
question, Mr. Morland, you might set your mind at rest, for my daughter,
though a very good girl, is not brilliant, nor would she be comfortable
with a husband of that description."

This observation inspired Mr. Morland to a fairly long speech, in which
he extolled Kitty's amiable qualities and dwelt on his own demerits, but
notwithstanding the contrast thereby presented, he was able to deduce a
number of excellent reasons for his being allowed to propose to Miss
Bennet without delay. Mr. Bennet heard him in silence, and at the end
replied that, though flattered by Mr. Morland's first referring to him,
who was merely the father of the young lady, he could not answer for his
daughter's sentiments; he had found that in these matters his girls had
always made up their own minds, and no doubt would continue to do so.

"Indeed, yes, it is with Miss Bennet that I must plead my own cause; but
you will not refuse me your sanction?" said the young man, eagerly. "You
think so far favourably of my suit that you will place no bar in the way
of my--I trust I may in time say _our_ perfect happiness?"

"No, Mr. Morland, the way to your perfect happiness is open as far as I
am concerned," replied Mr. Bennet, taking up a book.

Morland's satisfaction at having the father even passively on his side
was very great, and he spoke his gratitude very warmly, mingling with it
such praises of Kitty, and such rosy prognostications of the future, as
caused Mr. Bennet to reply, in characteristic fashion: "Let me know when
the time comes to wish you joy, Mr. Morland, and I will do it, but life
is so uncertain that I think for the present I had better refrain. Have
you ascertained whether Kitty can cook, make her own gowns, and trim
hats? I understand it is a great promoter of married happiness when the
wife can do so, and I am not sure whether all my girls have turned their
education to such good account."

Mr. Morland only replied by asking if he might be allowed to see Miss
Bennet at once, and her father left the room, foreseeing that, whatever
happened, he should not have one more quiet hour during that day. His
anticipations were soon in the way to be fulfilled, for on finding his
daughters, and sending Kitty to the library, he had to give Jane an
outline of what had just passed, then repeat it to Bingley, who joined
them, and listened to their exclamations of surprise, and regret at the
probable downfall of Mr. Morland's hopes. Jane and Bingley were both too
convinced of Kitty's prior attachment to have the slightest expectation
of his success, and Mr. Bennet was put in full possession of the facts
relating to it, while they anxiously awaited the termination of the
interview.

It came, after some minutes, in a glimpse of Kitty emerging from the
library and hurrying upstairs with streaming eyes, and while they all
debated as to their next move, Mr. Morland was seen to cross the hall
rapidly, looking nowhere but in front of him, and leave the house with
precipitation. Jane herself, almost equally distressed, longed to go to
Kitty, and Bingley questioned whether he ought not to hasten after the
young man, while Mr. Bennet was disposed to think they would be better
left to themselves for a time, and wished heartily that there were only
just enough lovers in the world to go round, one to each young lady, and
none over.

In spite of this, Jane was not long in finding her way to her agitated
sister and in showing her the tenderest consideration. Kitty's distress
was very great, and also very sincere, for she had in truth been far
from guessing that Mr. Morland took a more than common interest in her,
and as is usual in such cases, the declaration of the young man's love
woke in her feelings which she had not known to exist, of reciprocal
kindness and even affection, which only did not share the nature and
strength of his. Kitty could never have been hard-hearted to any lover,
least of all to one whom she liked as much as she did James Morland, and
his devotion touched her as deeply as the knowledge that she could not
accept it wounded her. Between regrets for what had happened, pity for
him and for herself, and the excited thoughts of William Price which the
incident itself was bound to evoke, she was in a sad state, and Jane
easily prevailed upon her to have her dinner upstairs and go early to
bed. Not so easily could she check the tears which flowed continuously,
and Jane, to occupy her mind and body, proposed that she should go
to-morrow to Pemberley, instead of in three days' time, as arranged;
she could very well be sent over, and the change would be beneficial;
besides, she was not really leaving them, for there was the November
visit to look forward to. Kitty caught at the suggestion, and declining
the offices of the maid, began to busy herself about her packing, as
Jane hoped she would do, while the latter descended to consult with her
husband and father.

Mr. Bennet and Bingley both approved, and Jane hastily wrote a few lines
to Elizabeth to apprise her of what had happened, that she might be
prepared for Kitty's arrival. The two gentlemen walked to the nearest
post town to convey the letter; and after dinner the indefatigable
Bingley again set out, this time to the Rectory, to perform the same
kind office by James Morland as his wife had been doing by Kitty. The
young man, though calmer, proved far more unreceptive of consolation. He
had felt his rebuff acutely, for Kitty had been too much taken by
surprise, too sure of herself, to make it otherwise than decisive, and
even the modest hopes he had ventured to entertain, of being able to
make more progress with her once the subject was opened between them,
had been most thoroughly dispelled. Miss Bennet would not hear another
word of it--begged him never to speak of it again--with tears reproached
him for having spoilt everything, so that in addition to his own
disappointment he had the pain of feeling that she thought less well of
him than before. Bingley could deny this, but could not affirm anything
else likely to give him comfort. It remained for Morland himself to
declare, which he did in a firm though melancholy tone, that he
regretted having distressed Miss Bennet, and would endeavour so to meet
her in the future that she would not suffer through being reminded of
it by any act of word of his. Bingley commended his courage, told him of
Kitty's departure, and begged him to continue coming to Desborough just
the same; and walked home with a full report of what had just passed.

Jane shook her head over it, for, while sympathizing with both, she was
more truly sorry for Mr. Morland, since for him she could see no
immediate prospect of compensation, in spite of her father's assurances
that a young clergyman was seldom allowed to remain inconsolable for
more than six months, and if Kitty's other young man only did what was
expected of him, her fate would be a certainty in half that time.



Chapter XIII


Needless to say, Kitty was heartily welcomed by Georgiana and Elizabeth,
and given every opportunity to relieve her mind by descriptions of the
tragical affair in all its aspects. Both regretted it deeply for Mr.
Morland's sake, and Elizabeth privately did so for Kitty's sake, having
such a good opinion of him as to make her wish that Kitty could have
been persuaded out of her fancy for a young man, who, however excellent,
was comparatively a stranger to them all, and whose intentions, at
present, were extremely uncertain. She would have rejoiced if Kitty and
Morland could have made each other happy, and had entertained a slight
hope that her hint to Kitty might perhaps have helped matters, in
directing her thoughts into another channel, but it seemed to be of no
avail, and Georgiana gave her friend her warmest support, implying
entire agreement with her point of view. "I could not help it, now,
could I, Georgiana? You know yourself, Lizzie, that I never dreamt it.
How could I do anything else but refuse him outright? I was amazingly
grieved to do so, but you know very well, Georgiana, that if I could
think of one man more than another, _he_ is not that one." She paused
for assent, which Georgiana gave by a silent caress, and then continued:
"It is all so unfortunate. It will never be as pleasant at Desborough
now. Poor Mr. Morland! I wish I had not had to hurt him. He does want
someone so badly in the Rectory."

"Well, my dear, do not make yourself ill with these vain regrets," said
Elizabeth. "It is, as you say, very unfortunate, but no one blames you.
If you could not care for him, you could not do it, and someone else
will have to inhabit that nice Rectory."

Kitty looked as if this prospect were not very pleasing either, but
Georgiana, seeing what Elizabeth wished, began to talk cheerfully of
something else, and Kitty gradually joined in, though whenever the two
girls were alone together she found it difficult to abstain long from
referring to some branch of the subject.

Georgiana's loyalty and patience never failed, but she wished for
November almost as earnestly as Kitty herself, so that matters might
reach some definite conclusion, for Kitty's restlessness had
considerably increased since she had received James Morland's offer, and
she was constantly nervous and excitable and not mistress of herself. On
the day when the Bingleys and Mr. Bennet came over for the latter to
take leave before returning to Longbourn, this was specially noticeable
in her state of anxious flutter when drawing Jane aside to inquire after
Mr. Morland. Mr. Bennet bade her farewell gravely and more
affectionately than was his wont, telling her that he left her in good
hands, and would only give her one piece of advice, namely, that second
thoughts were sometimes best. Kitty blushed deeply and could not pretend
to misunderstand him, but told Georgiana afterwards that it was
impossible to have better second thoughts when Price was the first.

With his elder daughter Mr. Bennet was rather more explicit, telling
Elizabeth that he considered it was a great pity that so unobjectionable
a young man should have been sent about his business. Elizabeth entirely
agreed with him, and thought it would not be going too far to express
Mr. Morland's praise in even warmer terms.

"He will never set the Thames on fire, but there seems good stuff in
him," was Mr. Bennet's reply. "When he proposed for her I had not taken
much notice of him, except to think him a tolerably sensible fellow, and
of course I had to readjust my ideas; but I soon began to see that he
must not be judged by that alone. I have really liked him better, too,
for his way of taking his refusal."

"My dear father, it does not always indicate a want of sense to wish to
be married," interposed Elizabeth.

"Perhaps not, but Morland is much better off as he is than in marrying a
girl he knows so little about. Kitty is flighty and expensive; she ought
to stay longer with you and Jane, and not think of being married for the
next ten years."

Elizabeth smiled and said she thought that it was unnecessary, but that
it would certainly be better for Kitty to marry a clergyman than an
officer in the navy, who would be compelled to spend long periods away
from home.

"As to that, of course it is a complete absurdity, and I cannot think
why you women, who are so fond of making matches, did not originate
something less ridiculously unsuitable among yourselves."

Elizabeth thought it wiser not to explain who actually had originated
the idea, and said after a pause: "You were saying that you have liked
Mr. Morland better of late?"

"Yes, he has positively shown some sort of self-command and dignity. He
turned up at the house a day or two afterwards, apparently _not_ bent
on making us all uncomfortable by the sight of his misery, as most
rejected lovers do. Besides, Bingley had had the foresight to produce
some excellent port."

"I hear from Jane," said Elizabeth, "that he does not avoid or seek the
mention of Kitty, and she thinks he is trying to give up all hope of
her."

"Her absence for a few weeks will no doubt materially assist him," said
Mr. Bennet.

Kitty seized the opportunity offered by this visit to speak a private
word to her brother-in-law with reference to the hero, as Bingley
persisted in calling him. She herself had no news, for Mrs. Knightley's
frequent letters reported him still at Portsmouth, and Bingley had heard
nothing, but promised to write and renew his invitation as soon as
October was fairly in.

The same silence prevailed at Pemberley with regard to Miss Crawford. No
announcement of her marriage had reached any of them, and Elizabeth had
a half inclination to make some inquiries, but was dissuaded by Darcy,
who said: "Whatever precisely has happened, Elizabeth, we can be sure of
one thing, that Miss Crawford has allowed Fitzwilliam to understand that
she does not wish him to approach her again. Under these circumstances
it is better that you should have no news to give him."

Elizabeth sighed as she agreed to the wisdom of this decision, but when
shortly after her father's departure a letter was received from Colonel
Fitzwilliam to say he would be returning at the end of the month, she
could not help wishing that she was more fully informed of the present
state of affairs. It would be a relief, even though a sad one, to
Fitzwilliam's mind to know that Miss Crawford was actually married and
he would be unselfish enough to wish to hear that she was happy. Nothing
occurred, however, to enlighten them, and Fitzwilliam arrived on the
appointed day, looking much as usual except for a few more lines about
the eyes and an increased number of grey hairs.

It was the first time he and Georgiana had been together at Pemberley
since the rupture of their engagement, and both must have felt conscious
of it, Georgiana in particular being prepared to be miserable for a
time, from the belief that her cousin, instead of being cheered and
invigorated as formerly by his return home, must be reminded at every
turn of the failure of their experiment, the failure caused by her
wretched weakness and incapacity. Worse still, her brother must be
reminded of it, and there might be a repetition of his stern looks, his
cold manner. She trembled at the thought, unaware that Darcy had long
been persuaded of the wisdom of their parting, ever since events in Bath
had shown him where his cousin's real affections were likely to be
bestowed, and the only difference which Georgiana perceived after
Fitzwilliam's arrival was in the particular kindness he showed her, and
the complete renewal of the old comfortable relations amongst them all.

When inquiries after the Hursts and Mrs. Annesley had been made, and
Georgiana had mentioned the dinner-party and the persons who had been
present, little more was said with reference to London; indeed, there
was little more for either to say, for Georgiana dared not refer to the
person who had chiefly occupied his mind there. Fitzwilliam talked of
his book and of Ireland, inquired about the prospects of the shooting,
showed interest in the minutest details of life in the neighbourhood,
and in every way endeavoured to prove that he was exactly his old self;
and only when walking with Elizabeth in the Park one morning did he
betray how far that was from being the case.

There was no doubt that his disappointment had coloured his whole life.
He had allowed himself to think of Miss Crawford, and to build high upon
his hopes, and to find himself again mistaken had been a blow which cut
at the foundations of all his happiness. His gaiety was feigned, his
pursuits had lost their zest, his friends no longer sufficed him: and as
he said to Elizabeth, he had felt he had better adopt some country
occupation and settle down to it, and there grow old as quietly and
quickly as might be.

Elizabeth's heart was wrung; the spectacle of her cousin's fine nature
locked away, as it were, in a closed room, as a thing no one had any
need for, was inexpressively painful to her, and nothing else would have
caused her to venture upon a reopening of the subject which he himself
had not approached. With the utmost gentleness she spoke a few words of
commiseration, and then, still proceeding with extreme caution, she told
him of the absence of news and her assumption that Miss Crawford's
marriage with Sir Walter Elliot had been delayed.

"I daresay it has," returned Colonel Fitzwilliam, with a kind of
listlessness, striking with his stick at the head of some tall grasses
which bordered their path.

"There can be no doubt of it, I suppose?" pursued Elizabeth.

"None at all, I should imagine," replied the Colonel. "Miss Crawford is
not the kind of woman who would break her word, once the engagement had
been announced."

"No, of course not," said Elizabeth; "but I had expected that she or
Mrs. Grant would have written to me, or even Mrs. Wentworth, as they
must know I should be interested."

Colonel Fitzwilliam could not immediately recall anything of Mrs.
Wentworth beyond her name, and on being reminded that she was Sir
Walter Elliot's daughter, presently replied: "I do not think it
altogether surprising she should not have written to you. She probably
cares little for the marriage, and still less for the one which it was
anticipated would follow it--I mean Miss Elliot's to Mr. Crawford."

This was a new idea to Elizabeth, and while she was pondering over it,
and the inferences to be drawn from it, Colonel Fitzwilliam broke the
silence by saying: "Perhaps we had better not speak of this anymore,
Elizabeth. I know your great kindness of heart, but I feel it does no
good, rather harm, to be reviving thoughts which I must in honour
suppress as much as possible. I was anxious to know whether you had
heard anything, and to ask you again, when you have the chance, to tell
her that I wish her well; but now we have mentioned it, it would, I
think, be best for my contemptibly weak character to put it as far away
as possible."

With tears in her eyes, Elizabeth assured him that through the tenderest
regard for him, not through any fear of overtaxing his fortitude, she
would respect his wishes, but could not help begging him to remain with
them at Pemberley as heretofore, so as to give them an opportunity of
showing him how completely their happiness was bound up with his, and of
making use of any opportunity which might arise for them to be of
service to him. Fitzwilliam gratefully promised to stay for the present,
and said that his only engagement was to go to some friends in
Leicestershire in November, for the hunting.

Elizabeth was, nevertheless, not perfectly satisfied, and took occasion
to ask Georgiana shortly afterwards whether it was from Mrs. Wentworth
that she had heard confirmation of the fact that Sir Walter Elliot was
engaged to Miss Crawford.

"No," said Georgiana, in surprise, "it was from Mr. Price. Mrs.
Wentworth never mentioned it. Mrs. Wentworth! Of course, I recollect
now, she is Sir Walter Elliot's daughter; but at the time I never
thought of it, for, you see, I did not know Sir Walter was the man."

"Very true; I had also forgotten that you did not know," said Elizabeth,
"and would never connect her with Miss Crawford. I have been thinking
that I should like, for our own satisfaction, to know when the wedding
is going to take place, and the simplest way will be to write and ask
Mrs. Wentworth. I wish I had done so before, but I did not wish to be in
haste, and I felt so convinced we should hear from others."

Georgiana agreed that this was the best course to pursue, and Elizabeth,
having told Darcy of her intention, to which, on account of her promise
to Fitzwilliam, he could no longer object, wrote and dispatched her
letter.

The season was now drawing on, and with the shortening days the family
at Pemberley found themselves thrown more upon the resources of their
own immediate circle for amusement. The weather was consistently bad,
and though this did not prevent the gentlemen from covering great
distances for the purpose of slaughtering their game, the ladies were of
necessity restricted to a smaller area, and their walks seldom extended
beyond the park, except when their inclinations led them along a
tolerably clean road towards the Rectory. This happened pretty
frequently, for both Elizabeth and Georgiana were extremely attached to
Elinor Ferrars. Their friendship was of a particularly sincere and
well-balanced kind, and was not marred by their constant intercourse, as
each knew how to maintain that degree of reserve which prevents
indiscriminate confidences and so greatly strengthens mutual respect.
Kitty was the one who perhaps found the society of the Rectory the least
congenial; but it is to be feared that she was extremely difficult to
please that autumn, and in the impatience with which she waited for one
young man she might have sometimes regretted the solace which the
company of the other would have afforded.

In such a small neighbourhood everyone was of some value, and they all
heard with interest of the approaching visit to Mr. and Mrs. Edward
Ferrars of an old friend, Mrs. Jennings, who was coming early in October
to spend six or seven weeks with them. Mrs. Ferrars was in delicate
health, and Mrs. Jennings, besides having an almost maternal affection
for her, was well qualified to be of service as sick nurse and
enlivening companion, so that Elinor's warning to Mrs. Darcy that her
friend, although the kindest of women, had not always the most refined
manner of expressing herself, did not prevent them from being anxious to
make her acquaintance.

Mrs. Jennings performed in safety the long journey from her son-in-law's
house in Devonshire, and arrived in her customary high spirits. It was
her first visit to the Ferrars's since their removal from Delaford, and
she had to examine the house, to criticize minutely the arrangement of
their furniture, and to compare their surroundings, social and material,
with what they had been in their old home. Mrs. Darcy paid an early call
on the new arrival, and the morning after her visit Georgiana and Kitty
also found their way to the Rectory.

Mrs. Jennings's exuberance, her loud laugh and general noisy
cheerfulness did not recommend her strongly to either of the girls in
the first few minutes, and Georgiana was glad to move to a chair by Mrs.
Ferrars, to enter into a quieter conversation with her; but before
long, judging by the sounds which reached them, Mrs. Jennings and Kitty
had found some subjects in common. This perhaps was not so surprising,
as Mrs. Jennings was exceedingly fond of the society of all young girls,
and cared not at all whether they returned her partiality or no. In this
case she had begun, with the utmost frankness, to discourse on the
subject nearest her heart at the moment, namely, her dear Mrs. Ferrars,
and was relating all the circumstances under which their friendship had
been formed, the Dashwood girls' visit to London, the disagreeable
conduct of Mrs. Ferrars's mother and sister, and the absurd
misunderstanding as to Colonel Brandon's attentions, the whole being
punctuated by frequent bursts of laughter; and she would doubtless have
gone on to describe in detail the events attending the engagement of her
two young friends, had not Elinor mildly but decisively interposed.

"Dear madam," she said, breaking off in the midst of a remark to
Georgiana, "I am sure Miss Bennet does not wish to hear the history of
such a very dull old couple as ourselves. You are so kind as to be more
interested in it than most people could be."

"Lord, my dear," cried Mrs. Jennings, "why did you not stop me? I
declare I am very sorry if I said a word I ought not. I know my tongue
does run on, and Miss Bennet must excuse me, for it was only for the
pleasure of talking to you and Mr. Edward. And as for its being dull, I
don't believe there is anybody who does not like to hear of other
people's love-affairs; it makes one think of one's own, now, does it
not, Miss Bennet?"

Kitty blushed and looked embarrassed, and Mrs. Jennings laughed
heartily, saying: "It is just as I thought; Miss Bennet could tell us a
pretty tale too, I'll be bound, if only she would."

"Miss Bennet can tell us some wonderful tales of the West Indies," said
Elinor, endeavouring to turn Mrs. Jennings's mind from her favourite
topic; "she has a sister there, who writes to her constantly, does she
not, Miss Bennet? Those tropical places must be very beautiful. Do you
remember how Colonel Brandon used to talk to us of his travels in the
East, ma'am?"

"That I do, my dear," replied Mrs. Jennings emphatically, "and I never
want to hear again of such fearful things as he had seen--swamps, and
great things like alligators ... and insects that did everything insects
ought not. I hope you will tell your sister not to get amongst them,
Miss Bennet."

Kitty replied that her sister had written chiefly of the beautiful balls
and illuminations which they frequently had, and lately of some shocks
of earthquake which had frightened them terribly. Mrs. Jennings
exclaimed at this, and declared that the finest ball in the world would
not compensate her if there was the fear that the ground would open
under her feet while she was dancing. "But I know young people do not
care what risks they run," said she. "There was Sir John Middleton three
weeks ago wanted to have a moonlight picnic; my daughter Middleton was
all against it, for the weather was so threatening, but have it he
would, and the consequence was that they all ate their supper, or as
much of it as they could, in a roaring thunderstorm. I can tell you they
were in a pretty pickle when they got back! All the girls so cross, and
the young men not a dry thread among them through trying to protect the
ladies. But Sir John, he made no bones about it at all, but said they
would go again another night, when for sure it would be fine."

Her hearers could not help laughing at such a picture of undaunted
pleasure-seeking, and Elinor inquired if the second party had taken
place.

"Oh, Lord, yes; they all came, but their fathers and mothers made them
promise not to stir beyond the grounds. I heard, at any rate, they
turned it into a dance instead. But, as I say, young people don't care
for a drop of rain. I am sure, when I was young, I would as lief have
had it as not, for there was no hardship in sheltering under a hedge,
with the right young man to hold an umbrella over you, do you think so,
Miss Bennet?"

"Still, I fancy that most people, old or young, prefer outdoor
expeditions to be in dry weather," said Elinor. "That reminds me that I
must show you what terrible havoc last night's rain and wind worked in
my flower borders. When I looked out first, I was quite in despair,
thinking I should not have another nosegay all the autumn. There is a
gleam of sunshine now, so shall we take a turn in the garden?"

Georgiana gladly walked out with her, and Mrs. Jennings and Kitty
followed at a distance, the former questioning her young companion about
her sister abroad and hearing laments over the gaieties which that
sister had been able to offer her, but which she had never been able to
accept. Mrs. Jennings's hearty comments of "Well, there now, that is a
shame!" and "A regiment too! You would have broken all their hearts, I
vow!" and other such remarks pleased Kitty, while she knew in her heart
they ought not to do so.

The two girls shortly after took their leave, and while walking homeward
naturally compared notes upon the stranger whom they had just met.
Georgiana expressed herself guardedly, not wishing to condemn any friend
of Mrs. Ferrars's, although feeling as if that friend could not be in
any way an accession to their party; but Kitty's first unfavorable
impression seemed to have been obliterated, and she declared frankly
that she liked Mrs. Jennings and thought she was very merry and
good-natured. Georgiana could not quite agree with this, for she found
Mrs. Jennings's style of raillery not at all to her mind, but admitted
that she might be pleasanter when one got to know her well.

At dinner these opinions were canvassed, and Georgiana found, as she
expected, that her own were largely shared by Elizabeth, who, however,
was amused at her severity, and told her that she would often meet
people who, with more refined manners, were yet at heart far more vulgar
than Mrs. Jennings and had not a tenth part of her redeeming qualities.

"I do not think I want to meet them, then," said Georgiana. "But I am
sure you are right, Elizabeth, and I daresay she will be a great comfort
to Mrs. Ferrars."

When the ladies were together after dinner, Kitty, whose gravity and
preoccupation had been noticeable for the last half-hour, after
wandering several times round the room, stationed herself near to her
sister and began, in a solemn tone: "Lizzie, I want to ask you something
very important."

Elizabeth, smiling, professed herself all attention, and Kitty
continued: "You know you have never kept your promise, that you made
before you were married, of having a ball here, for each winter
something has happened to prevent it."

"Quite true, Kitty; so a ball is in your mind; and what made you think
of it just now?"

"I never come here without thinking of it, but I had somehow not
expected to be staying long enough this year, as I imagined I should go
home directly after the shooting party. But Mrs. Jennings said to-day
she supposed you sometimes had balls in this lovely house, and she was
sure Georgiana and I were fond of dancing."

"And Mrs. Jennings is quite right about the latter statement, is she
not?"

Georgiana looked up with a smile, to assent to her share of the
question, and Kitty clasped her hands rapturously, exclaiming: "Oh,
Lizzie, you know how much I love a ball! It would be so kind of you and
Darcy! Everyone would enjoy it!"

"I am very fond of balls myself," said Elizabeth. "Darcy, as you know,
is not, but I think even he might admit that it is sometimes a duty to
give one. The idea had crossed my own mind, I confess, but I had not
considered whether our party or our numbers would be suitable."

Kitty's joy at the favourable reception of her proposal was excessive;
she could not refrain from beginning to practise her steps about the
room, and singing the while from sheer delight, and the gentlemen,
entering at that moment, paused in astonishment on the threshold.

"What is this, Kitty?" inquired Darcy, approaching; "something Mrs.
Jennings has taught you?"

Extreme merriment at the idea of Mrs. Jennings as an instructress of
dancing prevented Kitty from immediately replying, but the whole matter
was presently explained and laid before Darcy for approval. Seeing that
her brother-in-law did not instantly dismiss the whole scheme, Kitty
poured out a flood of reasons to commend it; it was just the right time
of year, not too cold and snowy; Jane and Bingley would have a party
they could bring over; no ball had been given at Pemberley since
Georgiana was grown up; the house was so conveniently built, as if on
purpose for balls; and finally, it would be a most delightful thing for
everybody.

"I know you want time to think it over," said Elizabeth to her husband,
"and there is no hurry at all; but I think it is quite feasible, and we
really owe the neighbourhood some entertainment of the kind."

Darcy declared that he did not see why his house should be required to
furnish his neighbours with the so-called amusement of watching each
other promenading about a polished floor, and though no doubt it was a
great compliment to the original architect, he did not believe that
Pemberley had really been primarily designed for giving balls in; but
his family could perceive that his opposition was not intended to be
very serious, and the discussion terminated with his promising to talk
it over with Elizabeth, and even to consider the middle of November as
being a date likely to suit the convenience of both households.

Kitty regarded the matter as settled, and carried her news to the
Rectory the following morning in the highest spirits, assuring Mrs.
Jennings that it was owing to her suggestion that the subject had been
brought forward at the right moment. The sincerity of that lady's
delight, and the warmth of her congratulations, were most gratifying,
and she immediately began to ask Kitty who her partners would be, and
what variety the young men of the neighbourhood could afford.

Kitty confessed that there were not many living very near them, with the
exception of the officers of a regiment stationed at Ashbourne, with
some of whom her brother was acquainted, but that her sister, Mrs.
Bingley, would bring over one, or even two, who she knew for certain
danced extremely well.

"Aha!" cried Mrs. Jennings, "very pretty! And they are single men, too,
I warrant you."

Kitty's look of consciousness gave Mrs. Jennings far too fine an
opportunity to resist, and it did not take her long to ascertain enough
particulars about a certain young naval officer to convince her that
this ball was going to be the occasion for two young people to be made
happy and all their friends regaled with some interesting news. There
was no need for her to hear very minute descriptions of Mr. Price's
conduct and the impressions it had left on the beholders; the mere
mention of his existence, and a hint of Kitty's partiality, were
sufficient material upon which to build up a whole romance. Miss Bennet
might depend upon it, he was only waiting to come down here and make the
acquaintance of the rest of her family, and then not a moment would be
lost.

Although these assurances gave her pleasure and revived sensations which
Elizabeth and Georgiana had not wished to encourage, Kitty could not
help feeling a certain absurdity in accepting them from someone whose
convictions were based solely on a good-natured interest in the affair,
and she was tempted into giving a longer version of all that had
happened in London, in order that Mrs. Jennings might be more fully
informed. It was a decided relief to talk to a friend whose opinions
coincided with those of Mrs. Knightley, and as Mrs. Ferrars was not in
the room there was nothing to put a check on their confidences. She had,
however, an instinctive feeling of delicacy which made her stop short of
divulging a more recent experience, and the unconscious Mr. Morland was
saved, had he but known it, many witty sallies on his deserted
condition.

Elizabeth and Georgiana were amused to notice how willing Kitty
henceforward became to go to the Rectory, for whereas she had formerly
rather endured than enjoyed her visits there, she now volunteered to
join the others whenever they went. She was generally to be found,
during some part of the time, chatting with Mrs. Jennings; and when the
good lady called at Pemberley it was Kitty's office to escort her home
again. Mrs. Jennings had early discovered that Miss Darcy was grave and
quiet, and could on no account be induced to join in any joking
references to lovers, while Mrs. Darcy's general style and manner were
not such as to warrant the intimacy implied by such a conversation.

There were many other topics, for Mrs. Jennings was thoroughly kind and
friendly, and took the deepest interest in all her neighbours' concerns
besides the sentimental ones: their children, their gardens, their
poultry, their houses and their clothes. The ball, too, afforded
unending subjects for discussion. There was to be no disappointment; Mr.
Darcy had allowed himself to be talked into it, and the fifteenth of
November was fixed for the momentous occasion. Cards were sent out; the
officers accepted in a body; Colonel Fitzwilliam promised to stay for
it; new dresses were ordered from London; and not least among the minor
excitements was reckoned the arrival of a letter from Jane, expressing
the pleasure of herself and Bingley at the prospect, and engaging to
bring with them at that time, namely, Miss Bingley, Mr. Price and a Tom
Bertram. This last name was accounted for by Jane's explanation that
Bingley had asked Mr. Price to bring his brother with him, or some other
man who could shoot, and the brother not being available, Mr. Price had
secured instead his cousin, the elder son of Sir Thomas Bertram of
Mansfield Park.

Perhaps not one of the party at the breakfast-table, to whom this letter
was read aloud, could hear it altogether unmoved. Elizabeth and her
husband were naturally deeply interested in all that concerned Kitty,
and were glad to know there was a certainty of seeing at last the young
man of whom they had heard so much; while Georgiana rejoiced in this
clear proof of his anxiety to meet Kitty again, and built upon it hopes
of the progress of the affair speedily and uninterruptedly to its
desired ending. There need not, surely, be anything to delay it; on the
contrary, no young lovers had ever more favourable circumstances, his
own brief stay on shore an excuse for apparent haste, and Kitty's being
surrounded by her friends, whose approval would be equivalent to that of
her parents, making everything easy. Indeed, it was impossible to see
what obstacles could arise; he could not be diffident enough to
entertain doubts as to whether his feelings, or what were supposed to be
his feelings, were returned. Georgiana could not help a little smile at
this thought, though at the same time regretting that Kitty should allow
her heart to be read so clearly. To Kitty, the announcement of his
intended arrival at Desborough was scarcely less tremendous than if he
had walked into the room himself at that moment, demanding her hand as
he approached. The latter incident could hardly have caused her a
greater tremor than the former did, and as soon as she could get
Georgiana alone she poured out afresh the old hopes, fears and
anxieties, desiring Georgiana to confirm all her own surmises with
positive assertions; to reply: "I am _sure_ he will," when Kitty said "I
_hope_ he will"; and to say, "Of course, most certainly," when Kitty
speculated upon the various ways in which Mr. Price might be expected to
commit himself. Although feeling tolerably confident, Georgiana tried to
confine herself to assurances of warm sympathy, and pointed out to
Kitty that it was not prudent or delicate to assume so much when no
actual declaration had been made, but with Mr. Price's coming so nearly
in view, this idea detracted from Kitty's perfect satisfaction; she
privately found Mrs. Jennings, and her arrangement of the coming events,
far more encouraging.

Colonel Fitzwilliam's attention was caught by the names of Mrs.
Bingley's guests in rather a different manner. Mr. Price he recollected
as Georgiana's acquaintance, but the name of Bertram awoke associations
of a kind which he was trying to subdue. It was the name he had more
than once heard coupled with Miss Crawford's; it belonged to the people
who were fatally connected with her past life. Had he only the right to
protect her, the meeting with this representative of the family might
have afforded him an opportunity of refuting for ever the vague scandals
which were doing her so much harm; but he had no right; that privilege
belonged to Sir Walter Elliot, and the truest kindness he could do her
was to remain silent. In the new life she had chosen all the past should
be forgotten. He strove resolutely to put away these saddening
reflections, and to throw himself into the general interest of the
subject by making a few inquiries about the two young men. Georgiana was
the only person who could supply any information about Mr. Bertram, for
Mr. Price had told her his sister was married to his cousin, a Mr.
Edmund Bertram, also of Mansfield. It was evident that this must be the
older brother.

Fresh excitement was caused shortly afterwards by a second letter from
Mrs. Bingley. Jane wrote that Mr. Price and Mr. Bertram were to arrive
at Desborough on the sixth of November, and begged that the two girls
would come over on the previous day to spend a week there. Mr. Morland,
she took care to inform them, was intending to pass the greater part of
the month with his friends the Portinscales, and so, as Elizabeth had no
doubt already heard, would be unable to be present at the Pemberley
ball. In Kitty, this intelligence aroused the most fleeting of regrets,
but the others had leisure to feel sorry, while commending his prudence,
that circumstances should prevent his taking part in the general gaiety.
Jane had special reason for feeling kindly towards him, for she had
wished to ask Kitty to join the party, but had not liked to do so in
view of Mr. Morland's being at home, but he, suspecting that it would be
an occasion for inviting some of the relatives from Pemberley, had
quietly made his arrangements without allowing anyone to perceive the
hardship it was to him to deny himself a glimpse of Miss Catherine
Bennet.

The invitation was rapturously accepted on the part of Kitty, and very
willingly by Georgiana, for she liked being with Jane, and was pleased
at the prospect of seeing William again for his own sake. Elizabeth felt
it most important that the girls should be together, for Georgiana to
watch over Kitty and be a check on her impulsiveness; and Darcy gave a
sign of his confidence in his sister, very precious to her, by saying:
"It is a good thing you are asked, Georgiana, for there is no one else
who can be trusted to keep Kitty in order and bring us a sensible
account of this young man and his intentions."

To Desborough, then, they were to go, and to bear with them Mr. and Mrs.
Darcy's invitations to Mrs. Bingley's guests for the Pemberley ball.



Chapter XIV


October was rapidly passing; and Elizabeth had received no
acknowledgment of her letter to Mrs. Wentworth. This occasioned her to
some surprise, for Anne was a punctilious correspondent, and certainly
would not have allowed such an important question as had been put to her
to remain long unanswered. At last, when Elizabeth had begun to fear
that either letter or reply must have miscarried, the wished-for packet
was discerned among the morning's post; and she carried it to her own
private room before perusing it.

"My dear Mrs. Darcy,

"I do not like to imagine what you must be thinking of me, for my long
and inexplicable silence. Your letter bears the date October the second,
almost a month ago. Will you forgive me when you hear that I only just
received it? We have been travelling abroad, as Frederick wished to take
advantage of this period of comparative peace to visit some of the old
Dutch cities, and we returned only this week, after a delightful but
extremely fatiguing tour. Our letters have followed us about to our
continually changing addresses, and it is little short of a miracle that
so many of them have reached us. Yours has now reappeared at Winchester
after its wanderings! This must be my excuse for not writing instantly
to correct a misconception under which I grieve to think you have been
labouring. My father is not engaged to Miss Crawford, and there is no
probability of a marriage between them either now or at some future
time. I know that some months ago a rumour to that effect was in
existence, for, indeed, it must be confessed that my father's attentions
to Miss Crawford were very marked, and my sister was among those who
were confident that an engagement would ultimately result; but before we
went abroad Elizabeth wrote to me from Brighton, where she and my father
had removed, to say that the affair was at an end, Miss Crawford having
given my father a definite refusal. I think they were a great deal vexed
and disappointed, which was perhaps natural, for my father had counted
upon succeeding, and it would have been a very advantageous match for
him; but I cannot help thinking that there would not have been any great
happiness in it for either of them. It was not altogether suitable--but,
dear Mrs. Darcy, I should not weary you with my comments. In such a case
as this everyone can supply their own. I do not know where Mrs. Grant
and Miss Crawford are now, but I conclude in Bath. The only news of them
that has reached me, besides what I have stated, was, I am sorry to say,
that Miss Crawford had been ill, but I heard no particulars. All this
seems bald and unsatisfactory; I wish I could have given you better and
earlier information. Pray give our warm regards to Mr. Darcy and his
sister. It was a great delight to me to renew my acquaintance with the
latter, and to see her looking so lovely and blooming. Her countenance
expresses so much sensibility, that one is convinced she must have a
tender heart, and one hopes that life may always be kind to her. I had a
great wish to invite her to pay us a visit when we returned to
Winchester from London, and was disappointed to learn she had already
travelled north. Will you mention it to her, and say how glad we should
be if ever she was disposed to come in this direction? We would try to
give her a pleasant time. Your children must be reaching a delightful
age. Alas! with what a pang do I view our empty nursery! Accept my very
cordial remembrances, and believe me," etc.

It was well that Elizabeth had taken the precaution of being alone to
read this letter, for the agitation it caused could not easily have been
concealed. A thousand confusing thoughts surged through her mind.
Action, of some sort, she felt she must take, being the only person of
their circle in possession of this knowledge; but what action would be
safe, prudent and productive of results? While believing that
Fitzwilliam had been refused, she had always found it hard to credit
that he should have been refused for Sir Walter Elliot, and the denial
of the statement found willing acceptance. It was so unnatural, so
horrible, almost, to think of Miss Crawford as Lady Elliot! Before
Elizabeth had even time to think of Fitzwilliam she had rejoiced over
Miss Crawford's not having committed an act so unworthy of her. She next
tried to recollect exactly what she had heard with reference to
Fitzwilliam's dismissal. He had been confident that she was lost to him,
through her engagement, he assumed; but since she had never been
engaged, clearly there had been indications which, as Darcy had said,
had forced him to believe that she was ill-disposed towards him. What,
then, could anyone do for him now? It was not by any means certain that
because she had rejected Sir Walter Elliot she could be induced to
accept Colonel Fitzwilliam. And yet the knowledge that she was free,
free still to be won, was a reason for not withdrawing utterly until he
knew what would be the fate of his own pretensions, taken on their own
merit. Elizabeth could not feel satisfied, remembering what had happened
at Bath, that he had ever had a fair opportunity of pleading his cause.
He might, indeed, have had a refusal as definite as Sir Walter's, and in
that case there would be no kindness in reopening the subject; it would
profit him little to know that another suitor had fared no better than
himself, even though that suitor might be one who should never have
aspired. But what if it had all arisen through a misunderstanding?

After long and earnest consideration Elizabeth determined that whatever
steps she now took towards her cousin and the chances of a
reconciliation, he must know nothing of them; if she had finally decided
against him, there was no reason why he should be put to the pain of
hearing it a second time. This at least seemed clear, and it paved the
way for her next resolution, namely to write to Mrs. Grant, without
mentioning anything she had heard, beyond the intimation of Miss
Crawford's illness, and ask for news of them both.

Darcy entered while she was preparing to write, and she immediately
handed him Mrs. Wentworth's letter. Having read it, he handed it back to
her, saying gravely: "What are you going to do now, Elizabeth? for I
suppose you are going to do something."

Elizabeth described her plan and its motives, and Darcy listened without
giving her much encouragement. At length he said: "Have you realized
what a great responsibility you are taking upon yourself in endeavouring
to bring these two people together again?"

"Yes," said Elizabeth, "and, dear Darcy, do you not think we should be
prepared to take it? I shall do nothing which could possibly give
Fitzwilliam a moment's uneasiness; he has already suffered too much, and
is a changed man, as you were agreeing the other day; but if there is
the slightest chance of making him happy, I think we ought not to let it
slip. No one but ourselves can possibly make any attempt to reunite him
and Miss Crawford."

"I know you are prepared to undertake herculean tasks in the interests
of your friends, my dear, but when a man has been so decidedly repulsed,
it is a delicate manner to heal the breach. I imagine your scheme would
be straightaway to invite Miss Crawford here, and send them both off for
a walk, with instructions to return in half an hour an engaged couple?"

This was spoken without the ghost of a smile, but the idea it suggested
to Elizabeth was so brilliant that she forgot to remonstrate her husband
for not being sufficiently serious. "I never thought of it, but I will
do it!" she exclaimed. "Not send them off for a walk, of course, but
invite Miss Crawford and her sister to come and stay here. They shall
come, if they will, as soon as the ball is over, for Robert is leaving
the next day, and in the course of a quiet fortnight it will be strange
if I cannot discover whether she cares in the least for him."

"And after that time Fitzwilliam is to be summoned home with all speed,
I suppose?"

"Oh, I cannot look so far ahead; if my endeavours prove unavailing, of
course we must not let him know that they have been here at all."

"Well, Elizabeth, I am glad you are providing for all contingencies; and
do not forget the most probable one, namely, that they will not be
persuaded to accept your invitation. Miss Crawford may not want to lend
a helping hand, or Mrs. Grant to play Fitzwilliam's game for him."

"Naturally, I shall tell them distinctly that he will not be here and we
shall be quite to ourselves. If she has been ill, she may like to have a
change. I decline to be discouraged, Darcy, by whatever you may suggest,
for I am convinced that this plan can do no harm, and may do a great
deal of good."

"Perhaps you are right, my dear; it seems to me to be a considerable
risk, and we cannot emphasize too strongly the need for absolute
secrecy; but you know I cannot wish Fitzwilliam anything better than a
thoroughly happy marriage, when I think of what mine has done for me."

"Darcy! for you to be paying me compliments! The world must be coming to
an end. And now here is nurse bringing the children, so I shall have to
postpone my writing for the present."

The letter was posted, and Elizabeth had to wait longer than she would
have wished for an answer to this one also, but after about ten days she
had a note in a hand she did not know was brought to her. It proved to
be from Mrs. Grant, who dated it from Everingham, Norfolk, and said that
she was writing in place of her sister, who was still so far from well
that it was necessary to spare her all trouble and fatigue. She had been
extremely ill during August and September, and had seemed to make so
little progress towards recovery that they had come to stay with their
brother a few weeks ago, in the hope of obtaining some benefit from the
more bracing air. Unfortunately, she had not gained all the good they
had hoped for, and they were still anxious about her. On first receiving
Mrs. Darcy's kind invitation she had felt it was impossible to accept
it, as her state of health and spirits made her languid and disinclined
for exertion, but Mrs. Grant and Mr. Crawford had at length, using all
their powers of persuasion, induced her to reconsider her decision, for
they both felt that to mix with her friends once more, and to be in the
midst of such agreeable and stimulating surroundings as a visit to Mrs.
Darcy would afford, would be the best possible remedy for the nervous
complaint from which she had suffered. In any case, they would shortly
have to leave Everingham, as it was too cold and exposed a spot, but her
sister was scarcely equal to the journey to Bath yet, so that Mrs.
Darcy's letter had come at a most fortunate time.

Miss Crawford was very desirous that Mrs. Grant should explain that she
was still an invalid to a great extent--"and she insists on my saying a
tiresome and exacting one, though I cannot endorse that," added Mrs.
Grant. "But she is afraid of giving trouble, and of being, on account of
her want of health, an unacceptable visitor; and she says that if she is
going to trespass upon your kindness, she cannot do so on false
pretenses, and so wishes you to know just how you will find her, in case
you would rather postpone having her until some future time, when she is
more of a rational being."

Elizabeth perceived something of Miss Crawford's old spirit peeping out
in this message, the spirit of independence, which would laugh at her
own weakness rather than appeal for pity, and made her reluctant to
accept a kindness which might wear the aspect of an indulgence. Had it
not been for her recent illness, and the consequent pressure put upon
her by her brother and sister, it was clear she would not have come to
Pemberley; Elizabeth was conscious, in the wording of the letter, of a
shrinking from it, and the earnest way in which Mrs. Grant, on her
sister's behalf, begged to be assured that they would find Mr. and Mrs.
Darcy _quite alone_ at home, emphasized something more than an invalid's
wish for seclusion.

In her reply Elizabeth endeavoured to convey a complete assurance of the
quietness of Pemberley and its suitability for anyone in Miss Crawford's
delicate condition. There would be no one at home but themselves, she
said, excepting, of course, Mr. Darcy's sister, whom Miss Crawford had
met, and who was one of the household; the patient should have every
care, and could lead whatever kind of life she preferred; she should not
be troubled in any way, or even be asked to join the rest of the party,
until she felt stronger, as Elizabeth hoped and believed she soon would.
The letter was expressive of the writer's goodwill, and she trusted that
it might do away with any remaining unwillingness that Miss Crawford
might have felt in renewing an acquaintance which had indirectly caused
her so much pain. Elizabeth rejoiced in having accomplished the first
step. Miss Crawford's acceptance might have been wrung from her, but it
was unlikely she would withdraw it, and once she were safely established
at Pemberley, whether Colonel Fitzwilliam were to be made happy or not,
at least there would be no more misunderstandings.

Elizabeth proposed a date to Mrs. Grant for the arrival of the two
ladies, but decided to maintain her reserve on the subject towards
everyone, except her husband, until the ball should be over and her
cousin should have left the house, for she was particularly anxious that
no hint of it should reach his ears. Georgiana's discretion could have
been depended upon, but Elizabeth felt it would be better to postpone
telling even her of Mrs. Wentworth's reply until matters should be
further advanced.



Chapter XV


Georgiana found that her presence as a check on Kitty, and an outlet for
her excitement, was very necessary, for Kitty had come to regard herself
as the central figure in the little drama that was to be played during
the next few days. Her manner of speaking of Mr. Price during the first
evening would certainly have betrayed to Miss Bingley the state of her
feelings towards him, if that lady had not been already possessed of the
information. Georgiana felt both sorry and vexed, for she could read
clearly the expression on Miss Bingley's face, and knew that Kitty was
exposing herself to a not altogether friendly criticism. Miss Bingley
had never learnt to do more than tolerate the rest of the Bennet family,
in spite of her openly professed affection for Jane, and when, as in
this case, she happened to have taken a liking to the admirer of one
member of it, she evidently found their inferiority greater than ever.
That Mr. Price was a great deal too good for Kitty Bennet she managed to
convey by looks and tones which were not intended for anyone but Kitty,
but which Georgiana could not help but notice and resent. To Georgiana
herself, Miss Bingley said with a great air of frankness that now this
affair had been so much talked of, and was expected on all sides, she
trusted it would soon become an accomplished fact; of course it was all
Emma Knightley's doing, but as Kitty was evidently so much in love, she
_hoped_ (with a good deal of emphasis) that Mr. Price felt the same.

The great day arrived, and Mr. Tom Bertram's curricle drove up to the
door late in the afternoon, laden with its two passengers and a
manservant, and all the necessary complement of bags, gun-cases and a
spaniel on a chain. William Price had been staying at Mansfield, and
consequently the journey for both was a comparatively easy one. There
were many greetings to be made, and introductions to be performed, in
the short half-hour before everyone retired to dress for dinner.
Bingley, in the warmth of his welcome, could not make enough of his
guests, and wanted to be talking to them both at once; but the look of
delighted surprise on William Price's face when he caught sight of the
two young girls did not escape observation, any more than the remarkable
fact of Kitty's being suddenly struck almost dumb with shyness, and
being unable to reply except in monosyllables, and with deep blushes, to
his inquiries after her health. Georgiana, with greater self-possession,
shook hands in her own grave manner, looked him straight in the face,
answered him simply, and bowed with quiet courtesy in acknowledgment of
the pleasure he expressed in meeting them again.

At dinner, Kitty was placed between Georgiana and Mr. Price, the latter
being on Mrs. Bingley's right hand; and as Jane considerately talked for
most of the time to Mr. Tom Bertram, who sat on her other side, Kitty
was able to enjoy Mr. Price's conversation almost uninterruptedly. He
had much to tell, and she to ask, of London and their mutual friends
there, of his stay in Portsmouth and the King's visit to review the
ships, of the shooting parties at Mansfield and the astonishing sagacity
of his cousin's new dog. Georgiana heard scraps of it, and noticed with
satisfaction the good understanding that seemed to exist. "It is much
the wisest beginning," she thought. "Far better to have a basis of
common interests on which to found a friendship before love comes, than
to rush blindly into a violent attachment, which may as rapidly subside.
Mr. Price will gradually bring out the best that is in Kitty. He will
care for the same things she does, but more moderately; and he will
develop her finer taste. She will have so much to make her happy that
her charm of nature will not fade."

Mr. Price was evidently too sensible to expect to have the exclusive
enjoyment of Kitty's company in such a small party. He was ready to
reply to anyone who might address him, seemed to wish to get acquainted
with Mrs. Bingley, and always had a lively word or glance for his cousin
opposite. Tom Bertram would put up with a greater amount of good-natured
teasing and joking from his cousin than he had ever done from anyone in
his life; but his illness had sobered him, and though not much less
careless and selfish than formerly, he entertained a secret admiration
for the younger man, who had already done so much with his own life, and
he had shown himself strongly amenable to influence from that quarter.
To exercise an influence was the last thing William Price would have
thought of doing; and yet it was entirely through his half-laughing,
half-serious representations that Tom had been induced to settle down at
home, to interest himself in the work of managing the estate, and to
show more consideration for his parents. At the moment, he had allowed
himself to be carried off from home, knowing that it was part of a
general scheme to distract his mind from a matrimonial entanglement in
which he was on the verge of becoming involved, and which his family
cordially disliked; but there was reason to fear that Miss Isabella
Thorpe had played her cards too well, and that in spite of the efforts
of friends she would eventually reign at Mansfield Park as the next Lady
Bertram.

When the gentlemen rejoined the ladies after dinner, William Price
immediately approached Georgiana, and made a few remarks upon
indifferent subjects, until the attention of the others being directed
to a story narrated by Mr. Bertram, he inquired if she had heard
anything more of Miss Crawford since their last meeting.

Owing to Elizabeth's reticence on the subject, Georgiana was able to
answer, with truth, that she had heard nothing. When she had spoken, her
reply seemed to her so curt that she added: "My sister, Mrs. Darcy, has
written to a friend--to Mrs. Wentworth, in fact, to make inquiries, but
I do not know with what result."

"To Mrs. Wentworth?" repeated William Price. "Then, of course, that
means you know what I was so churlish as to refuse to tell you, that
evening at Mrs. Hurst's--Sir Walter Elliot's name. I hope you have
forgiven me, Miss Darcy, and will understand why I did not feel at
liberty to repeat it at that time."

"I am sure you were right, Mr. Price, and indeed we have never heard the
rumour confirmed yet," said Georgiana. "I wish I had seen Miss Crawford
again, but there was no opportunity."

"I did not see her again, either," said William. "I had to leave town
directly after, and when I returned they were gone. I wish I could learn
something! I so trust it may not be true; for Miss Crawford to marry
that man would be not one, but a thousand pities. It is difficult to
understand why anyone should make a so-called marriage of convenience;
but one feels that she of all people is worthy of a better fate."

"One must hope, if it really is decided upon, that it is not altogether
a mere convenience; that that there is some mutual regard also," said
Georgiana.

"Oh, no doubt, there is a great deal of regard on _his_ side, but he is
not the sort of man to appreciate her properly," rejoined Mr. Price. "If
you knew him, Miss Darcy, even your kindness of heart would fail to find
suitable excuses."

"I know Miss Crawford's friends are dissatisfied about it," said
Georgiana; "but I cannot help feeling that there is no need for her to
make any marriage at all unless she is confident it will conduce to her
happiness, so that, whatever she is doing, one must assume that she is
using her judgment."

"You put the case so admirably, Miss Darcy, that I declare you have
nearly consoled me. It is just what I have tried to remind myself of,
that she can afford to marry where she chooses, and as there is no
compulsion except her own good nature, I can hardly believe she will
make such an unwise choice. That absolutely settles it; I believe you
have got private information, which you have conveyed to me from your
own mind without speaking a word, and which has reassured me."

"No, indeed, I have no private information," replied Georgiana with a
faint smile, "and I think you have reassured yourself by your own close
knowledge of Miss Crawford's character."

"I may know Miss Crawford better, but in matters of this kind women are
far better judges of one another than are men of them. You read each
other as you would yourselves, and deduce each other's motives from your
knowledge of your own; consequently, you bring a far keener insight to
bear than we can."

"I think that perhaps women understand each other better, and it is
natural that they should," said Georgiana, after a moment's reflection.
"But then you must remember that they are expected to acquire the habit
of entering into the feelings of others. Their position as onlookers in
the active world enables them to find their pleasure in studying the
characters of those around them, and their happiness is in proportion to
the amount of sympathy and comprehension which is excited in
themselves."

"That is too modest an estimation of the qualities of your sex, Miss
Darcy. I should go further, and say that some persons do not need to
acquire the habit you mention, for they have naturally such quick and
generous sympathies, such a power of reading with true kindliness the
dispositions of others, and drawing out the best that is in them, that I
think it is impossible for them to receive more happiness than they
give. You must have met some such; and that is what I mean by a woman's
power of insight."

He looked at her earnestly as he said this, and Georgiana had never seen
him so grave. That he meant Kitty, she had not a moment's doubt; and
they seemed to be within half a sentence of her name. She fully expected
his next words to be: "There is someone we both know, I think, Miss
Darcy," or something similar, and in her confusion, she did not stop to
reflect how unlikely it was that he would speak so openly when Kitty was
standing a few yards away. But as he continued to look at her without
saying anything further, she strove to interrupt a pause which
threatened to become embarrassing, and murmured, not very collectedly:
"Yes, indeed it is so. My brother's wife, Mrs. Darcy," she added, not
daring to show her thoughts were following the same direction as his,
"is one of those you were describing. She understands everyone so well;
she knows what one would say even when one has the greatest difficulty
in expressing it. I think she is the cleverest person I have ever met."

She thought he looked a little disappointed at her change of theme, but
he bowed, and said courteously that he had a great wish to meet Mrs.
Darcy. Georgiana caught at this remark as a means of extricating himself
from a conversation which was almost too interesting to be pursued just
then. "I hope very much that you will meet her," she said. "I do not
know if Mr. Bingley has mentioned it, but there is to be a ball at
Pemberley next week, and my sister hoped Mr. and Mrs. Bingley would
bring you all over with them."

William's face displayed the pleasure he felt, before he could give
utterance to it, and Georgiana, recollecting that she had not intended
to give the invitation, but to leave to Kitty the gratification of doing
so, turned round impulsively and called to her friend, who was standing
close by Jane's chair on the opposite side of the fireplace, but casting
many wistful glances towards Georgiana and her companion.

"Kitty, I have been telling Mr. Price about the ball," said Georgiana,
as Kitty darted towards them; "that is, that we hope he is coming to it;
but you must tell him what an achievement it is to have persuaded
Elizabeth and my brother. We owe it entirely to your suggestion that
there is going to be any ball."

"Oh, Georgiana, why did you tell Mr. Price? I was keeping it for a great
surprise," exclaimed Kitty reproachfully; and turning to William, she
demanded his approval for the scheme, the details of which were quickly
expounded. William gave a proper meed of praise and admiration, and
Georgiana presently slipped away to join the others, who were preparing
to sit down to a round game; but William and Kitty remained talking
together until tea was brought in.



Chapter XVI


The following day the sportsmen went out early and returned late, and as
some friends from the neighbourhood were dining at Desborough, there was
no opportunity for much conversation between the young ladies and Mr.
Bingley's guests. Kitty passed their chief of the day in writing a long
letter to Mrs. Knightley, and Georgiana was taken possession of by Miss
Bingley, who wished to practice vocal and instrumental duets. Miss
Bingley had a good deal to say, during the intervals of their
performance, about Mr. Price, whom she acknowledged she liked very much,
and she endeavoured to prove to Georgiana, by a number of arguments, the
improbability of his having any matrimonial intentions in general, and
towards Kitty in particular. Georgiana would not discuss the point with
her. Her own esteem for Mr. Price depended on his not disappointing
Kitty, and she would admit no suspicion which might imperil it.

On the third afternoon, the shooting party having returned earlier on
account of bad weather, they were all assembled in the library. Bingley
was showing Mr. Bertram some hunting prints that hung on the walls, and
the rest were gathered round the fire, the ladies sitting, and William
Price leaning on the overmantel glancing at the pieces of porcelain and
the miniatures arranged upon it.

"What beautiful little Chinese figures these are, Mrs. Bingley," he
suddenly exclaimed. "They are genuinely old, are they not? A man I know
brought back just such a pair from Hong Kong, and I know he regarded
them as priceless. I do not think they can be imitated in Europe."

"Yes, I believe they are really old," replied Mrs. Bingley. "I do not
know the history of them, but they have been in Mr. Bingley's family for
a long time, and they are special favourites of his; perhaps you can
tell us, Caroline?"

Miss Bingley was beginning to speak when she was interrupted by a cry of
dismay from Mr. Price. He had taken the little figure in his hand to
examine it more closely, and the head had immediately fallen off and
rolled on the hearth. Fortunately a thick rug had received it, and after
a search it was discovered intact; but Mr. Price was overwhelmed with
self-reproach for his carelessness, until stopped by Mrs. Bingley
saying: "You need not mind, Mr. Price, for it was not in the least your
fault. The head was broken off already. Look, it has been slung between
the shoulders by a piece of wire. I should have mended it, but could not
manage to attach a new length of wire."

"I am relieved to find I am not the guilty party," said Mr. Price; "that
is, if you are quite sure, Mrs. Bingley."

"Indeed I am; and Kitty," she added, turning toward her sister, "perhaps
you can help me to clear Mr. Price's character. Do you happen to know
anything about the breaking of this little mandarin? We found it so a
few days after you left, and no one in the house could account for it.
I have always meant to ask you about it, but had forgotten until now."

Owing to the comparative dimness of the firelight, Jane was unable to
perceive her sister's growing confusion; but it became evident in the
embarrassed pause which followed her question. Kitty began to speak,
broke off, and began again, stumbling over her words: "I had thought it
had been broken--that is, I knew it had--but something put it out of my
head--I forgot it too till now."

"What a pity you did not mention it," said Miss Bingley severely; "it
might have been worse injured next time it was touched by anyone not
knowing the head was loose."

"Oh, well, never mind, dear Kitty," said Jane kindly; "it does not
matter; it can easily be repaired, no doubt."

Kitty, on the verge of tears, looked distressfully from one to the
other, torn between her dislike to recalling the occasion, and her
desire to exonerate herself in the eyes of William Price. The latter
consideration prevailed, and addressing Jane, she murmured with deepest
blushes; "It was not I who broke it, it was Mr. Morland."

"Mr. Morland!" repeated Jane, perplexed. "Yes, it was that last morning
he was here. We--he was in the library, you know. He had the Chinese
figure in his hand, and I recollect noticing it was in two pieces. I
never thought of it again until now, and I suppose he forgot it too."

Kitty's self-consciousness, increased as it was by the knowledge that
Jane and Georgiana would now perfectly understand the reason for the
disaster which had befallen the porcelain ornament, quite mystified her
other two hearers, to whom the explanation taken by itself would have
been sufficiently simple. All they could plainly perceive was that the
association of Mr. Morland with the incident made Kitty extremely
uncomfortable, and they were left to draw what conclusions they might by
her hasty departure from the room. William Price, with a delicacy of
feeling for which Georgiana's heart went out to him, immediately filled
up the moment of awkwardness by reverting to the original subject of
their discussion, which he still held in his hand. "At any rate," he
said, smiling, "I have helped to decapitate this poor mandarin, so it
seems only fair that I should try to mend him. Have I your permission,
Mrs. Bingley? I believe, with a fresh bit of wire and some sealing-wax,
I could make him nod as benevolently as ever."

Bingley was called upon to produce the necessary articles, and being
warned by a glance from his wife not to pursue his inquiry as to whether
they had discovered who had damaged the old fellow, the incident seemed
likely to arouse no further remark. Georgiana evaded Miss Bingley's
eyes, and went away as soon as she could to Kitty's room, finding her
friend lying upon the bed and weeping bitterly.

"Georgiana, what must he have thought?" she began instantly, throwing
herself into her friend's arms. "Why did Jane ask me that unfortunate
question, just at that time? It could not have happened worse. I was
thinking about it a little, because, you know, I had not been in that
room since Mr. Morland and I were there together. We were standing in
just the same place as we were all in to-night, and it made me quite
miserable to remember it. And now Mr. Price will not know what to think,
hearing Mr. Morland's name like that. He will suspect something, and
perhaps it will prevent him from speaking. I wish we were back at
Pemberley; I knew things would never go so well here again."

Georgiana comforted her, assured her that what had happened would never
make the slightest difference to Mr. Price, laughingly reproached her
with having run away, saying that no one would have perceived anything
out of the ordinary but for that, and counselled her to behave just as
usual when she met the others again, and everything would be forgotten.
Nevertheless, Kitty was far from comfortable during the rest of their
stay, and was in continual expectation of some occurrence which might
affect Mr. Price's attitude towards her, although the cheerful
friendliness of his manner never varied.

This apprehension rendered her particularly uneasy the following day,
which was Sunday. They all went to church, where the service was read by
a stranger, and Kitty's sensibility was sorely tried by having to listen
to various questions asked by their visitors during the walk back. Was
that the regular clergyman? He was absent; ah, indeed! Was he a pleasant
neighbour? a good preacher? And so that was the Rectory; what a
commodious, attractive-looking house! No doubt the parson was a married
man, and he was certainly a lucky fellow to be so circumstanced,
commented Mr. Bertram. Bingley made brief answers out of compassion for
Kitty, and Jane began a conversation with the two girls about something
different; but she could not attend. It was so distressing to think of
Mr. Morland, whom Bingley praised so highly and whom the others thought
so enviable, having been driven away from home on her account; that a
man so charming and so desirable should have fallen in love with her
when she was not able to care for him. There seemed something
particularly unfortunate, particularly wasteful, about the whole affair!
If he had been a Mr. Collins, that nobody, not even Maria Lucas, would
have minded refusing! Poor Kitty walked home silently, and as far from
Mr. Price as possible, with her muff held up to conceal a countenance
which she knew was unfit to be seen.

On Monday, Bingley and Mr. Bertram went out hunting, and the ladies,
escorted by Mr. Price, drove to the spot where the foxhounds were to
meet, in the hope of seeing a little sport. Bingley had offered to mount
Mr. Price also, but the latter had declined, laughingly declaring that,
like all sailors, he was not much of a horseman, and though he had once
hunted from Mansfield Park when he was a careless youngster, he thought
it would be wiser not to venture over the Derbyshire country, with its
rough moors and high stone walls, on a borrowed horse. "It is most kind
of you, Mr. Bingley," he said; "and for my cousin, it is all right, for
he has hunted here before. But I am sure you would not be pleased, if
you saw me come crashing down at the first big fence, with your
hundred-guinea hunter doubled up in the further ditch."

The ladies held up hands of horror, but Bingley, much amused, said he
would not believe a word of it, and that he felt sure Mr. Price could
ride as well as he could shoot. William shook his head.

"I have ridden all sorts of horses at different times, when occasion has
required it, and have even managed to adhere to the animal as a rule;
but my good luck might desert me to-day. Perhaps you will let me go for
a jogging ride along the lanes before I go, on your least valuable
horse."

"Seeing that I am in charge of you just now, William, I highly applaud
your decision," said his cousin, "as I don't want to have to send you
back to Portsmouth with a broken neck, which is certainly what could
happen."

"You in charge of me! I like that," exclaimed William. "Say much more,
and I will borrow a gypsy's donkey and come to meet you on it,
announcing to everybody that I am bringing along your second mount."

Mrs. Bingley was a little afraid of the cold wind, and decided not to
go, so Mr. Price took his seat in the barouche with the other three, and
greatly enhanced the gaiety of their party. They drove about for more
than two hours, and when at last, the hunt having gone away among the
hills, they decided to turn homewards, Mr. Price created consternation
among his fair companions by asking permission to get out and walk.

"Walk, Mr. Price?" exclaimed Miss Bingley, who, placed on the front
seat, had assumed the direction of the party. "Why should you want to
walk? And in this desolate wilderness! Why, we must be six or seven
miles from home."

"Yes, I thought it was about that," said William "I rather wanted a
walk, and do you know, I like this desolate wilderness, as you call it.
I should enjoy exploring my way homewards, and I have noted all the
landmarks. It is so cold, too; a splendid day for a walk."

"Oh, Mr. Price, do not go; we are all so snugly tucked in here," said
Kitty imploringly.

"Oh, if you prefer walking, pray do not let us detain you," said Miss
Bingley, speaking at the same moment, and in rather an offended voice.

William looked in surprise from one to the other; it had evidently not
occurred to him for one moment that he would be missed by any of them.
Unconsciously, his eye sought Georgiana's, and she said quickly: "Mr.
Price must be cold with sitting still so long; I expect he would enjoy a
walk. It really is not so far; from the top of the hill one can see
Kympton Church, I know, and on foot one can take an almost straight
route."

The carriage had stopped and the servants awaited their orders. William
remained irresolute; he had one lady's leave to go, another was doing
her best to appear indifferent, and the third plied him with entreaties
not to break up their comfortable little party. Georgiana was amused,
but also a little ashamed to see Caroline and Kitty, for once united in
the object of their wishes, showing those wishes so plainly. It was
clear that William Price felt the awkwardness thus created, for his
hesitation only lasted a second or two, and he said lightly: "Why, of
course, I will not get out, if it would be disturbing anybody. Probably
the negotiation of those short cuts would make me very late for dinner.
Shall they drive on?"

Miss Bingley gave the order in a dignified tone, and assured him that he
had done wisely to desist, for he certainly would have been late.
Georgiana could not help remarking that it was a pity he should have
missed his walk, for the others would not be in before five; but he gave
her a glance and a half smile, which showed her that he was not allowing
it to trouble him. Kitty, delighted that Mr. Price had given this proof
of a wish to please him, talked all the way home, and described with
great animation several _dreadful_ walks that Bingley had taken her on
the moors, when, according to her account, they had narrowly escaped
death on many occasions--wild cattle, dangerous bogs, rushing torrents
and venomous snakes being among the risks to be encountered on such
expeditions.

Mr. Price listened with interest, but his courage did not appear to be
shaken, for as soon as they descended from the carriage, he paused only
to glance at the clock, and to divest himself of his heavy coat, before
asking Miss Darcy if she would accompany him on a walk. "It will be as
short as, or as long, as brisk or as leisurely, as you are disposed
for," he said, and Georgiana declined with real regret.

"I should have enjoyed it very much, Mr. Price, but I think I had better
not; it is rather late, and the others may be wanting me before dinner.
Besides," she added, as she saw his disappointed look, "I know you want
a good walk, and you can go further if you have not to adapt yourself to
the slow paces of a lady."

"I should esteem it an honour to have to adapt myself to yours," replied
William Price, with the quick, bright smile which was so noticeable in
him.

"We must all go together to-morrow morning," said Georgiana, as she
turned away. "Mr. Bingley can show us what is the best direction. I hope
it will keep fine, but it looks very like snow."

Mr. Price did not move from where he stood for some minutes, and
Georgiana, as she ascended the stairs, felt strongly to return and
accede to his suggestion, but the fear that Kitty would not like it
withheld her. She wished that he had asked Kitty instead, or as well,
for although anyone might well have assumed--after the descriptions she
had given--that a country walk, for its own sake, was to her the most
uncongenial form of amusement, yet Georgiana knew well that it would be
viewed in a very different light were a particular companion available.

The promised walk did not take place, for the snow, which had been
threatening, fell the following day, not thickly, but with enough of fog
and dampness in the atmosphere to make the fireside seem by far the most
agreeable place. The gentlemen shot in the first part of the morning,
but returned home soon after one, ready for any entertainment that they
might be expected to provide or be provided with; and Tom Bertram's
inclinations, as usual, were in favour of the former. Not being a
card-player, or enthusiast for music, and having found Mr. Bingley to be
at billiards an adversary unworthy of his skill, he was obliged to seek
some other method of spending a winter's afternoon, and without
hesitation he broached to the assembled party his idea that they should
act some charades.

Mrs. Bingley looked doubtful, and William Price gave his cousin no
support; but the notion was warmly taken up by Bingley, his sister and
sister-in-law, and Mr. Bertram set himself to persuade Mrs. Bingley
that, next to a real play, charades were the most delightful things
imaginable, and that they had a party collected about them remarkably
well qualified to undertake any and every kind of character.

His hostess proved not difficult to persuade when she perceived what
pleasurable anticipations were aroused by the suggestion; and only
needed to be assured by her husband that it was a capital notion, and
the young people would thoroughly enjoy it, to promise help of whatever
kind was needed. William Price was ready to enter into it, when it
became evident that it was the general wish; and even Georgiana began to
be interested, and concealed her nervousness at the idea of taking part.

"You need not be frightened, Georgiana," said Miss Bingley; "all you
will be required to do is to stand perfectly still and assume a
particular expression. Louisa and I have often taken part in them; there
is no acting, it is all the pose."

"Excuse me, Miss Bingley," interposed Mr. Bertram, "the kind of charades
I propose we should do involves a certain amount of movement--acting,
in short; and others require impromptu speeches. I recollect once, at
the house of my friend--"

"I am sure you are mistaken, Mr. Bertram; the correct charade is not
acting at all; it is simply a series of pictures, or tableaux, to
represent the various syllables."

The discussion threatened to become keen, especially when the two
younger girls joined in protesting that they could not possibly recite
any impromptu speeches; but Bingley finally settled the point by
agreeing with Mr. Bertram's vehement assertion that it would be much
more amusing if they acted their parts, and that he could show them how
to do it in such a way that no speaking would be necessary, though Miss
Bingley doubted if _all_ the company would be equal to such a demand
upon their capabilities.

The next point was to choose the words, a matter of prodigious
importance, for which many books were brought out and consulted, and the
merits and possibilities of each word exhaustively debated. It was not
until they renewed the consideration of the subject at the dinner-table
that they made the discovery that if all of them were to appear in
different scenes of the same charade, there would be no one left to
guess the meaning.

"This becomes really serious," said Bingley. "If it was a play, we could
act to ourselves, and the chairs and tables, and be perfectly happy; but
the very existence of a charade is threatened if no one is ignorant of
it. And from what I hear of intended costumes, it will take the rest of
the evening for our preparations, so that we shall be ready to begin the
performance just as our ladies have to leave us to-morrow."

"But who is leaving to-morrow? Not Miss Bennet and Miss Darcy?"
exclaimed Tom Bertram in real alarm. "This cannot be allowed. Pray, Mr.
Bingley, use your authority. I am sure they could remain another day."

"Oh, yes, I am sure we could," cried Kitty; "they could not wish us to
miss the charades--it would spoil everything if we could not be here."

Bingley looked at Georgiana and asked her, smiling, if she thought it
could be managed, but she had already given an imploring, though
unheeded, glance towards Kitty, and now replied, in a low voice: "It is
very kind of you, but we ought not to stay, I am sure. The carriage will
be coming for us, and we ought not to detain it for a whole day."

"What does it matter, Georgiana," Kitty exclaimed, "only for one day!
Elizabeth will not mind. Don't you care about the charades, and about
putting a stop to the whole thing? We can easily be spared, if that is
what you are thinking; the ball is not until Friday."

Georgiana, blushing, and distressed by finding herself the object of
attack, was endeavouring to maintain her ground without giving offence,
when Jane came to her assistance.

"Georgiana is perfectly in the right," she said, "and sorry though I am
to lose them both, there is no doubt that they will be expected back
to-morrow without fail. But that is no reason why the charades need be
given up, for as we shall all be coming over to Pemberley on the
following day, we can give them there that evening, if my sister and Mr.
Darcy will consent to be audience, and our performance to-night will
serve as a kind of rehearsal."

This suggestion was enthusiastically received, as it met all
difficulties, and Kitty forgot to reprove Georgiana for hurrying her
away, in the contemplation of the news with which they would return
home, and the delightful bustle of preparation that would ensue. Jane
and Bingley had not quite the same views, and they spoke privately to
Georgiana before she left, asking her to take a message begging
Elizabeth and Darcy not to put themselves to any trouble about the
arrangements for the stage, which need only be of the very simplest
nature, a sufficiency screen and lamps being all that would be asked
for.

The rehearsal proceeded in admirable style. Mr. Bertram had constituted
himself stage-manager, and gave everyone minute instructions as to their
movements and attitudes, shouted directions from the midst of an
imaginary audience, and hastened at the last moment to take his place in
the scenes where he was required to be actor as well. With some
assistance from Mr. Bingley, he had allotted the various parts, and as
he was so fortunate as to be able to regard all four ladies from an
absolutely impartial standpoint, his judgments were, on the whole,
tolerably good; although the usual difficulties of such an occasion
arose, and had to be smoothed away, as, for instance, when Mrs. Bingley
positively declined to play a part which required any acting, although
she was the only person who looked the Queen to perfection; or when Miss
Darcy wanted to give up an important part to Miss Bennet, whom it did
not suit at all, simply because the latter was anxious to wear the dress
that went with it; or when Miss Bingley desired to represent both Lady
Macbeth and Joan of Arc, and could not be made to understand that she
could take only one, on account of the necessity for passing quickly
from one scene to another. All, however, was amicably arranged before
the evening ended, and when the others went to bed, Tom Bertram sat up,
desperately writing lists of the properties and accessories which he
deemed necessary to the performance.



Chapter XVII


Kitty was partly consoled for the agony of quitting Desborough Park by
the prospect of a reunion of the family under such enticing
circumstances, and Georgiana was sensible of the advantage of having two
or more evenings of excitement to prepare for and look forward to, to
sustain Kitty's spirits, which might otherwise have suffered some
diminution of liveliness in consequence of Mr. Price's not having made
his offer before they left. Kitty talked of it, and of him, and of the
charades, incessantly and inextricably all the way home; and it was
fortunate that Elizabeth was alone when they arrived, for it was hardly
possible for Kitty to disentangle the three subjects in giving a
description of their visit. Elizabeth made her happy by a kindly
reception of the plan for the following evening, and a promise to invite
the Ferrars and Mrs. Jennings to witness the charades; and when she had
darted away to the nursery with some presents sent by Jane to the little
Darcys, Elizabeth smilingly asked Georgiana if, from her own
observation, she could confirm Kitty's eager anticipations. Georgiana
could only reply that she believed all was going well; that Mr. Price
was more charming than ever, and the only difficulty in the way of
forming a judgment was that he was equally charming to everyone.

"I suppose Kitty's preference for him was very clearly marked?" said
Elizabeth.

"Yes," replied Georgiana, "I am rather afraid it was; but he appeared to
accept it without any embarrassment, and the understanding between them
seemed so good that I do not think there _can_ be any fear of his
disappointing her; we were almost always all together at Desborough, and
I used to think he was only awaiting an opportunity of seeing her
alone."

"Or she used to think so, perhaps?" said Elizabeth. "Well, I trust it is
going to end satisfactorily; meantime, I am most anxious to see this
paragon, with whom Jane, for her letter, seems to be nearly as much
delighted as you and Kitty are."

Kitty was allowed to be the bearer of the note, conveying the
invitation, to the Rectory party the next morning; and while Mrs.
Ferrars was writing a reply in another room, the enthusiastic young lady
was able to pour out her heart to the equally enthusiastic old lady.
Mrs. Jennings received her with much warmth, and immediately began a
series of questions which she usually answered herself at the same time
that Kitty was giving a reply, so that the real and the imaginary
descriptions were inseparably mingled together.

"And how was the young officer, my dear? Ay, ay, you need not tell me:
as handsome and as attentive as ever, I can see by your eyes."

"Yes, just as handsome as ever, dear Mrs. Jennings, and
attentive--yes--but you see we were a small party, so he could not
devote himself entirely--"

"Ah, but I fancy he _did_--did he not now? You need not be so modest
about it; these small parties are the very thing for the right people
always to pair off together. Lord! how well I remember when Mr. Palmer
was courting Charlotte, and there was a young man, too, coming after my
niece, and my sister used to say: 'It won't be a match this time,
Sarah,' and I'd say, 'You wait and see Henrietta; each of the girls has
got her beau, and there's a room for each to sit in; and the weather's
very bad;' and sure enough, the very next Monday--did you not say you
had bad weather, too, my dear?"

"I did not say so, Mrs. Jennings, but we did have some rain and snow."

"I thought as much; well, well, you are a lucky girl, to have it all
your own way, and your friends liking him so much, too; I suppose he
will speak to Mr. Darcy when he comes over here, as your father is not
just at hand."

"Dear Mrs. Jennings, you are making too much of it; he has not spoken to
me yet, you know: it is only that we are good friends, and he seems to
enjoy talking to me, and Jane was so kind, and let us sit together."

"That is quite right, my dear, just as it should be; I'll warrant your
sister Jane is a very sensible woman; and these charades, too, just the
thing. There, I am downright pleased to think I shall see the finish of
it. This acting, I suppose was the young man's idea? he is a clever one,
I know."

"No, it was not his; though, of course, he does it better than anyone
else. It was Mr. Bertram's idea--his cousin, who came with him."

"His cousin! Ah, yes, the other young man, I recollect. He was invited
for Miss Darcy, wasn't he? Come, come, now, Miss Bennet, no secrets
among friends."

"There is no secret, ma'am," returned Kitty, laughing, "I do not think
he was invited for Miss Darcy, or anyone; my sister did not know him
before."

"You may be sure that was in her mind. Is he not heir to some great
property? It seems to me I have heard so."

"He is heir to his father, Sir Thomas Bertram, in Northamptonshire; I do
not know if it is a great property."

"You may make up your mind that it is, and that something will come of
it, my dear Miss Bennet. A baronet! the very thing for Miss Darcy. Her
brother and your sister would be sure to look high. Was he not a fine
young man, and did they not make a nice couple?"

"I do not know--I did not think of it; but, Mrs. Jennings--"

"No, no, indeed, of course not. We all know what your thoughts were full
of" (laughing heartily), "and very naturally, too. Never mind, my dear,
we shall hear all about it before long, and you shall see if I ain't
right. Lord! what a thing this will be to Elinor! She thinks no one is
good enough for Miss Darcy. Well, well, it will be an evening to look
forward to. Only come and tell me when I am to make my congratulations,
for they will be on the tip of my tongue, and monstrous glad I shall be
to get them off. Will it be to-night, I wonder, or to-morrow night?
These young sailors can't afford to let the grass grow under their feet.
And your dress, my dear, what did you say it was going to be?"

In such pleasant anticipations the time passed quickly until the
re-entrance of Mrs. Ferrars with her note, when Kitty felt obliged to
return to Pemberley, as their visitors were to arrive early, and there
were still many preparations to be completed. As she walked homewards,
she was in a glow of delight over the visions which their talk had
evoked, and Mrs. Jennings's prophecy with regard to Georgiana and Mr.
Bertram fitted into its place in the same cheerful picture. Undoubtedly
Mrs. Jennings was quite right; she so seldom erred in her judgments!
Kitty could not recollect that those two had ever seemed specially
pleased with each other, but in all probability they were, for, now that
she came to think of it, there was no one else for Georgiana, and Mr.
Bertram matched her as naturally as Mr. Price did Kitty herself. Yes, it
was most likely that they would soon be engaged, perhaps married, before
another, and to Kitty, a more interesting couple! No, that would
certainly not do. If the wedding at Longbourn must be a less magnificent
affair than the one at Pemberley, if Kitty could not aspire to a
wedding-dress trimmed with such lace as Miss Darcy had inherited from
her mother, at all events she would have the honour and importance of
being married first. With smiles of satisfaction, she pictured the
sending out of the invitations, and had decided on the form of them, and
the number of recipients, by the time she re-entered the house.

The same subject absorbed the attention of the two ladies she had just
left. Mrs. Jennings could not refrain from recounting to her hostess the
conjecture she had instantly founded upon her knowledge of Mr. Bertram's
existence; and though Mrs. Ferrars was well acquainted with her friend's
flights of imagination, she had no positive arguments to array against
this one, and was obliged to content herself with urging Mrs. Jennings
to let no hint drop of her suspicions until something should occur to
confirm them, as it would be so painful for both the young people. Mrs.
Jennings promised caution, at the same time being evidently unwilling to
relinquish an idea that pleased her so much, and Mrs. Ferrars perceived
that it would be necessary to repeat the warnings very often before the
following evening, when her friend and her husband would go to the
Pemberley ball without her, as she dreaded over-fatigue; on the first
evening, the occasion of the charades, she intended to be present, and
hoped to be able to control and check Mrs. Jennings's remarks, should
they threaten to become embarrassing. Knowing her intense and
freely-expressed interest in her fellow-creatures, Mrs. Jennings's
friends would have been glad to bargain for not more than _one_ love
affair to be in progress at one time under her eyes!

The arrival of the party from Desborough could not fail to bring, even
to dignified Pemberley, a pleasant sense of bustle and excitement; and
in the first flood of greetings, introductions, and inquiries, Elizabeth
and her husband were only aware of a generally agreeable impression of
Mr. Bingley's two young guests; of Tom Bertram, good-looking,
fashionable, easy and talkative, and of William Price, with his shorter,
sturdier figure, fine open countenance, and manners which, with no want
of animation, yet attracted by their quiet simplicity. Even in the short
time since the two sets of friends had been parted, a great deal seemed
to have happened which must be talked over. Bingley wished to narrate,
to anyone who would listen to him, the wonderful achievements of his
shooting-party yesterday, who had accounted for an incredible number of
pheasants; Mr. Bertram had taken possession of Georgiana, in order to
propound to her at great length a scheme for altering and improving
several of the charade scenes; and William Price, who was somehow
established on a settee by Kitty, was telling her how far he had
succeeded in the task she had bequeathed to him, of endeavouring to
teach Mrs. Bingley's parrot to talk. The whole party were comfortably
disposed round the drawing-room fire, and looked like remaining there
until it was time to dress for dinner; but Tom Bertram, not satisfied
with explaining, wished to demonstrate, and presently asked if he might
see the acting-room, after which he was not long in requesting the
presence of his whole company there, to see if they understood their
movements and positions on the new stage. Kitty had undertaken to show
him all their preparations, and had carried off William Price with her,
and Bingley followed, with many good-humoured grumblings, summoning his
sister, who was not anxious to break off conversation with Colonel
Fitzwilliam, in the course of which she was examining him closely as to
his reasons for quitting London so abruptly in the summer. It was
necessary, however, to assert her position as leading lady, so she
joined the others, Georgiana slipping in with her, and watching for
opportunities to make herself useful, while in the intervals she put the
final stitches in a head-dress for Kitty. Mrs. Bingley was allowed to
excuse herself, pleading fatigue, and the presence of a sufficiently
large number of persons at this informal rehearsal, a reason fully
justified by the bursts of laughter and sounds of prolonged argument
which occasionally penetrated through the folding doors.

When, after a hasty toilet, the actors returned to the saloon, the
dinner guests had already arrived. Kitty was so distressingly conscious
of the confidences she had so freely given, that she kept in the
background while the two young men were being introduced to Mrs.
Jennings, and avoided meeting her eye. Mrs. Jennings shook hands with
them both warmly, and congratulated them upon having discovered such a
delightful form of amusement for themselves and the young ladies as
acting charades, these long evenings.

"Madam," returned Tom Bertram, with a bow, "let us hope that the
amusement will not be entirely on the side of the performers, since the
hard work is not the exclusive share of the spectators."

"Oh, law, Mr. Bertram, you quite mistake me; as to amusement, I can
assure you it will be the greatest treat to me and Mrs. Ferrars; but you
must admit that the hard work is not just the sort a young fellow gets
soon tired of, is it, now?"

"You think so, because you cannot see behind the scenes, Mrs. Jennings,"
interposed William Price, assuming an air of solemnity; "I do not
imagine my cousin would care to have command of a troupe of actors, such
as we are, for long together; you have no conception of what amount of
trouble we give him, I mean, the unruly ones."

Mrs. Jennings highly appreciated the allusion which she supposed these
words to contain, and tapping William on the arm with her fan, she
exclaimed: "Ay, ay, Mr. Price, I understand you, but you and Mr. Bertram
will have the whip-hand by and by, and then you can get some of your own
back."

"I am sure Mr. Bertram is an excellent stage-manager," said Mrs.
Ferrars, who had not heard all that passed, but judged by Mr. Price's
puzzled look, and Mrs. Jennings's laughter, that it was time to
intervene; "I cannot think how you have been able to work up your
charades and be ready for an audience within so short a time."

"It can only be proved that the charades are sufficiently worked up,
when we see whether the audience are sufficiently perplexed by them,"
said Bingley. "If you guess the words at once, we shall feel that we
have utterly failed."

"Do not overestimate our intellects, my dear Bingley," said his host.
"As Mrs. Jennings says, these charades are sport to you, and as a
natural consequence they are presumably death to us."

"Nonsense, Darcy," exclaimed Bingley, in the midst of the storm of
laughing protests evoked by this remark, "think of the acting, and the
splendid _mise en scène_, if your heart fails within you. Besides, you
can always applaud. Nowadays it is the fashion to admire loudest what
one understands least."

Darcy led the way to the dining-room with Mrs. Jennings, and as the
ladies of the party out-numbered the gentlemen, William Price found that
it fell to his lot to escort both Miss Darcy and Miss Bennet. The
former, seeing this, stepped on for a pace or two in advance, and Kitty,
as she took his arm, murmured: "How _discouraging_ Darcy is! He always
manages to make one feel that he despises the things we are doing."

William glanced to see if Mr. Darcy's sister had heard, and rejoined, "I
should hardly have thought so. He is only teasing, I fancy, and you know
he was speaking to Mr. Bingley, and they probably understand each other
particularly well."

"Still," said Kitty, "I must say I do not like that sort of teasing; it
is very provoking to be continually laughed at, and for one's best
friend to do it makes it all the worse."

"No, no, Miss Bennet, I am afraid I can't agree with you there; one can
put up with anything from one's best friend, or at all events with
things which one would not stand for a moment from anyone else. I wonder
if Miss Darcy feels that too?" he added, as they settled themselves into
their places at the table.

"I am not quite sure," replied Georgiana, when the question had been
explained to her. "I think that ridicule may be harder to bear from our
friends than from an uninterested person, merely because one feels they
ought to know best what is painful to one--if it is of a painful kind;
but on the other hand, one may always feel sure that a real friend had
no intention of saying anything of the sort."

"That would not be much good to _me_!" cried Kitty. "I find it is too
late, when I have already been very much vexed with anyone, to remember
that they really did not mean to vex me."

"Of course, it is not much consolation, when the blow has been already
dealt," said Georgiana musingly; "I meant that when one has reason to
believe no unkind motive exists behind anything one's friend says, then
one is not expecting to be hurt."

Kitty did not want to seem inclined to pursue the subject, and William
Price, after a moment's pause, said: "I imagine that you mean, by a
motive, the general feeling of goodwill in your friend's mind towards
you. I should doubt if people really have a distinct motive for every
little thing they do and say--at all events, they would have some
difficulty in defining one. But perhaps you yourself, Miss Darcy, are a
student of motives--perhaps your own actions are determined by a clear
purpose?"

"Mine? Oh, dear, no," said Georgiana, looking up at him, and down again
with a bright blush. "I think it is rather interesting to speculate upon
other people's motives and to wonder what hidden impulses make them do
certain things which seem hard to account for; but as to myself--oh, no,
I never understand my own motives--I do not always know what they are.
Do you understand yours?"

"Well, yes, I think so; not that I have ever troubled much about it, but
on general principles, I think I always do things, or try to do them,
either because I want to very much, or because it is a matter of
professional duty."

"Then you are decidedly to be congratulated, Mr. Price," said Georgiana,
smiling. "I should--I mean, most people would think themselves
fortunate if they had two such burning lights to guide them. I suppose
the way is so clear that you do not need to seek any further motives, as
to why you want to do the thing so much, for instance?"

"Of course not," promptly replied William, "that would be looking back.
How would one ever steer a ship, unless one kept one's eyes fixed on the
course ahead? If you suspect there are rocks, you must avoid them, but
it would be a waste of time wondering how you came to be where you are.
You see that, too, do you not?"

"Yes, I see what you mean," replied Georgiana, "but I am afraid I have
not learnt to steer my ship quite so well, or perhaps I have too many
lights, and they are confusing."

William began to reply, but was interrupted by Kitty, tired of a
conversation in which she had no share. "Mr. Price, do you know what you
have done? refused the lobster sauce! What can you be thinking of? your
turbot will not be half so nice without it!"

William made proper apologies to the bearer of the lobster sauce, who
returned it at Kitty's summons, and she was pacified by Mr. Price's
applying himself to his dinner, and entering heartily into a
reminiscence of hers at a dinner-party at Mrs. Knightley's, when they
had met for the first time, and when there had also--strange
coincidence--been turbot for dinner.

Georgiana was glad to sit for a while in silent thought. Mr. Price's
suggestion, that her life was governed by a distinct purpose, appeared
sadly wide of the mark. Did not the mistakes she had made in the past
show that she was merely drifting, lamentably weak, and having no sound
judgment of her own? Whereas people like Kitty, who had given themselves
up to the guidance of a definite aspiration, and Mr. Price, too, who had
owned what lights he was steering by, would they not soon be in safe
harbour? It seemed so, and Georgiana almost envied them of that
delightful security, for of late she had allowed herself to wonder if
such heights of happiness would ever be attainable by herself, and a
longing had sometimes crept over her, since she had known and liked Mr.
Price, that she might meet someone who could be to her what he was to
Kitty.

Throughout the remainder of dinner she did not have any further
conversation with William Price, though occasionally appealed to by one
or other of them to give an opinion upon some point at issue, generally
connected with the charades. With Mrs. Ferrars, who sat on her other
side, she enjoyed a quiet little talk, and before they left the table
Elinor inquired casually whether Mr. Bertram was nice--whether they had
found him pleasant.

"Yes, I think so--I think we all like him very much," replied Georgiana,
who until that moment had not formed any estimate of him. "He is very
lively--and he has taken an immense deal of trouble about the
charades--and Mr. Bingley, I know, considers him an excellent shot."

"That is quite an adequate description of him in a few words," said
Elinor. "I wondered what you all thought of him, as I know you had not
met before. He is not much like his cousin, is he?"

"No, indeed," responded Georgiana, speaking with more animation. "Could
you imagine a greater contrast? One can see at a glance how different
their lives and professions have been, and how different their
characters must be."

"I should be interested to hear," said Elinor in a low tone, and with a
smile, "what you take to be the chief points of unlikeness in their
characters, if you were not sitting too near to one of them to tell
me."

Georgiana smiled and shook her head. "I could not very well, and I am
sure you can read faces as well as anybody."

"I understand," said Elinor, "that the one we mentioned first is heir to
a title and a large estate."

"I believe so," replied Georgiana, "but the other is fortunate in
needing neither titles nor large estates to recommend him."

Elinor needed nothing further to convince her that Mrs. Jennings's
suspicions, as far as Georgiana was concerned, were perfectly
groundless; what the Bingleys might be desiring of her, or Mr. Bertram
aiming at, was another matter. Certainly an onlooker could hardly help
thinking of the probabilities of the match, with a handsome and wealthy
young man on the one side, and a girl of Georgiana's beauty,
accomplishments and high birth on the other.



Chapter XVIII


All went well; the dinner came to an end; the actors retired to dress,
and the six members of the audience disposed themselves in armchairs in
front of the curtain, and prepared to be mystified. The performance
commenced after no longer delay than is usual on occasions of this kind,
and opened with a duel scene, in which Bingley and Tom Bertram aimed
pistols at one another in a most realistic manner, but failed to kill
each other, owing to one weapon missing fire, and the ball of the other
not penetrating a vital part. Two of the ladies rushed in and made
demonstrations of relief at finding the wounded hero able to walk off
the field. The next scene represented a card-room, with a party of
players, and Bingley as the inveterate gambler staking higher and
higher, until all was lost on turning up of a fatal four of hearts. Next
was seen William Price as Richard I, in prison, aroused from despair at
the sound of Blondel's harp, and the vision at the barred window of the
minstrel, impersonated by Miss Bingley, cloaked and hooded and playing
on a zither. The whole word gave a fine opportunity to Tom Bertram to
exhibit his comedy powers in the part of a gentleman whose pocket is
picked of a purse of money, his lamentations to his family, his efforts
to recover it, and the final restoration of the purse, by then totally
empty.

Much laughter and applause followed this conclusion, and though the word
"misfortune" was presently discovered by the audience without any
further help, they were delighted with the spirited and vigorous quality
of the acting, which had conveyed so much to them in dumb show, not a
word being spoken on the stage. Darcy's only adverse criticism was that
so far there had not been enough for the ladies to do; but this defect
was remedied in the next word, which consisted of only three scenes. In
the first, Miss Bingley made a very tolerable Lady Macbeth, striving to
cleanse her hands of blood while she walks in her sleep, and is observed
by her gentlewoman and doctor; the second showed Joan of Arc, in the
person of Kitty, led to the stake, while the others grouped themselves
round and endeavoured to look as numerous as possible, in the parts of
the judges, soldiers and executioners. Poor Kitty's slight figure, and
insignificant presence, made it difficult for the character to be well
realized in her; and Mr. Bertram's frown as he looked at her was not an
assumed one, for he had originally cast Miss Darcy for the part, and had
expostulated vehemently when she had insisted on yielding to the
broadly-hinted-at wishes of her friend. Finally, Mrs. Bingley, as
Cleopatra, looked exceedingly handsome in a robe as Egyptian as it could
be made on short notice, and received the asp from a basket held by
Georgiana, while Miss Bingley represented her other "handmaid."

This word was not so easily guessed as the other, and Darcy and
Fitzwilliam were the first to arrive at it, while Elizabeth had to
attend to the panegyrics of Mrs. Jennings and the more quietly expressed
admiration of Mr. and Mrs. Ferrars. The former had indeed forgotten that
there was anything to guess, so enchanted was she with the whole
proceeding, so convinced that Miss Bennet and Miss Darcy were two of the
most beautiful and gifted beings who had ever appeared on any stage, and
it was only by making really meritorious effort at self-control, that
she refrained from descanting on the good fortune of the two young men
whom she supposed to be their respective admirers. She was still talking
eagerly about the dresses, and the snake, and the pile of wood that
looked so terribly real, and Mr. Bertram's being so clever and funny
when he pretended to be angry, when the curtain rose on a new scene, and
the spectators found themselves in another period of the past. Miss
Bingley, an unmistakable Queen Elizabeth, graciously received a folio
from Shakespeare, handed a ring to Essex, and on departing, stepped on a
cloak laid down for her by Raleigh. In spite of this astonishing
disregard for chronology, the scene was greatly enjoyed, as was also the
next, which with the aid of a great deal of imagination, represented the
deck of a ship. Here William Price had the leading part; he received a
party of ladies on board, showed them all round the vessel, in such a
lively manner that the deficiencies in the setting of the stage were
hardly observed, gave orders to his sailors, and finally took an
affectionate farewell of his friends, with much waving of handkerchiefs
as the ship was supposed to sail away, and Kitty wept real tears of
nervousness and excitement. The audience had had time to put the first
and second syllables together while the ship was being cleared away, and
they were in a measure prepared for the subject of the last scene,
which reflected great credit on the stage-manager. It was a very pretty
adaptation of _The Taming of the Shrew_, and showed the young girls in
the characters of Bianca and Katharina, Kitty, of course, taking that of
her namesake, in an episode of her stormy wooing by Petruchio, while
Georgiana, as Bianca, submitted to a gentler form of love-making over a
music lesson. The curtain was lowered for a moment before the sequel was
given, wherein the two husbands, enacted by Tom Bertram and William
Price, wager of their wives' obedience, and the conduct of the sisters
proved how far marriage had altered them. To Mrs. Jennings's extreme
delight, the part of Petruchio was taken by William Price, and this
seemed to her to settle the whole manner finally, a view which was
confirmed when she heard the word "courtship" passed from one to another
of her companions.

"What do you think of that now, my dear?" she whispered loudly into the
ear of Mrs. Ferrars. "What have I been telling you all along? Nothing
could be clearer. A very pretty way of showing their friends, I say.
'Courtship,' you see, my dear. Ha ha! very pretty indeed. No, no, trust
me. I shall not say a word until I am told. I know better than that. And
the other one, too. It all points the same way, does it not? Well, I
declare, I have not seen anything to please me so much this long time."

The actors presently reappeared, when they had resumed ordinary dress,
all a good deal fatigued, but in high spirits and much gratified by the
unstinted congratulations of their friends. Mrs. Bingley and Miss Darcy,
indeed, shrank from praise, for to Georgiana it had all been rather an
ordeal when the time came, and she had been conscious of doing her part
stiffly and without natural ease, and Jane declared she had not acted at
all, for she would not have known how to do it; she had simply stood
about, under Mr. Bertram's directions, and worn the clothes that had
been contrived for her. But the others were not so diffident, for
Bingley and William Price had enjoyed the whole thing heartily, and
appreciated the joke of throwing themselves into an imaginary character.
Kitty had enjoyed the acting and the applause, the pleasure of being
with William Price had been quite intoxicating, and not being altogether
without aptitude, she had really acquitted herself with some spirit,
particularly in the scenes from _The Taming of the Shrew_. But it was to
Miss Bingley and Mr. Bertram, in their own estimation, that the honours
of the evening belonged. They received all compliments with the utmost
complacency, and Caroline was heard explaining to Mr. Ferrars and
Colonel Fitzwilliam, as they all moved towards the dining-room for
supper, that she had modelled her conception of Lady Macbeth on that of
Mrs. Siddons, which she had seen so frequently and studied so closely as
to be quite at home in the portrayal of it. The lady might perhaps have
selected other listeners had she known the associations which one of
them had with that play.

"It does you great credit, Miss Bingley," said Darcy, who had been
listening to her. "It has been an evening of surprises, has it not,
Elizabeth? I could not have believed that there was so much hidden
talent among us, which would never have been unburied but for the happy
idea of these charades."

"It is always so, I can assure you, Mr. Darcy," said Tom Bertram. "Once
you decide to act, you can always discover talent in any collection of
people, ample for your needs. Of course, one or two will always stand
out, by reason of greater ability; but you must know how to select your
players, so that everyone has a part worthy of him."

"I am afraid some of us had parts we were not worthy of, to-night,"
cried William. "I never felt such a fool as when I was playing
Petruchio, and nothing but the kindness of Miss Bennet could have pulled
me through. It needs a fellow about six feet high; I always said you
ought to have done it yourself, Tom."

"My dear William, we have been through all this before. You know, I
should have liked nothing better, but I decided, after due
consideration, that I could not do justice to the principal part, when I
had to be directing the full company, all on stage at once. You hardly
realize my responsibility. But, rest assured, you did not do it so
badly."

"I think you managed most wonderfully, Mr. Bertram," said Mrs. Ferrars.
"To have to arrange the scenes, drill the other performers, and appear
in every scene yourself! It was a task few people could have
undertaken." Mr. Bertram bowed, as if there were a foregone conclusion.

"Mr. Bertram has had a good deal of experience in private theatricals,"
said Georgiana.

"I have, indeed," said that gentlemen. "Few men in England have had
more, I should say, and anyone who is known to be fairly well up in
these things, is naturally in request whenever they are going forward.
And I have been lucky, too, in my companies. I do not think I have ever
known a real failure, except perhaps once--"

Mrs. Ferrars's attention was just then called off, and he turned to
Georgiana. "Did I ever tell you, Miss Darcy, about that one time when we
attempted to do a little acting at my father's house--at Mansfield
Park?"

"No, I do not think you did."

"Well, it is a long story; it might not wholly interest you--thank you,
yes, some cold chicken--but the substance of it was that we had decided
to act a play, amongst ourselves, you know; a pleasant party--divided
among the two households, as this might be; just the very people for
acting; free to rehearse--it is true my brother had made some
difficulties; but all was going smoothly and our friends seemed to be
then all one could wish. I am not sure that Miss Crawford had much idea
of acting; but still, she might have improved."

"Miss Crawford!" exclaimed Georgiana, and involuntarily glanced round to
make sure that Colonel Fitzwilliam had not overheard her. Seeing him
occupied in talking to William Price, she continued in a lower tone: "I
did not know that you knew Miss Crawford, and I am so much interested.
Have you heard anything of her lately?"

Mr. Bertram could hardly believe his ears. He looked at Miss Darcy in
the greatest astonishment. "Certainly I know, or used to know, Miss
Crawford, but, naturally, I have not heard anything of her for several
years."

Georgiana was puzzled by his manner, and felt that in some strange way
she had made a mistake; so after a moment's pause she said: "It was
stupid of me not to recollect that you must be acquainted with Miss
Crawford too, as I was already aware that Mr. Price was. I suppose it
was at the same time you were speaking of--at your father's house--that
he met her."

Mr. Bertram had by this time partly recovered from the shock of finding
there was anyone who did not know of the Rushworth-Crawford case, and
said: "I beg your pardon, Miss Darcy, but your question was a surprise
to me. No, I have quite lost sight of Miss Crawford, and I daresay you
know more of her now than I do. You are a friend of hers, I assume."

"No," returned Georgiana, beginning to regret having pursued the
subject, "I have only met her once, for a few minutes, but my brother
and sister knew her fairly well in Bath."

"In Bath? Ah, yes, I heard that they had settled there."

Georgiana now wished nothing better than to find a new topic or a new
companion without delay; but Mr. Bertram, having rapidly disposed of his
cold chicken, began again: "You must not mistake me, Miss Darcy. I
should be very glad to hear good news of Miss Crawford once more. It is
a long time since our families held any intercourse, for--without going
into details, her brother behaved like--indeed, is--an intolerable
scoundrel; but as to his sister, she had nothing to do with that. She
enjoyed amusing herself, I fancy, as much as most people do, but there
was really no harm in it, as events proved. We all thought her a very
bright, pretty, accomplished girl. But one thing followed another, and,
of course, people are bound to hold by their relations, are they not?"

"Yes, indeed," assented Georgiana warmly, who had listened with the
deepest interest to this recital, which, fragmentary though it was,
seemed to agree with that strange rumour which Lady Catherine had
written about from Bath. She pondered over it, and though reluctant to
be indebted to Mr. Bertram for further information, she could not help
wanting to have her own opinion once more confirmed.

"I am glad to hear you say that, Mr. Bertram. I thought Miss Crawford
charming, and I heard the same from everyone who met her; but I think
she may have been misjudged--blamed, perhaps, some time or other, for
the faults of those who belonged to her."

"Quite true, Miss Darcy; I have no doubt you have hit upon the secret.
Indeed, my brother-in-law, Yates, used to say much the same. She was
certainly a very handsome girl, and it was a thousand pities she never
had the chance to play Amelia. I did not finish telling you about our
play: the parts were all cast, the stage was prepared, the rehearsals in
full progress. Yates was, after myself, the leading spirit--I think you
said you had met my friend Yates, Miss Darcy--"

He was fairly started, and Georgiana had time to grow weary of the
history of _Lovers' Vows_ and its ultimate conclusion, before the
announcement was made of "Mr. and Mrs. Ferrars's carriage," which broke
up the party. Everyone moved towards the hall, and cloaks were fetched
while Mrs. Jennings loudly uttered her good-nights interspersed with
many complimentary remarks to the actors. William Price had hurried back
to the room they had called the green room, to search for a cherished
ornament of Kitty's which she had mislaid, so he escaped from
congratulations to which, in his case, Mrs. Jennings would have given a
double edge, and Kitty contrived to avert her share by murmuring as she
embraced her guest: "I shall come and see you to-morrow." Nevertheless,
Mrs. Jennings was not to be entirely baulked of her intention, and the
long conversation between Mr. Bertram and Miss Darcy had attracted her
notice; so in wishing Tom Bertram good-night, she managed to add a few
words, felicitating him upon his success in another field besides that
of the drama. Laughing heartily at his look of blank astonishment, she
passed on, and as she never felt quite as well able to approach Miss
Darcy on these subjects as other people, she contented herself with a
sly glance, remarking: "Well, Miss Darcy, and what a delightful evening
it has been! We have not heard the last of these charades yet, for many
a long day, have we? Why, all the pleasantest part of them is still to
come, I fancy."

Georgiana succeeded in avoiding a reply; she supposed the allusion was
to Kitty, but she always preferred _not_ to understand Mrs. Jennings
whenever possible. The visitors directly afterwards went away, and the
ladies retired, the gentlemen sitting up for some time longer.



Chapter XIX


It was impossible for either Kitty or Georgiana to think of anything
else when they first awoke the next morning, than that it was the
concluding day of William Price's visit. Twenty-four hours more, and he
would be on the point of departure. Twenty-four short hours were all
that was left for an event of such prodigious importance. Georgiana knew
of her friend's half-formed hopes that the acting in the last scene of
the charades might have afforded an opening for the reality, and Kitty
had not been a little chagrined at William's pronouncement that he
wished Mr. Bertram had taken the part, but a night's rest had dispersed
these clouds, and in the happiest frame of mind, Miss Bennet went down
early, ready to make the most of every instant of this precious day. A
disappointment awaited her shortly after breakfast, for Mr. Darcy was so
barbarous as to propose taking the gentlemen to see the farm and the
horses, and to this they actually agreed, Bingley only stipulating that
they should return in good time, as he had made an arrangement to ride
with Georgiana. The damp and muddy state of the ground would not permit
of the ladies accompanying them, even the most venturesome, and when
they had all set out, Kitty found that there was nothing for her to do
until their return but to hurry to the Rectory in search of the
consolation which Mrs. Jennings was always ready to offer.

Mrs. Darcy found an opportunity during the morning for a little quiet
talk with her sister. Jane so thoroughly liked and respected Mr. Price
that she was delighted to find Elizabeth in agreement with her and
related many instances of his sterling common sense, good taste, and
amiable disposition, which she had had time, during her longer
acquaintance, to meet with. Elizabeth hazarded the suggestion as to his
presumed intentions towards Kitty, that however earnest they may be, it
was possible that he did not mean to make her an offer at present, for
his circumstances might not permit of it; he was still young, and his
prospects might not be assured enough to warrant him in taking a wife.
Jane was not inclined to think that any such obstacles stood in his way.
His cousin had told her that he had saved a considerable sum of money,
and that his brothers now being all out in the world, his family were no
longer dependent on his help. Besides which, he knew he would be made a
commander by the end of the year, and after that, it was only a matter
of short time, to an officer of his experience, especially if a little
interest could be exercised, before he obtained a ship of his own.
Bingley had heard of him from several persons in London, and all agreed
that there was not a more promising young lieutenant in the service.
These were the days of quick promotion, and his career so far gave rise
to no expectation that he would be left behind.

Elizabeth heard it all with pleasure, and would not give utterance to
her solitary regret, that Kitty should have been fated to fall in love
with a man who, in the event of their marriage, would be obliged to
spend the greater part of the year away from her.

The gentlemen had returned from their walk by twelve o'clock, and
Fitzwilliam and the two cousins waited near the front door to watch
Bingley and Miss Darcy starting for their ride. Hardly had the horses
moved off, and Colonel Fitzwilliam was considering what the guests might
like to do next, when Tom Bertram seized William by the arm, and with a
word of apology to the Colonel, carried him off to a distant patch.

"I want to speak to you, William," he began, with some abruptness, "and
Miss Bennet will be popping out on us if I do not take this chance. I
want to know--did you happen to hear what that gossiping old woman, Mrs.
Jenkins, or what ever she is called, said to me last night, just as she
was leaving?"

"I certainly did not hear anything particular, but I'm afraid one never
does pay much attention to Mrs. Jennings," returned William.

"Then let me tell you, she had the impertinence to give me the broadest
hint I ever had in my life--to give _me_, if you please!--that I was
paying court to Miss Darcy. I never was more astounded. I forget exactly
what she said, but she made it quite clear, and--yes, one remark I do
recollect, something about the 'charming future Lady Bertram.'"

"Good heavens!" exclaimed William, "what unpardonable insolence! I have
never heard anything more outrageously offensive. Was she--I hope, I
hope, Tom, that Miss Darcy did not hear any of this?"

"No, she was nowhere near at the time, but imagine my feelings, William,
never having dreamed of such a thing, and then having it suddenly
brandished in my face, as it were, by that odiously vulgar woman."

"It was disagreeable, certainly, but I am thinking more of Miss Darcy's
feelings, as from what I know of her, I can conceive nothing which would
be more repugnant to her, than to have such a subject bandied about in
jest."

"Well, you may make your mind easy, for she was certainly not listening.
But that was not what I wanted to say. Of course, it was a complete
surprise to me, but once it had been put into my head, I could not help
thinking of it, and, indeed, I have been pondering over it ever since,
and have come to the conclusion that it would not be at all a bad
thing."

"What is this?" exclaimed William. "Do you expect me to listen to you
with patience, Tom, when not three weeks ago you were sighing over Miss
Thorpe, and regretted your parents' objection to her, and declaring
there was not such another girl in the world?"

"You need not be so hasty, William. You talk as if I were already on my
knees to Miss Darcy, when I have no intentions whatever towards her; the
idea has simply been put into my head by the circumstances, and
naturally I must think it out."

"The idea has been put into your head by a foolish, chattering old
woman, if you call her a circumstance, and, coming from that quarter, is
not worth taking seriously for an instant."

"I do not know so much about that: it is true, she had no business to
say it, but there was a reason in what she said; Miss Darcy would make
an admirable Lady Bertram. Imagine my father's and mother's
satisfaction, if I could present such a girl to them as their daughter."

"Good God, Tom!" exclaimed William, tearing his arm away, "the
cold-blooded way in which you talk is more than one can bear. Weighing
one girl against another, as if it were a question of relative merit,
which you would throw the handkerchief to. It is not much of a
compliment to Miss Darcy, to admit that you never thought whether she
had attractions or not, until Mrs. Jennings suggested it to you."

"I am not considering paying compliments to Miss Darcy, and I do not see
why you should get so hot," rejoined his cousin. "I merely wanted to
talk it out with you quietly, and ask your opinion; but it is perfectly
useless if you will fly into a passion at a word."

"Well, what do you want my opinion about?" demanded William, trying to
speak in his ordinary tones.

Tom was easily placated, and really wanted to be talking, so he resumed:
"My difficulty is that I am more or less involved with Isabella. Of
course, we are both perfectly free; nothing has passed between us that
she could construe into an engagement; I had to promise my parents that:
but at the same time I practically promised myself that I wouldn't do
anything until I had seen her again, which I expect to do in January.
Now, for the sake of this connection, would it be better for me to break
off entirely with the Thorpes by degrees? You know, I like Isabella very
much, it is her family that one sticks at, while these Darcys are
unexceptionable in every way; but she herself is a devilishly fine girl,
with far more style about her than Miss Darcy, you must admit that."

"I think that the two ladies are not to be mentioned in the same breath
with each other," said William, with difficulty restraining his
indignation.

"You think not? that was what I wanted to arrive at; well, perhaps you
are right, though I always thought you needlessly prejudiced against
poor Isabella. I certainly feel more and more the advantages of such an
alliance as this, on the worldly side, that is; for their dispositions,
I fancy that of my old friend would suit me best."

"Tom," said William, turning to face his cousin fully, "I cannot think
what possesses you to talk in this detestable way. Can you not feel how
horrible it is? If you care for Miss Thorpe, you cannot think of
marrying a girl you meet directly after leaving her, and have only known
for a week. Whereas, if you think for one moment of Miss Darcy with the
feelings a man ought to have, if marriage is in his mind, how can you
possibly go on making comparisons between her and Miss Thorpe? Either
way, it is abominable treatment of one of them."

"My dear William, you are going to the other extreme. Just now, you told
me not to take anything Mrs. Jennings said seriously, yet you are
assuming me to be in the most sober earnest all round, when all I want
is to give the matter the consideration it deserves. Miss Darcy is very
charming, but I am quite heart-whole where she is concerned at present,
and so, no doubt, is she as regards me. But everything must have a
beginning, and if such difficulties are to be put in way of my marrying
Isabella, I could hardly do better than this; at any rate, it is worth
thinking of. I shall go home and see how things develop in the course of
the weeks. I can always come over again, you know; it is not the ends of
the earth."

William broke from his cousin with an impatient gesture, and hurried
away to another part of the grounds. Mr. Bertram looked after him in
surprise, shrugged his shoulders, and returned to the house, to
establish himself by the fireside with a newspaper. Many inquiries were
made for Mr. Price throughout the afternoon, to which Mr. Bertram could
only say that he had seen him last in the garden, and it was not until
nearly dinner-time that he reappeared, with a heated, wearied look, and
confessed to having walked too far and missed his way in the park.

Kitty had been on the verge of tears, as the hours of his absence went
on, and even Georgiana had begun to look grave, but this explanation
revived their drooping spirits to a great extent. Anyone might lose
their way in such a large park--nearly ten miles round! And on a dark,
foggy afternoon the paths looked all alike, and the stream had so many
windings! It was quite evident that this unlucky circumstance alone had
caused the delay. These considerations, and a most satisfactory glance
at her mirror when she was dressed for the ball, renewed Kitty's bright
hopes for the evening. She wished Lydia could see her now. How could
regimental balls, however smart and gay, compare with the splendour, the
importance, of this occasion at Pemberley. The house, as she had always
foreseen, was exactly right for a ball; the arrangements, the space, and
all details were superior to those at Mrs. Knightley's house: her dress
had been given to her by Elizabeth, and was even prettier than the one
she had worn in London, and there seemed to be numbers of pleasant
partners, including several officers, though these gentlemen were not
persons of such consideration to Kitty as formerly, she having now
decided that the naval uniform was far handsomer than the military.

It only remained for Mr. Price to ask for her hand in the first two
dances, and the gentlemen of the house were so long in appearing that
she was in the utmost terror lest she should be obliged to give them
away before he arrived, but at last, among a crowd of other men entering
the room, she discerned him. He approached, passing close to Georgiana,
who was just being led into the ball-room by a neighbour and old friend,
and came straight to where Kitty stood by Mrs. Bingley's side. How
delightful to hear the words, spoken in his own friendly way, and with
his own charming smile: "Well, Miss Bennet, I hope I may have the honour
of these two dances, if I am not too late?"

Kitty very joyously accompanied him to a place next to Georgiana and her
partner in the set, and with equal joy made an engagement for other
dances later in the evening.



Chapter XX


The rooms filled and the ball proceeded, and many present who were
frequent visitors to Pemberley nevertheless felt that those noble rooms
had never before been the setting for a more brilliant scene. Mr. Darcy
received innumerable congratulations upon having at last delighted the
neighbourhood by permitting his house to be seen to such advantage, and
not having altogether looked forward to the evening, he surprised
himself by discovering how much, with Elizabeth at his side, he could
enjoy both his own pleasure in entertaining guests, which he had not
previously done on so large a scale, and also the pleasure of others who
were important to him, Elizabeth, Georgiana, and the Bingleys. Georgiana
in particular he watched with affectionate appreciation as she moved
through the crowds, handsome and stately, generally grave, but
occasionally lighting up into shy animation, and far more admired than
she knew or cared about.

William Price had been dancing for a second time with Kitty, and they
were sitting in a corridor, on some chairs placed below a cluster of
candles in a sconce projecting from the wall, when one of the candles
guttered, and a few drops of hot wax fell on the edge of Kitty's chair,
narrowly escaping her gown. With an exclamation of annoyance, she sprang
up, withdrawing quickly from the post of danger, and looking above them,
both perceived that the mischief was caused by a candle having loosened
in its socket, and fallen a little to one side.

William immediately proposed that they should move to other seats, and
should summon a servant to replace the candle, but Kitty was in a wild
and excitable mood, and would pay no heed. Laughing and calling out that
she would put it right herself in a moment, she sprang upon the chair,
reaching as high as she could, and to the dismay of the onlookers,
thrust her hand into the midst of the candles in order to grasp the
offending one.

"Do, pray, Miss Bennet, come down!" exclaimed William, and several other
persons joined their entreaties to his. "Do not try to do it; you will
set your dress on fire--your sleeve is so dangerously near. Do let me
help you down, lest you fall and hurt yourself."

Mrs. Jennings, who had been observing the couple during the dance, and
had followed them at a little distance, now arrived in time to hear
Kitty say: "Thank you, Mr. Price, but I have already done it; and all is
well; I and my gown are quite safe, you see." And looking down at him
with a gay, triumphant smile, she gave him both her hands, and with this
assistance jumped to the ground, adding: "Now, was that not skilful of
me? and if we had waited to discuss it, you would never have let me
attend to it, though it was by far the best."

"I would have tried to prevent your running such risks, certainly,"
replied William, but his quieter tones were lost in the noisy
interposition of Mrs. Jennings. "Oh, my dear Miss Bennet, now how very
naughty of you! You have given poor Mr. Price quite a fright. Ah, Mr.
Price, she is a sad girl, I fear, but I am glad to see Petruchio is
beginning early to learn to keep her in better order. All your
rehearsing in the charades will come in useful now, won't it? but I'll
warrant this Katherine will be just as apt a pupil as the other." The
old lady laughed heartily at Kitty's blushes, and at William's blank,
uncomfortable look. "There, my dears, I won't disturb you any longer;
only I hope you will both come and talk to me whenever you feel
inclined."

Kitty, who had resumed her seat, was the first to break the awkward
silence which followed this speech. "Mrs. Jennings is a great talker, is
she not?" she said, with a laugh. "She seems able to think of nothing
but those charades, and would like to make one believe that the acting
was something wonderful."

"Yes," said William, after a pause. He had not sat down, but remained
standing with a disconcerted air, twisting Kitty's fan about in his
hands. "It is very complimentary. I wonder if--whether all the
spectators were equally impressed."

"Oh, I think they were," said Kitty eagerly. "Even Darcy said some words
in favour of it, and, you know, it is very hard to get any sort of
praise out of him. And Mr. and Mrs. Ferrars were quite delighted. And my
sister, too, Mrs. Darcy, said several times how much she liked it; she
thought it so clever of Mr. Bertram to have arranged that scene."

She looked anxiously at William, and his face cleared somewhat, but he
did not sit down again, and replied so absentmindedly to a few more
remarks made by Kitty that when sounds of music reached them, she was
quite ready to go, and walked beside him to the ball-room, thinking
petulantly that Mrs. Jennings had spoilt everything by coming just then,
and saying what she had; that no one liked to be hurried, or could be
expected to declare himself in a crowd, and that perhaps he was vexed at
having the words taken out of his mouth, as it were; altogether, the
incident was thoroughly annoying.

For the next dance, she saw him invite Georgiana, but she was already
engaged to Mr. Bertram, and he did not ask anyone else, but stood about
watching various people, and occasionally exchanging a few words with
Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mrs. Bingley, who were sitting down together
during the set. Kitty could see from where she was that they were trying
to induce him to find another partner, but he laughingly resisted their
persuasions, and continued to walk about the rooms until the dance was
over, after which he stationed himself within a short distance of Miss
Darcy's chair, and when a suitable interval had elapsed, he went up to
her and again made his request.

Miss Darcy acceded readily, and Mr. Bertram left them with by no means
as much readiness. He had scarcely moved away when William began: "Miss
Darcy, should you mind not standing up for this one? I was wondering
whether you would be so kind as to show me some of the pictures in the
gallery upstairs, which Mr. Darcy was speaking of at dinner. You know my
time is getting very short, and I should be sorry to go away without
having seen them."

"With the greatest pleasure," returned Georgiana, "and indeed I shall be
glad not to dance any more at present. But you should have made my
brother show you the pictures, as he is a far better judge than I am. We
may find him up there, as he sometimes takes his friends round on these
occasions."

The picture gallery, however, proved to be empty of visitors, and they
strolled through, Georgiana pointing out which were considered to be the
best paintings. William passed by them rather hurriedly, looking chiefly
at the family portraits, and Georgiana, observing this, conducted him
to the end of the gallery, where her brother's likeness hung. William
studied it for an instant, glancing at his companion as if trying to
trace a resemblance, while Georgiana told him the date of the picture,
and repeated that she wished they had come up before, as he would have
seen it and all the others so much better in daylight.

She noticed that William hardly seemed to take in what she said, and was
not altogether surprised when he turned suddenly to her and said, with
scarcely concealed agitation: "Miss Darcy, you are very kind, but at
this moment I cannot think of these pictures. Will you let me speak to
you for a moment? I have something important to say."

"He is going to tell me he has proposed to Kitty!" flashed through
Georgiana's mind, and for one instant a rush of feeling almost
overwhelmed her, but controlling herself as well as she could, she said
aloud: "Certainly, Mr. Price. Do say anything you wish. Will you not sit
down? and I will do the same." She indicated two chairs opposite the
portrait, and seated herself in one, but William remained standing,
looking at her with such a deep, earnest gaze, while he tightly clasped
his hands together, that he did not seem to have heard her words.

"Miss Darcy, you must forgive my presumption. It is a bad beginning to
ask for forgiveness, but I know--no one better--that it is not for me to
speak to you at present as I must speak. I would have waited, till my
position--till I was justified--but circumstances have made it
impossible to go away and wait in utter uncertainty, for an unknown
future. I do not ask anything as yet, only a hearing--only that you will
let me tell you how truly and devotedly I love you, and have loved you
from the first moment of my seeing you."

A dreadful misgiving had passed over Georgiana at the beginning of this
speech, and only consternation kept her silent till its close. She
sprang up, in a horror and dismay that would scarcely find expression,
and exclaimed: "Mr. Price! You to say such words to me! What _can_ you
mean? What can anything mean? _You_--no, no, it is all some horrible
mistake."

"No, Miss Darcy, indeed, it is no mistake," broke in William eagerly and
earnestly. "Do not be so distressed, I beg you. I do not ask you to give
me any definite reply, though you can guess what perfect joy it would be
to have one word of hope, however slight, from your lips--but I will
wait and try to earn the right to ask for more. Next year my position
will have improved, and your brother will not perhaps think it quite out
of the question. Nay, I implore you, dearest Miss Darcy, to hear me only
this once. I did not mean to trouble you so soon, but I could not bear
to go, so far away, with no prospect of seeing you again, and knowing
that others might be near you, others far more eligible and desirable
than myself--you would understand, I am sure, if you only knew the tithe
of what I felt."

"Mr. Price," said Georgiana, signing to him with her hand to stop, and
standing erect before him, "I insist that you shall cease. I will hear
no more of this. You cannot be in your right mind; at all events, you
will not find me so destitute of sense of honour as you think." She
paused, choked with emotion at the thought of Kitty.

"Destitute of honour! when you know, Miss Darcy, that I think you the
purest, loveliest, best of creatures. Forgive me if I have offended you,
only tell me how I may correct it. Do I wrong in speaking to you first?
I will do whatever you wish; I would not grieve you for the world."

With great effort, Georgiana collected herself sufficiently to reply:
"These professions of yours amaze and horrify me. I cannot tell you
whether they are more painful to me if I have to regard them as true,
than if, as at present, they seem hypocritical. In any case, it is
absolutely inexplicable that you should use such language to me, you who
for months past have been recognized by all her friends as the admirer
of my friend Miss Bennet."

The words were out, and Georgiana felt hot with shame as she uttered
them, conscious that even with the need for openness on this terrible
occasion, the betraying of her friend's hopes to the object of them was
a shocking thing. She was so overcome as to be unable to look at William
Price's horror-struck face.

"Miss Bennet! It is possible that you thought I was paying attentions to
Miss Bennet? Miss Darcy, you cannot be serious. This is too frightful. I
never thought of doing so, never dreamed of her expecting them, if she
did expect them. Miss Bennet was always gay and cheerful--she is a
charming girl, as we were excellent companions; but as for anything
more--surely you could not have been deceived, whoever else was, when
you alone were the subject of all my desires and hopes?"

Georgiana shrank from the task of answering such an appeal, and took
hold of another part of his sentence to reply to. "She did expect them,
Mr. Price, and she received enough, at all events, to mislead her most
cruelly. She has thought of no one but yourself, and of meeting again
here, for months past, and everything that has happened in the last week
had strengthened her in her belief in your attachment. You cannot deny,"
continued Georgiana, her indignation rising, "that your constant
association, her delight in your society, have given rise to expectation
in the minds of her friends, if you dispute its existence in her own."

"No," said William, "I cannot deny that, for I had a proof of it this
evening in some remarks dropped by Mrs. Jennings; but though they
disturbed me momentarily, I dismissed them from my mind, as I knew she
was the kind of person whose chief delight lies in teasing young people
about each other, and I thought Miss Bennet, and her other friends, were
too sensible to be continually entertaining such fancies."

"Fancies!" repeated Georgiana warmly. "My poor friend is completely
wrapped up, heart and soul, in what you designate as a fancy."

"Indeed, I am very sorry," said William, looking utterly downcast, "very
grieved and ashamed, if I have caused Miss Bennet a moment's uneasiness,
though I can hardly think that others, Mrs. Bingley and Mrs. Darcy, in
particular, have so completely failed to perceive--but it is useless to
enter into the exact degrees of misunderstanding. I, at least, have been
as thoroughly blind as a man could wish to be. What can I do, Miss
Darcy, to prove to you my innocence? If I have occasioned this
unfortunate error, it has been through ignorance, thoughtlessness,
nothing more. Is there any one thing, any incident, you could tell me
of, by which you may have been inadvertently misled?"

Georgiana's ideas were so confused, and she was altogether so agitated
that at the moment she felt as if she would never be able to collect
herself sufficiently to marshal her evidence, now it was required; but,
luckily, as she tried to think, one episode darted into her memory,
which had frequently been discussed between herself and Kitty, and had
seemed to bear naturally but one interpretation. Painful though it was
to bring such matters into dispute, she forced herself for Kitty's sake
to say: "Did you not tell Mrs. Knightley, after the ball which took
place at her house, that you had never enjoyed an evening more, and
that there was one person whose presence there had been everything to
you? Did you not give her to understand that you meant Miss Bennet?"

Distress and surprise were clearly shown on William's countenance. He
began to speak, hesitated, and broke off, and then resumed: "I know what
you mean, but it is all too bewildering. Surely Mrs. Knightley did not
tell you that? I never spoke or thought of Miss Bennet in that
connection. Except that I had some pleasant dances with her, she might
not have existed for me that evening. I recollect telling Mrs. Knightley
what a delightful evening I had had, and it was she who suggested that
one person's presence had contributed more to it than any other. I could
do nothing but agree with her, as I thought she had noticed my instant
and intense admiration of you. It was so evident to me, that I supposed
it was to others. I thought of no one else but you. When Mr. Bingley
invited me to stay with him, I was doubtful if I could accept, but
directly he said that you lived in the same neighbourhood, I determined
that nothing should prevent my coming. Do you recollect anything else,
Miss Darcy, our meeting at the Hursts', and Captain Wentworth saying
that you believed sailors to be fickle, which made me so uneasy until I
persuaded myself that you did not mean it? Oh, do not shake your head,
continue to misbelieve it, I entreat you. And in these last few days, if
events have happened to throw me more with Miss Bennet than with
yourself, it has not been my doing, or my wish. I implore you to be
convinced of this, and to accept my assurances of my unswerving loyalty
and devotion towards you."

It was impossible for Georgiana not to be moved by these words, though
she had tried to check their passionate flow, and had remained where she
was, leaning on a chair, solely because her trembling limbs would
hardly support her. Now, however, summoning all her courage, and
strengthening herself with thoughts of Kitty, she spoke in a tolerably
firm voice. "Mr. Price, I must believe that this unhappy mistake has
been made unintentionally, since you say so, but the wretchedness it has
caused will not be so easily cleared away. The assurances of your
loyalty should not be made to me, you owe them to Miss Bennet and her
only."

She could get no further, for she was interrupted by William with a
vehemence exceeding any that he had shown before. "Miss Bennet! Except
as your friend, and as a lady for whom I have a great liking and
respect, Miss Bennet is nothing to me, and never could be. Oh, Miss
Darcy, you do not yet understand me. Can you forget Miss Bennet for one
moment, and tell me if, apart from all that, there would be the
slightest hope for me at some future time? the least chance of your
having some faith in me, to enable me to strive to win you as I long to
do?"

He had made an error, and saw it before he had finished his sentence.
"Forget Miss Bennet?" repeated Georgiana, with a flash of angry pride,
as she walked away from him. "I do not think you understand _me_, Mr.
Price. When I have desired a friend's happiness so long, I cannot
lightly see it thrown away, and never, never would I seek it for my own
if it was to be at the expense of hers."

William, on hearing this, made a quick pace forward to intercept her,
and, turning, so that they stood face to face, he asked in quieter, but
not less ardent tones: "Only one word more, Miss Darcy. Forgive me for
what I said, but tell me this. You spoke of happiness. Did you mean that
it might be happiness to you, if all this were cleared up? Did you mean
that I might be able to make you happy, and that there was any
possibility of your ever coming to feel for me even the smallest part of
what I feel for you?"

Georgiana, trembling, almost weeping, her anger not subsided, but other
sensations surging strongly up, brought herself to look for one moment
into the eyes of glowing entreaty bent upon hers. With almost a sob, she
broke away from him, exclaiming: "No, no; it is of no use to ask me. Do
not talk to me in such a way--I must not--I will not listen--I cannot
bear it," and fairly ran out of the gallery.

William stood stunned and motionless for some minutes. At last he roused
himself, with a deep sigh, from the contemplation of his ruined hopes,
and strove to think of what he ought to do next. While desiring nothing
so much as solitude and quiet, he remembered that Georgiana would not
have gone straight back to the ball-room, and for the two of them to be
absent would give rise to remark. To protect Georgiana was an instinct,
and it gave him a ray of satisfaction in the midst of his perplexity and
misery to remind himself that though she had refused his love, she now
knew of its existence, and whatever misapprehension there might be as to
the past, she would perceive what influence guided his actions in the
future. He slowly descended the stairs, so bewildered still as scarcely
to be conscious of what was going on around him; rehearsing their
conversation and thinking too late of things he might have said, which
would perhaps have been of some service to his cause. A crowd of persons
were streaming into the hall from the ball-room, the second dance since
he and Georgiana went upstairs having just ended, and supper being now
talked of. He mingled with the rest, and presently manoeuvred himself
into a place near Mrs. Bingley, who was now sitting with Mr. Ferrars,
and greeted him with a pleasant smile.

Beyond a casual inquiry as to whether he had seen Kitty, she asked him
no questions, and before long he found himself introduced to a young
lady, and directed to find a place for her at one of the supper tables.
What he talked of he did not know, and the rest of the evening passed in
the same dreamlike manner. In his desire to attract no special
attention, he chatted and laughed and danced, and was persuaded that he
did so as gaily as before, but he could not keep his thoughts from
wandering to Georgiana, whom he had seen returning, looking very pale,
about a quarter of an hour after they had parted, or to Kitty, whose
eyes continually and anxiously sought his. It was far more painful for
him to see her than Georgiana, whom of course he held blameless, even
for her hard words; Kitty he vaguely felt to be in part responsible for
the whole trouble, and though bitterly reproaching himself for folly and
blindness, he could not bring himself to go near her, to speak to her,
or dance with her again, when such a construction had been put upon all
their previous intercourse.

Angry at the pain he was giving her, and driven to despair at the sight
of Georgiana's pale cheeks, he found the length of the evening almost
unendurable, and the only relief he obtained was in going to Mr.
Bingley, and asking him to fix as early as possible an hour for their
start on the following morning, for it would be necessary for him and
his cousin to be well on their long journey towards Mansfield by the
afternoon. It had been already arranged that the three gentlemen should
return to Desborough independently of Mrs. and Miss Bingley, who were to
remain at Pemberley for another day or two to recover from the fatigues
of the ball. Mr. Bingley good-naturedly agreed, judging that the young
people had decided that it would be better to make their adieux the
night before, rather than come down early to a painful scene of parting
at the prosaic breakfast-table, so he went away to consult Darcy, and
send out orders to the stables. This done, William felt more
comfortable; inaction was intolerable to him, and he would have removed
himself from the house at once if he could have done so, since to
relieve her of a presence which had become embarrassing and distasteful
to her was the only thing he could now do for Georgiana.

She had, as he anticipated, sought the refuge of her own room when she
fled from the gallery; but even there the old habits of self-command and
consideration for others prevailed over the longing to give way to her
grief and distress of the mind. She knew she must not allow herself the
luxury of a burst of tears, nor even a little quiet thought, in order to
realize what had occurred, and decide what, if anything, she should say
to Kitty. No, there was no time for that, there would be plenty of
opportunity soon, to readjust their view of recent events, and all that
they meant to Kitty and herself. Shaken and unnerved by the shock of
William Price's declaration, Georgiana shrank from immediately facing
its consequences. She could only take a few moments in which to compose
herself and endeavour to smooth away the traces of emotion. That she
must see him again was a dreadful thought, but it would be a far worse
ordeal to have to encounter Kitty's inquiries and lamentations on the
following day, and the surprise of Elizabeth and Jane. Georgiana dared
not let herself think of all this, when this horrible evening was not
yet over. She hastily bathed her face, and opening the windows wide,
leaned out for a few minutes, for the night air to cool her throbbing
temples, and went down at last, feeling as if her countenance must
betray to every observer the secret of what had happened.

She took refuge at once by the side of Elizabeth, who made room for her
with a smile, and did not fail to notice her aspect. As soon as she was
at liberty, she asked Georgiana if she was very tired, and took care
that she was provided with some refreshment. Georgiana owned to a good
deal of fatigue, but declared that she should sleep it off, and
Elizabeth, who thought her lassitude partly attributable to some worry
about Kitty, told her that she might slip away to bed as soon as she
chose, and that Kitty must not come into her room for one of their long
conversations; they must wait till to-morrow to talk over the ball. Poor
Georgiana assented with a grateful glance, but had difficulty in
restraining her tears, as she thought how little Elizabeth dreamt that
interview with Kitty could be a thing to be dreaded, not welcomed.

After supper, she could not, for fear of making herself conspicuous,
avoid one or two invitations to dance; but she was truly glad when
Colonel Fitzwilliam, on a hint from Elizabeth, approached her, and said:
"Let me take you to a seat in the library, Georgiana. I fear you are
tired, and you will be able to rest quietly there, and not say one word
to me unless you please--we are old enough friends for that, I should
think."

There were but few persons in the large library, at one end of which a
table had been set out, where servants dispensed tea and coffee during
the evening, and the cousins placed themselves on a leather-covered
couch near the fire at the opposite end. True to his undertaking,
Colonel Fitzwilliam remained silent after he had established his cousin
in comfort, and screened the blaze from her face; but after a few
minutes, Georgiana roused herself, thinking anything better than being
left to her own reflections, and suddenly recollecting a thing that she
had intended to tell Elizabeth, had she been able to see her alone
during the day, and deciding that there could be no harm in
communicating it to Colonel Fitzwilliam herself, she mentioned having
learnt the fact of Mr. Bertram's acquaintance with Miss Crawford, and
asked if her cousin happened to know it.

He admitted himself informed, but expressed interest, as he himself had
not discussed it with Mr. Bertram.

Georgiana therefore ventured to give him Mr. Bertram's description of
her, and pointed out rather timidly that it seemed to agree entirely
with what they already knew and had heard.

"Yes," said Colonel Fitzwilliam thoughtfully; and after a pause, he
added: "I am glad he spoke so well of her--glad she had an advocate in
him, for, as you may have gathered from what he dropped with regard to
her brother, it would not be surprising if the Bertram family were a
little prejudiced against all the Crawfords. I am glad that he, at
least, has the manliness to award blame only where blame is due."

Georgiana listened attentively, half expecting that her cousin would go
on to explain the nature of the prejudice against the Crawfords, which
had clearly done Miss Crawford so much harm; but he did not, so after a
little she hazarded the remark: "He did not seem to know anything about
her of late years, so I thought it useless to ask about her marriage."

"You were right; it would have been useless," said the Colonel.
"Elizabeth, I know, troubles herself a good deal about not having heard
any particulars, but doubtless the world will be informed all in good
time, and when there is any news, one may expect it will penetrate even
to Derbyshire." He smiled as he spoke, but it was not a cheerful smile,
and his voice had the ring of something very like bitterness.
Georgiana's heart ached for him; she felt that never before had she
known what a disappointment could be.

Colonel Fitzwilliam talked of other things, until they were interrupted
by Tom Bertram, who came hurrying in search of them to ask Miss Darcy to
dance with him again. "Miss Darcy--so sorry you are tired, but you
positively must allow me just these two. People are beginning to go,
actually! and, you know, when that happens, a ball always begins to lose
some of its spirit. Besides, who knows when we shall have another such a
delightful evening as this again? I have been telling Mr. and Mrs.
Bingley I can never sufficiently thank them for having brought me here."
Georgiana suffered him to lead her to the dance, and to go on talking,
for she was quite unequal to arguing with him. At the conclusion of the
two dances, Elizabeth, who had been watching her, came up and asked her
if she would not like to retire at once, and fortified by this
permission, Georgiana turned to say good-night to her partner, whose
protests against her disappearance were as strong as the polite Tom
Bertram could make them.

"Why, Miss Darcy, if you remove yourself, the ball may as well break up;
and it is really cruel to make me say good-night, when it is good-bye as
well."

"Is it? Do you start so early to-morrow? I am very sorry," said
Georgiana, with an effort at the cordiality which seemed expected of
her.

"We do, indeed; some wild idea of my cousin's, I fancy, that it will
take us all day to get to Mansfield, even going round Desborough to meet
the curricle. It will not; but Mr. Bingley has just informed me that
William wishes to start not a moment later than eight, and you ladies, I
fear, are not likely to be on the scene at such an unearthly hour?"

"No, indeed," said Elizabeth, "after such dissipations as charades and a
ball, it will be remarkable if any of us are able to leave our rooms for
a week. You do not realize what quiet people we are here ordinarily, Mr.
Bertram." She chatted on, and under cover of it, Georgiana managed to
say a brief adieu and glide away. Could she avoid seeing Mr. Price
again? No! he was standing by the foot of the stairs; he seemed to be
watching for her; there was no escape. Her head was averted, and her
foot placed on the lowest step, when he started forward, and not
offering to shake hands, but in a low voice and a look of intense
earnestness, he said: "May I say good-bye to you, Miss Darcy?"

Georgiana hardly knew if her "Good-bye, Mr. Price," was audible; but he
bowed, and stepped back, his eyes following her as she went up the
stairs.



Chapter XXI


In the gloom of the following morning, at an hour which seemed
exceptionally cheerless by reason of the mist and fine rain which
prevailed, Mr. Bingley's chaise drove round to the front entrance of
Pemberley. Kitty, who, after a night of weeping and wretchedness, had
fallen into a doze, was aroused by the sound of movements and voices,
but when she peeped through her curtains, she was too late for anything
but a heartrending glimpse of the skirts of William Price's great-coat,
as he stepped into the carriage. The door was shut, Darcy and
Fitzwilliam waved their farewells, and the horses moved off at a brisk
trot. Kitty watched and listened to them as long as she could, and then
flung herself on her bed in a paroxysm of grief. Though William's
avoidance of her during the latter part of the previous evening, his
strange altered looks, and his embarrassed way of saying good-night, had
undermined her hopes to such an extent that she had been all night
facing the terrible desolation caused by the thought, "If he does not
care for me after all," yet she had not actually given all up in
despair until the moment of hearing him leave the house. Some note, some
message, might have arrived--might still arrive; but since parting from
him, Kitty had not been able to quell the horrible fear that all was
over. The indications, which had been so favourable, had completely
changed since Mrs. Jennings had uttered her foolish remark; in vain had
she tried to reinstate her old relations with William Price. What could
it all mean? Each time she put this question to herself she gave way
afresh to unrestrained tears, and, weakened by fatigue and emotion, was
totally incapable of following out any train of thought or conjecture.
She had longed to hasten to Georgiana the night before, to pour out her
heart in an appeal for the support which Georgiana had never failed to
give; but Elizabeth had checked her in this intention; and, poor Kitty,
unable to bear pain alone with any degree of courage, had worked herself
into a deplorable condition by the time her sister arrived at her door
in the morning.

Elizabeth and Jane had naturally both surmised something of the state of
things as regarded Kitty. It was not difficult for anyone acquainted
with the previous development of the affair, to perceive that William
Price had not fulfilled the expectations which had been formed of him,
and Elizabeth accounted for Georgiana's evident unhappiness by
concluding that she had become aware that this would be the case.
William Price had looked much as usual, up to the last, but Elizabeth
suspected that there had been some elucidation either between him and
Georgiana, or through Mrs. Jennings, and she hardly knew how much to
blame him. There was no time to talk matters over with Jane, for she
felt, as soon as she was up, that her immediate visit must be to the
chief sufferer, to comfort and sustain her and, if possible, to shield
her from the consequences of her own error.

Kitty would not admit her at first, and when at length Elizabeth
persuaded her to do so, she was distressed to see what ravages the shock
of disappointment and the hours of weeping had wrought. Kitty's tears
broke out anew, but the sense of Elizabeth's affection and companionship
somewhat soothed her, and when she could speak more coherently, she
begged to see Georgiana, who could perhaps tell her things--who would be
able to explain. This Elizabeth could not permit, for she saw that Kitty
was in no fit state to talk over her troubles, but she promised her an
early opportunity of doing so, and having induced her to swallow some
food and a cordial, she soon had the satisfaction of seeing her fall
asleep. These precautionary measures were fully justified in the course
of the next forty-eight hours, during which time Kitty remained really
ill, attacks of strong hysteria alternating with weakness of extreme
exhaustion. Every care was lavished on her by her two sisters, by
Georgiana, and by Elizabeth's maid; but naturally anything like rational
discussion of the cause of her illness was out of the question, and,
indeed, Kitty herself, after once asking if Mr. Price had left any
message for her, or spoken of returning at some future time, and
receiving a negative answer, seemed, after giving way to a torrent of
tears, unable or unwilling to puzzle matters out any further.

Georgiana did not escape the inquiries and speculations of Elizabeth and
Jane. When she descended from her room the morning after the ball, at an
hour little later than her usual one, to take her place in the family
circle, she had regained complete control of herself, and declared
herself entirely refreshed, and beyond a little heaviness of the eyes
and paleness of cheeks, naturally attributable to the fatigues of the
last two days, there was nothing in her aspect to cause remark. No one
guessed at the sense of guilt which filled her heart when she saw what
grief and disappointment had done for Kitty, or at the deep compunction
and almost unendurable self-reproach which assailed her when the others
discussed his strange defection, and professed themselves unable to
account for the curious change in his attitude towards Kitty--a change
which several people had noticed the last hour of the ball. Elizabeth
and Jane asked her if she was at all prepared for it, whether anything
had occurred to make her suspect that Mr. Price would not propose
marriage to Kitty after all. These questions were a hard trial to
Georgiana, for she could not bear to be other than straightforward, and
for a multitude of reasons she could not divulge the true explanation;
she could only say in a low, troubled voice, and with as few words as
possible, that she had learnt, in the course of the evening, that their
expectations were mistaken ones, and that she feared Kitty would take it
very much to heart.

Seeing her unhappiness on her friend's behalf, the two ladies forbore to
tease her with further inquiries, though Jane still felt that Georgiana
could have thrown more light on the mystery had she cared, and in her
hearing continually lamented the failure of everything for poor Kitty,
who had fallen, as it were, between two stools, the regrettable ending
to all this pleasant time, and the fickleness of young men, or, rather,
the unfortunate complications that arose through their not knowing their
own minds. Georgiana had to listen to this in silence, though conscious
that the last was not an accusation that could fairly be brought against
William Price, and Elizabeth's more rational way of accounting for
things was not much better, when she said that she did not think Mr.
Price guilty of more than thoughtlessness, but it was certainly a pity
that he had not been able to perceive earlier the extent of Kitty's
feeling for him, as no doubt, when he had at last become aware of it, he
realized what Elizabeth had already surmised to be in his mind, namely,
that his roving life did not warrant him in thinking about matrimony at
present. Georgiana thought she might venture to say here that William
Price had indeed expressed great sorrow to her on finding that he had
been the cause of disappointment to Kitty, and she even went so far into
the dangerous fields of explanation as to add that he had had no
suspicion of it until surprised by a chance word of raillery from Mrs.
Jennings. She was pleased to see that this news partly rehabilitated him
in the mind of Elizabeth, if not of Jane; and for fear of betraying more
than she ought, she went away, wondering why she should be glad for him
not to be misjudged, when she really ought to be only thinking of how
wrongly he had behaved.

The hour of enlightenment for Kitty could not be long postponed. By the
third day she was well enough to sit up in a large chair in her own
room, and on being visited by Georgiana, begged her to stay for a time,
and to fasten the door. When assured of their freedom from interruption,
she seized her friend's hand, made her sit close beside her, and
implored her to relate everything she could that would throw light on
Mr. Price's changed conduct and hasty departure. Georgiana nerved
herself to reply, but for the first few minutes, Kitty was talking and
crying incessantly, pouring out the pent-up grief of the last few days,
so that Georgiana had great difficulty in calming her, and dreaded the
effect of the revelation about to be made.

"Dear Kitty," remonstrated Georgiana, "you must not cry; you must be
more composed, or Elizabeth will not let me stay with you. Do try to be
brave; think whether it is right to give way so much; you will make
yourself ill again, you know."

"Anyone would be ill after what I have been through," lamented Kitty; "I
shall never be happy again. Why does he not care for me? Did he tell you
why not, Georgiana? What have I done, or what has Mrs. Jennings done?
Something must have happened to offend him, for he changed all in one
minute."

"I do not believe anything happened to offend him, Kitty," returned
Georgiana. "As he has gone away now and did not do what he all thought
he would do, is it not best to assume that he does not care in the way
we hoped for, and try to forget about it, and not mind too much? Dear
Kitty, I am deeply grieved for you: it has been my fault, more than
anyone's, and you are right to reproach me; I can never forgive myself
for having led you into the mistake."

"But you are not answering me, Georgiana," cried Kitty, with the
petulance of an invalid; "of course, I know he does not care, and has
gone away, but I want to know why he has gone. If it is not for anything
I have done, he might come back."

Georgiana was silent, and held her down; she shrank still from telling
Kitty that he would not come back. Kitty began again impatiently. "It is
foolish of you to talk about reproaching yourself. It is not more your
fault than anyone else's; not so much as Mrs. Jennings's, but if he
spoke to you about it at all, he must have said something, have given
some hint. Did he talk to you, Georgiana? You have not told me that
yet."

Georgiana gave up what hopes she had had of concealing from Kitty what
would make the disappointment far more thorough, and crushing, and as
gently as possible managed to convey the fact of William's confession of
attachment to herself. She was obliged to say it several times, and in
language of unmistakable clearness, before Kitty could grasp her
meaning; and even then, as she sat crouched on the ground, her face
averted and her cheeks burning with shame, Kitty, who had drawn her hand
away, gazed at her in mingled horror and incredulity. In the course of
these three days, the notion that Miss Kitty Bennet was _not_ the object
of William Price's preference had at length penetrated the mind of that
young lady, but that her friend should be the chosen one was a thing
altogether past comprehension, and the first idea that occurred to her
was that there must have been treachery to herself somewhere. Kitty's
changes of mood lately had been punctuated by bursts of tears, and this
was no exception to the rule, though they were now tears of
mortification. Her first angry impulse was to pour out words of blame,
accusing Georgiana of not being satisfied with the attentions of Mr.
Bertram, but requiring those of his cousin too. Georgiana disdained to
reply to such a taunt, but it needed all her patience, all her
tenderness, to persuade Kitty out of her bitter frame of mind, and to
endeavour to heal the wound to the poor girl's vanity, which had indeed
all through been more deeply involved than her affections, little though
she realized it. Combined with a love of importance, and the
encouragement given by her friends, it had carried her on a wave of
excitement through the past months, and had helped to fix her hopes more
firmly on William Price than any knowledge of his character, any real
congeniality in their natures could have done. But she could not be
aware of all this, and there was no immediate comprehension to make the
disappointment less acute.

It certainly was consoling to feel that everyone else must have been to
blame, that everybody had been equally deceived; that even Georgiana
herself had been taken by surprise, and was now heaping upon herself the
severest reproaches, while she implored Kitty's forgiveness--not, Kitty
discerned in a puzzled way, for having received Mr. Price's proposals,
but for having helped to foster the deception which had reacted so
cruelly upon her friend. Above all, it would have been a relief, having
discovered that Mr. Price must have acted atrociously, to say so, and
the more Kitty thought of it, the more she resented his conduct. But
Georgiana would not admit this; she would only allow that it was all
utterly inexplicable, but that they could not judge fairly of Mr. Price,
not being able to see his point of view, and that if that was clear to
them, she was sure that he would be found to have acted honestly all the
way through.

Kitty immediately suspected that Georgiana had been won round to the
said point of view, and began to question her closely as to what had
passed between them; but Georgiana indignantly repudiated the
suggestion, and assured Kitty, in a manner that forbade further
discussion, that she had decidedly refused Mr. Price, refused even to
listen to him, and had not the slightest expectation of ever seeing or
hearing from him again. She added, that she had refrained from telling
Elizabeth, or any of the others, about Mr. Price's offer, and thought it
would be best if Kitty decided to do the same, to which, as she had
expected, Kitty willingly agreed.

Nothing, in fact, could have suited Kitty better, in the circumstances,
than a compact of silence. At the end of their long conversation, when
Georgiana left her, by far the more exhausted in spirits of the two, she
had begun to have some of the sensations of an injured heroine, and it
was much more satisfactory to consider herself badly treated--to have
been jilted, to all intents and purposes, than if it came to be known
that she had been all the time in love with the wrong man, in which case
her position would be shorn of much of its dignity. Her sisters'
sympathy was very acceptable to her, and when Jane invited her to return
with her to Desborough for a time, she gladly promised to do so, knowing
that it would not at first be at all comfortable to remain with
Georgiana, the one person who knew the whole story. It was therefore
arranged that Jane and Miss Bingley should defer their journey for two
days more, when it was hoped she would be quite equal to travelling with
them.

The only drawback to the plan, as far as she was concerned, was Miss
Bingley's presence for another fortnight at Desborough. That lady had
not troubled herself to make any conjectures with regard to William
Price's departure, but frankly told Jane and Georgiana that it was
exactly what she had expected. She at least had never been misled; she
had never supposed Mr. Price to be in love with Miss Bennet or anyone
else. She could not imagine why they had all persuaded themselves of it.
Nothing was clearer than that he was a young man quite heart-whole. Jane
protested, but Georgiana made no comment, only begging her friend
privately not to refer to the subject in Kitty's hearing.

The day arrived, Mr. Bingley's carriage again drove to the door, and the
three ladies took their seats in it, Kitty's farewell glance being given
towards the spot where she had last seen William Price. With their
going, the whole episode seemed to be finally closed, and Georgiana
turned to re-enter the house, and to take up the duties of a life which,
in one short week, seemed to have been robbed of almost all its
brightness. She had been making an unsuccessful struggle against low
spirits, ever since the ill-omened day of the ball, and being unable to
dismiss, had tried hard to account for, the strange sense of depression,
of loneliness, and loss, which assailed her continually. It was not only
sorrow for Kitty's disappointment, or regret for her own share in it,
nor was it the estrangement that had arisen between them; no, it was not
a vision of Kitty that so constantly obtruded itself upon her thoughts,
but of a very different person, one whose ardent looks and words
insisted on being remembered, whose voice she seemed to hear again
pleading for what she dared not give. Every detail of their conversation
in the gallery crowded upon Georgiana's memory, once she had made her
confession to Kitty, and would admit these thoughts; they would not be
denied, as she had denied him a hearing, but came back to her with a
vivid clearness and an irresistible appeal.

She remembered how he had described the beginnings and the growth of his
attachment to her, and looking back over the course of their
acquaintance, countless incidents stood out, to verify all he had said.
When no longer viewed through Kitty's illusions, every one of their
meetings and conversations was seen in its true light, consolidating
their friendship, giving each an insight into the other's character. Why
was it such a joy, though an indescribably painful one, to recall these
things, to live again through the moments spent in the gallery?
Georgiana's heart answered her, and she felt that the answer must always
have been there, though she had only just awakened to it. It was a joy
because everything connected with William Price must be a joy to her,
himself, his nobleness, his true worth, and the knowledge that he cared
for her, but it was pain, because, sweet though it was to hear what he
had to tell her, it was a disloyalty to her friend to listen, the friend
whose life had perhaps been spoilt by their mistake. How could she ever
think of being happy as long as that friend suffered? For despite her
grief at the thought that she had lost him for ever, that she had
refused his love and he would never know now that she loved him in
return, yet Georgiana felt that she could not have acted differently.
Even had she known at the moment he spoke, what he was to her, she could
not have been so traitorous as to take what Kitty longed for, from under
her very eyes; and she was glad that Kitty did not guess at the extent
of the sacrifice.



Chapter XXII


The departure of the ladies for Desborough left a small party at
Pemberley, for several days previously Colonel Fitzwilliam had gone with
his horses to Leicestershire, and good accounts of the hunting prospects
had been received from him. The Darcys were not, however, to remain for
long alone, for the arrival of Mrs. Grant and Miss Crawford had been
fixed for a date early in the following week. Elizabeth delayed no
further in preparing Georgiana for their visit, and at same time
communicated to her the fact which she had learnt from Mrs. Wentworth,
of Miss Crawford's not being engaged to Sir Walter Elliot. Georgiana
listened with the greatest interest, and joined warmly in the expression
of Elizabeth's hopes that Colonel Fitzwilliam might yet be made happy,
although for the present there was nothing to be done but to try to make
Miss Crawford feel at home and comfortable among them all.

"I shall confine my efforts solely to that," said Elizabeth laughingly.
"It would be useless as well as dangerous to attempt any further
matchmaking until we know the extent of feeling on _both_ sides, for
that want of that knowledge has made us singularly unsuccessful lately,
has it not, Georgiana?"

Georgiana assented but could not smile; for just then only the tragical
side of unrequited love was turned towards her. A brief letter of thanks
had been received by his hostess from William Price, saying all that was
necessary in a matter simple and sincere, and closing with a message of
"greetings and remembrance to all your family." Georgiana's cheeks
burned as she handed it back, and she was glad to turn away, and take
her little niece upon her lap, while Darcy, glancing over the letter,
said: "He seems an agreeable, manly young fellow, from what I saw of
him; I should be sorry to think he would treat a girl ill."

"A girl's fancy does not always keep pace with common-sense, in such a
case as the one you speak of," said his wife. "And as I told you, I do
not think Kitty was very wisely counselled from the first."

"Probably not," said Darcy, "a young man at his age and in his
profession is likely to flutter the dovecotes quite unconsciously. But
there was something so frank and pleasing about him that one would wish
to believe him thoroughly estimable."

Georgiana, through the little one's chatter, heard these words with
delight; that William Price should have gained her brother's good
opinion was a source of rejoicing, even though that advantage might now
avail him nothing.

Miss Crawford looked very thin and ill when she arrived, and the first
part of her visit passed very quietly. She spent the chief of her time
in her own rooms, descending only to join the family at dinner and
during the evening, and when not talking to Elizabeth, seemed to find
her greatest pleasure in listening to Georgiana's music. Mrs. Grant
watched over her with unremitting solicitude, but by no means treated
her as a sick person, evidently desiring that she should rouse herself,
take an interest in things around her, and make whatever exertion she
felt equal to. The tranquility of the life exactly suited her, and
before many days an improvement in her health and spirits became
noticeable. She was able to take drives in the mildest part of the day,
or go for short walks through the pleasure grounds when the frosts of
December came in, and the mornings were bright and invigorating. The
beauty of the country around, the healthiness of the air, and the quiet
kindness of her host and hostess, gradually had their effect upon a
troubled mind and a weakened body; and Colonel Fitzwilliam's name was
barely mentioned, Lady Catherine de Bourgh's never.

One morning, when Georgiana and Mrs. Grant had walked down to the
Rectory, Elizabeth was sitting with her guest, and with the view of
entertaining her, gave her a description of the charades, not omitting
the energetic part played by Mr. Bertram in organizing them. Mary's
colour changed a little on first hearing his name, but she gave all her
attention to the recital, and it was not until some minutes later, when
silence had fallen between them, that she said suddenly: "I wonder if
Mr. Bertram or Mr. Price spoke of me to you, Mrs. Darcy. Were you aware
that I knew them both?"

Elizabeth replied that she had heard from Georgiana of Mr. Price's
acquaintance with Miss Crawford, but of Mr. Bertram's she had not known,
the subject never having been approached while the young men were
there.

"I thought not," said Miss Crawford, and after a moment's pause she
added, colouring slightly: "I have had too much experience of your
kindness to think that you would treat me differently if you did know
the whole circumstances; nevertheless, I felt sure that you did not, and
I made up my mind before I came here, that I would not be any further
indebted to you while you remained in ignorance. Each day I have been
expecting you to ask me some question about the reason for Lady
Catherine's hostility to us, for you were fully entitled to an
explanation after the kind and generous way in which you wrote to me,
and which I fear I acknowledged so inadequately." She stopped, emotion
and weakness depriving her momentarily of speech, and Elizabeth, who had
been endeavouring to check her, took hold of her hand, and with the
utmost gentleness begged her not to continue and not to agitate herself.

"Dear Miss Crawford, I am entitled to no explanation, and I do not wish
for one. It is you who ought to receive the fullest apologies of the
whole family for my aunt's conduct to you. My cousin told us all that
happened that evening after we left, and, as I told you in my letter, I
can never be sufficiently ashamed and grieved on account of what you
were subjected to. If you can forgive us, do not let us revive the
subject; it is painful to us both."

Miss Crawford indicated that she wished to be allowed to speak, and
after a few moments spent in recovering herself, she went on in a low
voice, and looking away from Elizabeth: "I did not mean to refer to that
part of it, and least of all with you, whose goodness has almost
obliterated it from my mind. I mean the reason for Lady Catherine's
attack. You must have surmised that there was some cause for it; she
must have told you that she had heard something to my detriment, or, at
all events, you have gathered that something of the kind exists? It is
that that I wish to make clear; I feel that I owe it to you to tell you
exactly, as far as they concern myself, what things are said about me,
in order that when you hear them from others, you may be able to
separate the true from the false. For some of them are true, you know;
that is the unfortunate part of it." As she concluded, she glanced at
Elizabeth with an attempt at a smile, though her hands were trembling.

Elizabeth attempted to calm and reassure her. "There is no need for you
to tell me anything if you do not feel equal to the effort," she said.
"I think I do already know the greater part of the story, and I can
assure you that we have never believed the smallest thing
disadvantageous to yourself. I had heard enough of it before Mr. Yates
appeared to be convinced that you were the person injured and misjudged,
and that a maliciously distorted version of events was poured down my
aunt's ears. I shall be very happy if some day you will give me your
confidence, but I fear it might do you harm to talk of it just now, and
recall things in which persons you cared for were involved?"

Elizabeth's manner was so kind, that Mary was glad to allow herself to
be persuaded, and lay back on her sofa murmuring: "Yes, you are right,"
looking at the same time tired and relieved. She presently added, with a
little more brightness: "I am glad you know, and that you do not think
me such a monster as Lady Catherine described."

"I never thought you were a monster, my dear Miss Crawford," assured
Elizabeth, smiling and studying her guest's countenance while her own
mind was busy. Miss Crawford's definitely, if laughingly expressed
desire to be reinstated in the good opinion of Mrs. Darcy, probably
included in its object the rest of the family; and, if so, then in spite
of their abrupt separation at Bath, in spite of all that had happened
since in London, Colonel Fitzwilliam must be among the number. Elizabeth
felt as if she were groping in the dark, for she had no clue to Miss
Crawford's present feelings towards him; but though she had not intended
to speak of him yet, this was at least an opportunity of discovering
whether they were feelings of goodwill. She accordingly said, as if
continuing the same train of thought: "My cousin was so glad that he had
happened to remain behind us, and could therefore attempt to do
something, even though it was but little, to remedy the evil caused by
those objectionable Ferrars."

Mary started and changed her position, and Elizabeth, though not looking
directly at her, could perceive a variety of expressions pass across her
face. She did not answer immediately, and her reply, when uttered: "It
was very kind of Colonel Fitzwilliam," sounded cold and reserved.

"I do not regard it as kindness," said Elizabeth; "his regard for you
and his indignation on your behalf made him anxious to do far more. He
told me that he bitterly regretted having left you that evening, after
we had gone away. If he had stayed near you, he could have prevented
much that followed."

Again Mary took some time to reply, and when she did, to Elizabeth's
surprise, it was with more than a touch of scornfulness. "Colonel
Fitzwilliam has a great power of self-effacement, has he not? He must
have practiced the art of disappearing unexpectedly, with as little
warning as the magician in the fairy stories."

"But does he so?" asked Elizabeth, whose astonishment increased. "I had
not noticed it. We think him generally a staid and sober person, who
does things with even more than the usual amount of consideration. Did
he not return--did you not see him that evening at my aunt's?"

"Oh, yes, that evening," said Mary. "I believe he did see us to the
carriage; I was not thinking so much of that occasion. But in London--I
saw him once or twice, and he talked as if he were going to remain, and
then he vanished as if the earth had swallowed him. Of course, it did
not matter; he had only himself to please; but I heard several people
remark on it."

Elizabeth pondered, and to gain time inquired: "Did he speak as though
he hoped to see you again while he was there?"

"Yes--at least we thought so; my sister and I may have misunderstood, or
he may have meant nothing; people can hardly be expected to account for
all their sudden freaks, can they?" replied Mary, speaking with an
indifference so marked that her companion could not help fancying it was
assumed. Elizabeth hesitated no longer, and was about to speak, with the
intention of telling Miss Crawford why Colonel Fitzwilliam had left town
so suddenly, when the door opened to admit Mrs. Grant and Georgiana, so
that she was obliged to postpone the communication till some future
time, and to leave matters in a state which more than ever seemed to
need elucidation.

The opportunity, however, was long in coming. After their half-finished
talk, Mary Crawford appeared to avoid being alone with her hostess. She
came downstairs more, and gradually began to live almost entirely with
the rest of the family, but constantly kept close to her sister and
Georgiana on various pretexts. The latter did not venture to speak to
her of Colonel Fitzwilliam, but Mary was not long in discovering that
the name of William Price was a welcome one to her young friend, and
seeing that Georgiana wished to _hear_, without having to _ask_, Mary
told all she knew of his youth, his family and his past career,
descanting on his charm and his fine qualities of character, while
Georgiana sat in silence, her downcast eyes and glowing cheeks alone
betraying the interest which the subject had for her. Mary guessed at
the meaning of it all, but considerately said no word to arouse
Georgiana's self-consciousness, and their friendship grew almost
unawares, neither knowing how much each thought of, and would have liked
to help, the other.

It was not until nearly a week after the subject had first been broached
that Elizabeth found it possible to renew it, and then only by
deliberately engaging the attention of Miss Crawford, in inviting her to
walk with her one morning along the high road. Darcy had driven with
Mrs. Grant and Georgiana to a distant part of the estate, and it had
been proposed that the other two ladies should come to meet them on
their return, so that Miss Crawford could take a seat in the barouche
should she feel tired. It was such a beautiful morning, crisp, cold and
bright, that Mrs. Grant over-ruled the objections which her sister was
beginning to make, and assured her that a brisk walk in such weather
could do her nothing but good. Elizabeth half suspected that she would
still find some way of avoiding the expedition, but when twelve o'clock
arrived, Miss Crawford descended into the hall, saying smilingly: "All
ready, you see, Mrs. Darcy. Don't you think I am the most obedient
patient you ever saw? At this rate, you will soon be able to send me
away a complete cure."

"I hardly think of you as a patient now, and still less do I think of
sending you away," returned Elizabeth, as they emerged from the house.
"Mr. Darcy and I should be sadly disappointed if you left us directly
you were well enough to do so."

"You are always so kind," said Miss Crawford. "But I fear our visit must
come to an end soon, as it is less than a fortnight to Christmas, and
you will probably be having a large family party for the occasion."

Such a remark could only be interpreted in one way, and Elizabeth, after
reiterating her hope that Miss Crawford and Mrs. Grant would make a long
stay, and assuring her guest that their numbers at Christmas would be
the same as at present, went on almost immediately: "The other day we
were speaking of Colonel Fitzwilliam's sudden departure from London, and
I wanted to tell you, if it is not tiresome to you to hear, what I
believe to have been the reason for it. I am so anxious he should not be
misunderstood, or thought capricious."

"Oh, Mrs. Darcy, I did not seem to imply he was. I am sure he has the
best of reasons for what he does, and anyhow, they are no business of
mine."

Elizabeth would not let the subject be dismissed, and continued very
gently: "He had good reasons in this case, and I hope very much you will
not dislike my mentioning them, as they concern you. He left London
because he cared for you, and had just heard, on what he believed to be
unimpeachable authority, that you were engaged to another man. The news
was such a blow to him that he could not endure to stay where he might
possibly meet you again."

There was a short pause; Mary grew crimson, uttered an exclamation, and
then, controlling herself with an effort, said in tones of suppressed
anger: "If Colonel Fitzwilliam told you that, Mrs. Darcy, he is
deceiving you and himself. It would be much better to admit candidly
that when he saw me again in London he did not care for me as much as he
had thought, instead of making my supposed engagement an excuse for his
disappearance."

Elizabeth stood still for a moment, completely taken aback by this
version of affairs, and could only exclaim: "Miss Crawford!"

"Oh, I beg your pardon; I know I ought not to speak to you, who are his
relative," said Mary, walking on with quick impetuous steps. "Pray
forgive me, Mrs. Darcy; I know _you_ are true, who ever else is not. But
you cannot guess how hard it is to be accused of sending a person away
before they have even approached one; to be blamed for causing trouble
when one has never been a free agent, and when the trouble has all
reacted upon one's self."

"I would not blame you for the world," said Elizabeth. "You must
remember I know but little of the facts, and nothing at all of how they
appear from the other side. My principal object, as I have said, is to
prevent my cousin from being misjudged, not to make any accusations
against anyone; will you not tell me a little more, so that between us
we may clear the whole matter up?"

Elizabeth was obliged to proceed with the utmost caution, and to speak
less openly than she would have wished, for instinct warned her that
Miss Crawford was not yet ready to be guided, or even sympathized with.
It was far too soon to assume any special interest on her part in
Colonel Fitzwilliam, though her last speech had admitted the existence
of a trouble not unconnected to him.

"There is really nothing to tell you, Mrs. Darcy," said Miss Crawford.
"What happened is simply a succession of negatives. Colonel Fitzwilliam
reappeared in London, and showed every sign of wishing to renew his
friendship with my sister and me, but he departed without doing so. I
was not engaged to anyone at that time, nor have I been since, as he
might have easily found out if he had asked the right people."

"Miss Crawford!" cried Elizabeth earnestly; "he _had_ reason to believe
it. Perhaps he did not ask your nearest relatives, but you are surely
aware--it involves no reproach to yourself--but it was talked of, and
assumed to be a fact, among your friends generally?"

Mary evidently found it difficult to reply, but at length said: "Yes, I
know it was talked of, but there was never any truth in it. I know I was
foolish. I went about a great deal with those people--with the Elliots;
I let myself be drawn into their circle, and I suppose it was pleasant
to be fêted and made much of; Mrs. Darcy, I daresay you hardly know what
it is to drift into an intimacy that amuses you, and occupies your time,
while your heart is never in it the smallest degree."

"I think I understand," said Elizabeth gently. "You had been with them
at Bath, and it was difficult to free yourself from the association when
you met again?"

"Yes, and my brother liked them--or they liked him--and it is always
natural for me to be where he is. But I was not bound to them, and it
was not all enjoyment. How often I wished that something would happen to
take me out of it! How gladly would I not have gone!"

"My cousin hoped, I think, to have made some arrangements with you and
your sister, but he was not sure if they would be acceptable."

"Colonel Fitzwilliam did not put himself to much trouble about it,"
returned Mary. "The extent of his plans was, that he asked permission to
come and call, and then did not do so."

"Because he had heard in the meantime of your engagement," said
Elizabeth. "Dear Miss Crawford, you must, you must, indeed, let me
convince you of his sincerity. He cared for you in Bath; you know he did
for he told your sister so." She looked anxiously at Mary, and received
a glance of reluctant assent. "No one more deeply lamented the
misfortune which separated you after that; and can you wonder that, when
you meet again, the remembrance of what happened made him diffident as
to his reception, and uncertain of the place he still might hold in your
esteem? But he was as devoted to you as ever, and only longed for a
chance of showing it. Oh!"--Elizabeth broke off impatiently, but smiling
at herself--"I ought not to be saying this to you in these cold, bald
words; I cannot plead his case as eloquently as he could; but at least I
can implore you to believe in him. Grant that he acted with
over-caution, and did not consult his own best interests: he was afraid
of precipitating matters by speaking before he could divine what you
felt for him. But that his affection was there, I know positively. A man
who had cared less would have stayed, would have pretended indifference,
and would have congratulated you on your engagement."

"I wish he had," said Miss Crawford, trying to smile, though the tears
filled her eyes, "for then I could have told him of his mistake, and
asked him why he was in such a hurry to credit it."

"I do not think he was in a hurry," said Elizabeth sadly; "he would not
have believed it if he could have helped it, and if you could see him
now, you would know what real grief can do for a man of his nature."

"I am sorry," said Miss Crawford, without much warmth, but a moment
later she exclaimed: "Yes, it is bad for a man to bring unhappiness on
himself through an error, but I suppose it never occurred to him that by
going off in that way, without a word, he might be leaving the same
thing for someone else. If I were a man, I would never accept my
dismissal except from the woman herself; I would at least have the
courage to put my fate to the touch."

Elizabeth weighed these words for an instant, and then turning to look
in her companion's face, she said: "I want to ask you one thing, but you
need not reply if you do not wish. If my cousin had put his fate to the
touch while he was in London, would he have had the answer, or any hope
of answer, that he desired?"

Mary coloured deeply, but did not turn her eyes away from Mrs. Darcy's.
"It is hardly fair, is it, to ask me a question which he has never
asked?" she said, with a slight smile. "But it is useless to try to keep
secrets from such a friend as yourself, and I suppose you are answered
by now."

They stopped with one accord beside a gate, and stood looking over the
long furrows of brown earth in the field, but neither seeing them. Miss
Crawford's blush remained, and her lips were set rather defiantly, when
Elizabeth turned to her and said with great earnestness: "I said that
Colonel Fitzwilliam was not coming back before Christmas, and that is
quite true, but may I not tell him to come? I will do nothing without
your permission; will not even say that you are here; but will you not
give him leave to come, and speak for himself, and try to atone for the
mistakes and unhappiness of the past? Indeed, though at this moment he
has no hope of it, I know that he would ask no greater privilege."

Mary laid her hand on her friend's, and replied affectionately, but
without any hesitation: "No, no, Mrs. Darcy, do not tell him to come. I
thought you would suggest something of the kind, but I would much rather
not. It would be no kindness to either of us." Then, as Elizabeth still
looked questioningly at her, she continued: "I really mean it. Since we
are to be quite frank, I did feel very much what I thought to be Colonel
Fitzwilliam's defection, and Frances would tell you that that accounts
for my stupid ill-health this autumn; I do not quite agree, but none the
less, I am confident that we had better not meet again. It is too late,
when people are getting on towards respectable middle life as we are.
You smile, but do you know I am near my thirtieth birthday? No, we have
both recovered from the wounds of last summer, and we should be wiser
not to risk reopening them."

"It would be a healing, I think, not a reopening," said Elizabeth.

"Do you think so? But one cannot tell. Colonel Fitzwilliam must have
been in love with some ideal person, a Mary Crawford who never really
existed, or he would not have been frightened away so easily from the
actual one. If he were to see me again, there might be a fresh
disappointment in store. Does he still think I am to marry Sir Walter
Elliot?"

"I do not know. Darcy and I have never told him otherwise."

"Ah, well, do not let him be undeceived; and some day, perhaps in
London, we shall be sent in to dinner together, and imagine his surprise
and dismay at finding it is plain Miss Crawford, and not Lady Elliot! It
will give us something to talk about through the first three courses.
Dear Mrs. Darcy, you look disapprovingly at me, but seriously, I do
think, if we ever are to meet, it will be best to do so by accident. I
could hardly bear a premeditated encounter as it would be here, each of
us knowing that we were expected to play a certain part."

"It is better he should not come, of course, if you are not sure whether
you could accept him," said Elizabeth.

"That it is; I suppose I am not sure; because, you see, circumstances
have combined to make Colonel Fitzwilliam appear in light of a
half-hearted admirer, and though I know from you he is not, yet I have
no experience of his own powers of recommending himself. Do not be angry
with me, or let this spoil our friendship; I am so glad now that you
know all, and you will let me come and stay with you sometimes when he
is away, will you not?"

A time-honoured custom has ordained that only one reply shall be made to
an appeal of this kind, and Elizabeth duly assured her friend that it
should make no difference; feeling, indeed, that as she had asked for an
explanation, she could not resent Miss Crawford's frankness, nor could
she like the high-spirited girl less for the glimpse she had given of
her heart. There was no denying, however, that the end of their
conversation had been a good deal of a disappointment. Mary's confession
had been so much more than Elizabeth had ventured to hope for, that it
was melancholy to realize that it came, as she herself had said, too
late; too late for Colonel Fitzwilliam to be in any way the gainer by
it. Many times during the day and the succeeding ones did Elizabeth turn
over in her mind a series of plans to bring her two friends together
again, in some way entirely unforeseen by both; but all had to be
discarded, for Miss Crawford had been so decisive, and it was not
certain that the Colonel would make any better use of his chances,
unless he could be warned of how he had failed previously. The more
Elizabeth pondered over the events of last year, in the new light now
thrown upon them, the better she was able to understand Mary's point of
view, and to comprehend that it was not solely Lady Catherine's
insulting behaviour, or her cousin's want of self-confidence, or Mary's
own pride and recklessness, but something of all three, that had ruined
their prospects of happiness; and she mourned sincerely over the wreck
and the impossibility of restoring it, while they were so obstinately
resolved to remain strangers to one another. If only Fitzwilliam had
known, when in London, that the prize lay so near his hand! that he had
gained Mary's love, almost without trying to do so, merely by watching
and waiting, and not submitting to the rebuff she had given him at the
end of their stay in Bath! But the opportunity had passed, and he had
lost more ground now than he might ever recover, for Elizabeth knew well
that Mary's resentment was the real obstacle: _his_ feelings were
unaltered, but hers she had striven, perhaps with some measure of
success, to harden into indifference.



Chapter XXIII


Colonel Fitzwilliam wrote that he intended staying in Leicestershire for
Christmas, and going to London for the first fortnight of January.
Elizabeth did not fail to make this information public, and accordingly,
when the question of their two guests' departure was again broached,
Miss Crawford was more easily persuaded to prolong their visit, and her
sister approved of whatever she chose to do. Elizabeth had not thought
it right to speak to Mrs. Grant about her conversation with Mary, but
that lady had opened the subject herself, by expressing to Mrs. Darcy
her great relief that the affair with Colonel Fitzwilliam had gone off,
and attributing Mary's illness to fretting and disappointment. Mrs.
Grant blamed no one except the Elliots, who, she asserted, had
persistently stood between Mary and her other friends, but she lamented
the whole series of mishaps, for it was evident that no one else had
ever gained such a large measure of her sister's regard, and now her
whole endeavour seemed to be to banish him from her thoughts.

Mary meantime was recovering health and vigour, and the colour came back
to her cheeks, and the light to her eyes in a manner very gratifying to
her friends to observe. Had Elizabeth not been so much occupied with
plans for her visitors, and preparations for Christmas, she could not
have failed to note the contrast between Miss Crawford and Georgiana,
for the younger girl grew paler and graver, and seemed more and more
spiritless in comparison with Mary's gay moods. Georgiana made great
efforts to throw herself into what was going on, and was persuaded that
she smiled and talked as much as ever, while she took part in the
hospitalities of Pemberley, but in reality the weight on her mind, her
preoccupation with the thought of two people who were suffering through
her fault, prevented her from always knowing when she was silent. She
constantly pictured Kitty, grieving in solitude over the downfall of the
hopes of many months, and wearied her mind with fruitless speculations
as to how they could have acted differently, in order to have averted
the blow. No one could possibly have foreseen that Mr. Price would care
for her and not for Kitty! else the latter's friends might have
persuaded her to try and like Mr. Morland, whose courtship had been
under equally auspicious circumstances. But then, Georgiana reflected
with a thrill, who could think of a Morland when they had been better
attracted by a Price! She was glad to be able to pay that tribute to her
friend's good taste. And if the affair had not been checked in its early
stages, it must have gone on in the way it had until the gentleman
spoke, and poor Kitty's fate was sealed.

Tears rose to Georgiana's eyes as she recalled her interview with
William Price, and the feeling of anger and despair that had come over
her at the prospect of everything being so utterly wrong, and then
thrown into such confusion. And since then, the indignation on Kitty's
behalf, which had overwhelmed her at first, had softened into pity, and
shared a place in her heart equally with regret for Mr. Price, for _his_
disappointment, as sudden and as complete as Kitty's, and far more
bewildering. He would never, perhaps, fully understand how it came
about, nor fully allow for its causes, and for the obstacle which had
necessitated his being refused. Chilled and repulsed, he would think her
insensible, unkind; he would believe that she did not care for him, and
did not want to care. What a wonder if his feelings towards her
underwent a change! What more probable than that now, when she had
learnt that his esteem was the only thing necessary to her happiness,
and earnestly wished he could know that she no longer blamed him, he had
resolved to think of her no more?

       *       *       *       *       *

Owing to a slight indisposition of Mrs. Bingley's, the Desborough party
had not come over to Pemberley at Christmas, as was their custom, but
they arrived on New Year's Eve to spend two or three days. Georgiana
looked forward rather nervously to the meeting with Kitty, for the
latter had only written occasional notes to her and Elizabeth, in a
constrained style, since the departure in November, and Georgiana
dreaded equally any reopening of the subject in words, or any coldness
between them, combined with the unforgiving reproaches which Kitty knew
so well how to convey by look and manner. It seemed, however, when they
arrived, that Kitty was not going to adopt either attitude precisely.
She looked very thin, and Jane told her sister that she had not been
eating or sleeping well, but she chatted as vigorously as ever, and was
in restless, excitable spirits. She could not sit long to anything, and
when not flying about the house, or playing with the children, was
constantly running down to the Rectory, on the plea of wanting to see
Mrs. Ferrars's new baby, who had made its appearance in the world a few
days before. Georgiana found that any private talk was out of the
question, and did not seem to be desired by Kitty, whose principal topic
of conversation was, after the loveliness of the baby, the charms of her
newest friend, a certain Mrs. Henry Tilney, sister of Mr. Morland, who
had been staying with him for some weeks. This young lady was about
Kitty's age, but had been married for several years, and had brought one
of her children with her, a little girl about the age of the Bingleys'
second boy, and there had evidently been a great deal of intercourse
between the Park and the Rectory. Mrs. Tilney was reported by Jane and
her husband to be a very pleasing, gentle and amiable woman, and Kitty's
enthusiasm over her knew no bounds.

Elizabeth had met Mrs. Tilney, and was pleased to hear of her again, as
she would have been to hear of anyone connected with Mr. Morland and
Lady Portinscale; and the subject offered material for frequent
conversation among the whole party, as Mrs. Grant and Miss Crawford had
an interest in it also, through their acquaintanceship with the young
clergyman in Bath.

Georgiana could not help glancing at Kitty occasionally when his name
was mentioned, and noticed that the slight embarrassment Kitty displayed
at first soon wore off. There had evidently been a good many visitors at
Desborough during the past month; Bingley had had another shooting
party, and there had been evenings of music, and even a small dance at
the house of a neighbour. Kitty spoke of these things as if the
retrospect were one of great enjoyment, and Morland was so often
referred to, as to lead to the supposition that their constant meetings
were fraught with no discomfort on either side.

"But you have not told all our gaieties, Kitty," said Bingley, as they
stood round the drawing-room fire one morning after breakfast. "Did you
know, Elizabeth, that we went to see the amateur theatricals at
Ashbourne? The officers got them up among themselves and invited
everybody; it was quite a spectacle, and they gave us supper afterwards
in that fine great mess-room. I never saw anything better done."

"Yes, we had an invitation; I was sorry not to go to it, but it is too
far," said Elizabeth. "I heard the performance was very good."

"Of course, you would have been asked; you ought to have gone, for it
was well worth seeing; our little charades were quite put in the shade.
Kitty can give you all information about it, for she had a splendid
young officer sitting by her to tell her who everybody was."

"It was only Mr. Cathcart; he knew Colonel Forster once, and wanted to
hear about Lydia," said Kitty, colouring and becoming deeply interested
in the pattern of her lace handkerchief.

"And the one who escorted you to supper was not Mr. Cathcart; he was
somebody even more gorgeous and equally delightful--a field-marshal, at
least, I should think," continued her brother-in-law in bantering tones;
"altogether, Kitty did very well that evening. I expected Jane would
have had half the regiment coming up to her before it was over, to ask
leave to call."

"Nonsense, Bingley," said Kitty, in some confusion, getting up and going
to help Mary Crawford, who was sorting her music; "you are making too
much of it; there was no reason why Mr. Macdonald should not call, if he
wished to."

Bingley laughed, and proceeded to give so lively a description of the
theatricals, that Kitty could not help coming back and joining in, with
sparkling eyes and every sign of pleasure in the reminiscence. Georgiana
watched her in some surprise, for nothing could be more unlike the
broken-hearted Kitty who had gone away six weeks before. Bingley forbore
to tease her any longer; but finding himself alone with Elizabeth and
Georgiana later in the morning, he began at once: "I think neither of
you need be under any more apprehension about Kitty. She was certainly
very low-spirited when she came to us, and I was afraid that young
sailor's departure had had a devastating effect; but she has brightened
up wonderfully and managed to enjoy herself again, just as a girl
ought."

"I am very glad," said Elizabeth. "I knew she had taken it a good deal
to heart at the time, but fresh interests will put fresh life into her."

"Exactly; there is no use in a pretty young woman like that moping about
a fellow who does not care for her; the best way to forget him is to
amuse herself with others, and I feel myself partly responsible for
encouraging that young Price, so Jane and I have done our best to
distract her thoughts. Those officers are as pleasant a set of fellows
as ever stepped, and Kitty by no means disliked them; but unfortunately
the regiment is just moving on, and the next one does not come till
March. I have asked Bertram down again at the end of the month for some
hunting; Kitty and he seemed to get on well, and we thought him a
capital fellow, did you not?"

"Very agreeable indeed," said Elizabeth, in a tone of calmer praise,
adding: "and I have no doubt he is an excellent young man, though in
spite of all, I should be inclined to adhere to Kitty's first preference
to his cousin; Mr. Price's manners had more to recommend them, I
thought."

Georgiana's heart bounded, and she turned away her face to hide her
rising colour, as Bingley responded: "Ah, yes, Elizabeth, you are right.
In spite of all, as you say, Price is the man we should have liked for
her. There is a sterling character, I do believe. It would have done
most of us good to have to begin early, and make our own fortunes, as
that youth has done, and we should not be all so frank and modest at his
age, I'll wager. Yes, I should be only too glad to get him back, but it
is out of the question. I had a letter from him last week from
Copenhagen; they expect to be cruising about in the North Sea for
another month or two; then he will probably have to go to some distant
station."

Georgiana had turned now to look at Bingley, her complexion changing
from red to pale. She was grateful to Elizabeth for keeping the
conversation going by some slight remark, for she could not have spoken.

"Yes," continued Bingley, "we think it a great drawback to a sailor's
life, that he should have to be abroad so much, and away from his
friends; but cruises now are not as long as they used to be, and when a
man has as much spirit as Price, he is glad to be on the move, to show
authorities the stuff he is made of. Price is commander on his present
ship, you know; the first since his promotion."

The entrance of Jane caused Bingley to break off, and Georgiana waited a
little, in the hope that he had more to say on a subject of such an
absorbing nature; but, unfortunately, it was Mr. Bertram, not Mr. Price,
to whom he reverted, calling upon Jane to confirm his expectations of
the former's visit, and Georgiana slipped out of the room as Jane began
to tell Elizabeth how she had succeeded in obtaining Mr. Bennet's
permission to keep Kitty until Easter. Georgiana needed to think over
what she had heard, even though the pain to herself became more intense,
in proportion as she gloried in the approval expressed of William Price
by her friends. To hear him praised, to know him appreciated, was sweet
to her; but how bitter by contrast was the knowledge that she had
sacrificed his happiness and her own, in vain, that Kitty had so soon
forgotten him as to be able to flirt with officers, and was ready to
accept as a compensation for the loss of William Price, the attentions
of any young men Bingley could collect around her! Georgiana could
scarcely believe that the devotion of half a year could have died a
natural death in so short a time. She might almost have thought that
Kitty was feigning indifference, in order to conceal her chagrin, but
from experience of Kitty's nature she knew that her friend was incapable
of acting a sustained part, and that if she appeared to enjoy balls and
flirtations, it was because they had for her as much zest as ever.

Georgiana might wonder, but she had no inclination to blame Kitty for
any sign of inconsistency. It was undoubtedly much better for Kitty to
get over her infatuation for William Price, if she could succeed in
doing so; but the consequences to Georgiana were far more grave, and she
suffered the more for realizing that Kitty had not, after all, so
greatly valued the thing she had sought after, the object which had
become more and more precious to Georgiana than anything in the world.
Her effort to defend Kitty to William, her refusal to accept his
devotion for herself--all had been wasted, fruitless, unnecessary! Not
that she would for one moment desire to withdraw the act of loyalty
towards her friend; but with heart-breaking regrets did she review the
whole sequence of events, which had so cruelly and inevitably separated
William Price and herself. Was it, she thought, a just punishment for
one who had made two such grievous mistakes previously that she should
now be accorded, too late, a glimpse of a happiness that would have
transformed her whole life? Bingley's casual mention of his movements
had reminded her forcibly how improbable it was that they should ever
meet again.

She had borne up bravely until then, but that night, when alone, she
could not help giving way to an access of grief severer than any she had
known before, and only a dread of arousing comment enabled her to assume
an air of tolerable serenity when she appeared in the morning.

It happened that Jane, while admiring a new dress which Georgiana was
wearing, was struck with the want of animation in the young girl's face,
and her usual kindness prompted her to inquire solicitously how she did.
Georgiana would confess to no ailment but a slight cold, which she had
had for a week and been unable to throw off, and tried to make light of
it when Jane appealed to Elizabeth to suggest what might be done to
re-establish her health. Elizabeth felt a real concern as she looked
closely at her young sister, and reproached herself for having neglected
to give her proper care.

"No, no, indeed, Elizabeth, it is not so," protested Georgiana. "I am
perfectly well. A cold always makes one feel stupid, and this mild damp
weather is disagreeable, coming after those early frosts."

"Come and stay with us for two or three weeks," said Jane
affectionately. "The change will do you good, and Bingley and I shall be
happy to have you; your last visit was an unreasonably short one."

Georgiana gratefully but decidedly declined the offer, pleading various
excuses, but privately feeling that she would rather not be with Kitty
again just yet, amid scenes connected inseparably with William Price's
presence.

"I think she ought to have a change, nevertheless," said Elizabeth, "and
it is too long to wait till we go to Bath in April. Would you not really
care to go to Desborough for a little, Georgiana, and see if it does you
good?"

Georgiana faltered out something of reluctance, and Jane, smiling kindly
at her, went away to leave the sisters to discuss it together. Elizabeth
drew the young girl to her, and tenderly asked if there was anything the
matter, in which her help or advice would be acceptable, and Georgiana,
after a few moments' silent struggle, recovered the self-command which
the proffer of sympathy had threatened to disturb, and replied that she
was sure she would be quite well directly, and would rather not go away
from home until she went with the others.

"You are sure there is nowhere you would like to go, if not Desborough?"
asked Elizabeth, pondering. "The Hursts would be delighted, I know, but
you have been there lately; what a pity Mrs. Annesley has gone abroad."

Georgiana only shook her head at these suggestions, and suddenly
Elizabeth exclaimed: "I have thought of something--Mrs. Wentworth's
invitation! You remember that she asked you, in the letter I had from
her with reference to her father and Miss Crawford. You thought at the
time that you might like to accept it some day."

The idea seemed to interest Georgiana more than the others. She raised
her head from Elizabeth's shoulder, and said: "I remember; it was a very
kind message. The Wentworths live at Winchester, do they not?"

"Yes, and Anne Wentworth is so good-hearted, so thoroughly sincere, that
I know she would like to be taken at her word, and to have you propose
yourself as a visitor. What do you think of it, Georgiana? I think you
might be very happy with such kind people, and the change of air and
surroundings would be complete. It seems a very long way off, I know,
but you could be taken to London in the carriage, with the two servants,
as last year; and Captain Wentworth would doubtless be able to meet you
there, for he makes that journey constantly. Your brother and I would
come and fetch you any time, after Miss Crawford goes, as soon as you
wish to come away."

Elizabeth rose and went to her writing-table, to find Mrs. Wentworth's
letter, and to show Georgiana the message once more. The cordiality
which it expressed could not be doubted, and Georgiana began to feel
that if she could ever find pleasure in anything again, it might be in
the quiet companionship of such friends as Captain and Mrs. Wentworth.
She had been greatly attracted by Mrs. Wentworth, and she had sufficient
good sense to know that it would be advantageous to her to have an
entire change of environment, to be away for a time from Pemberley, and
its associations. It would revive her courage, and help her to
appreciate the many blessings that life still held for her. Georgiana
was not too young not to believe that her troubles were past mending,
but she was also too reasonable deliberately to nurse her unhappiness.
She accordingly allowed Elizabeth to write and propose the scheme, and
had grown so much accustomed to the idea as to be pleased when an answer
arrived in the form of a joint letter from the Wentworths, warmly
welcoming her to join their house, with every intimation of the delight
it would afford them, and suggesting the last week in January as the
date for her journey to London, where her host would meet her, and
convey her straight to Winchester, a distance of sixty-five miles.

The arrangement was generally approved. Darcy and Elizabeth regretted
losing their sister, even for a time; but they hoped it would be
beneficial to her, and they could perceive that it fell in with her
inclinations. There was no lack of escort, for Mrs. Grant and Miss
Crawford, who were now talking of going in earnest, were anxious to
alter their plans and travel to Bath round by London, for the pleasure
of her company; but Darcy would not permit this, as he had resolved on
taking his sister himself, and Elizabeth induced them to remain with her
until his return.



Chapter XXIV


January was passing. The weather was remarkably mild and open for the
time of year, and the hunting men were rejoicing in their opportunities.
The ladies were able to take their daily walks and drives, in which Mrs.
Ferrars's sister, Mrs. Brandon, a very lovely and amiable woman, who had
come to watch over her sister's convalescence, was often invited to join
them. Mrs. Jennings had returned to London earlier in the month, sorely
disappointed, after such a promising beginning, at not having seen the
successful termination of even one love-affair during her stay. None of
the family at Pemberley had ever understood what part she played in the
catastrophe of November, except that she had shared in the general error
made by Kitty's friends, nor were they aware of the destiny she had
marked out for Georgiana; but Elinor, when she realized that something
had gone seriously wrong in consequence of the ball, had no difficulty
in persuading the really good-natured old lady to confine her
lamentations, conjectures, and comments to the ears of the Rectory
inhabitants only. This end was the more easily attained since, after
Kitty's departure, there was no one to keep her supplied with
information. When, however, that young lady returned in apparently good
spirits, Mrs. Jennings was immeasurably delighted, and quite entered
into her willingness to talk of Cathcart and Macdonald, and, indeed,
anyone and anything but William Price, and Mrs. Jennings had only to
hear that Mr. Bertram was coming to stay at Desborough again, and not at
Pemberley, to be ready to console Kitty with a number of entirely new
and revised prognostications as to the object of his visit.

The party at Pemberley were sitting together one evening after dinner.
It was about eight o'clock, and they had all settled to their customary
occupations; Darcy and his wife were reading, Mrs. Grant working and
Georgiana was at the instrument, playing short snatches of music while
Mary Crawford sat close beside her, and asked for one and another of her
favourite pieces. Peace and tranquility reigned, and seemed as little
likely to be interrupted as on many previous evenings that had been
similarly spent. The sudden sound of carriage wheels, therefore, and the
rapid trot of horses, startled everyone, and alarmed one at least, for
Elizabeth's first apprehension was that Colonel Fitzwilliam had returned
unexpectedly. Georgiana ceased playing, and all listened anxiously, but
the suspense lasted for the shortest possible time required by a visitor
to get into the house, and on the door being flung open, Darcy had
scarcely risen from his chair, before Tom Bertram followed his name into
the room with quick steps.

Tom Bertram had acted on many stages, but in none of the parts he had
ever played had he made so sensational an entrance. The amazement of the
inmates of the room on beholding him, the dismay of Mrs. Grant and her
sister, his own disconcerted surprise at seeing who were Mrs. Darcy's
guests, all tended to make the first minute one of extreme
embarrassment, and it was only the knowledge of his urgency of his
errand that enabled him to recover himself sooner than any of the
others. Advancing to Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, he greeted them both, bowed to
Mrs. Grant, and to the corner of the room where Mary was shrinking out
of sight behind Georgiana, and at once began speaking very quickly to
the master of the house.

"Mr. Darcy, I fear I have startled, I hope not frightened, you all by
intruding at this late hour; but when you know how pressing is the need,
you will dispense with apologies. I grieve very much to say to say I am
the bearer of bad news, but believing that you ought to know, I
constituted myself the messenger. Your cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, has
met with an accident whilst out hunting to-day. I regret exceedingly to
tell you, but his state is considered serious, and his friends thought
it would be advisable for you to come."

"Fitzwilliam? Fitzwilliam hurt! Good God, what is this?" exclaimed
Darcy, completely roused out of his usual calm. "How did it happen? Tell
us all about it. I will go to him instantly" (ringing the bell). "In
God's name, Bertram, say he is still living? Where is he? How long will
it take to get to him?"

Elizabeth, though dreadfully shocked and distressed, had the wisdom to
send another servant for refreshments for Mr. Bertram, while Darcy
ordered his own things to be packed and his travelling carriage be
brought round, and in the slight bustle caused by these arrangements,
Mrs. Grant and Georgiana were able, almost unobserved, to attend to
Mary, who had not actually fainted, but had sunk down on a low couch,
scarcely knowing what she did. Her sister and Georgiana supported her
in between them, placed her in a more easy position, rubbed her hands
and shielded her from the light; and Mary, with a very great effort,
collected herself sufficiently to listen to the details which Mr.
Bertram was hurriedly giving in answer to Mr. and Mrs. Darcy's
inquiries. It appeared that Colonel Fitzwilliam had only just returned
from London, and this was his first day out for some time. The fox had
got well away, and the hunt were in the midst of a fine run, when the
Colonel's horse came down with him at a blind fence. Bertram paused here
to give more particulars than his impatient hearers desired, about the
height and width of the fence, and the exact manner in which the horse
had approached it, for it seemed that he himself had been riding near at
the time, and had witnessed the accident. The Colonel was pinned under
the animal, and was taken out unconscious, with a broken leg, and, it
was feared, some grave injury to the spine. Fortunately, the house of
the friend with whom he was staying was not far off, and he was borne
thither, and the services of the apothecary were promptly obtained; but
the only opinion he could form was very grave, and pending the arrival
of a more experienced surgeon, who had been sent for from Leicester, no
one could tell what an hour might bring forth.

The ladies were sick with horror: Mrs. Grant was weeping silently, and
Georgiana, as she held Mary's cold hand, felt that this was indeed the
last and crowning sorrow, for poor Cousin Robert to die without knowing
the happiness that ought to have been his.

"The pulse is so very weak; I think they fear a collapse of the whole
system, even if he does recover consciousness," said Bertram, in too low
a tone to be heard by those at the other end of the room. "They were
trying stimulants of various kinds when I came away."

Elizabeth's face was hidden. Darcy was too much overwhelmed to speak for
some moments, till with a sudden start of recollection he exclaimed:
"And you, Bertram? how came you to be there? and how come you are here
now?"

Bertram, with a return to something of his nonchalant manner, explained
that he, too, had been staying in the same neighbourhood, with a friend,
who was, in fact, the master of that pack of hounds, and with whom he
often spent a few days in the hunting season, as it was little over
twenty miles from his own house, Mansfield Park. "I had been talking to
Colonel Fitzwilliam during the morning," he continued, "and helped to
carry him back to Ashley's place, and when Ashley said his relations
ought to know, I decided at once to come with the news. I only delayed
to change my clothes and have the chaise got ready, for I knew time was
an object, and I could get over the ground quicker than anyone else they
could send."

"I am sure we are deeply indebted to you, Bertram," said Darcy, grasping
him warmly by the hand, while Elizabeth joined him in expressing the
sincerest gratitude. "You could not have done us a greater service, and
it is one we shall never forget. It was an impulse of true goodness and
unselfishness that prompted you to ride straight to us, disregarding
your own fatigue and inconvenience; few men would have done as much."

Bertram disclaimed, and as Georgiana came forward to add her thanks to
those of the others, he bowed to her with gallantry, assuring her that
fatigue was nothing, if he could be of use to friends whom he so greatly
esteemed, and he only wished that he could have brought news to relieve
anxiety, instead of creating it.

By this time word was brought that the more substantial meal which had
been ordered for Mr. Bertram was ready in the dining-room, and Darcy
escorted him thither, to attend to his wants and to obtain the
particulars as to his journey from Leicestershire. The distance was
forty-five miles, and Darcy proposed to start within half an hour, and
reach his destination some time during the night, but he pressed his
visitor to stay at least until the next day, and if he would, to rest
himself and his horses.

Their peaceful evening had been turned into confusion and wretchedness.
The quiet circle in the drawing-room was broken up, and Mrs. Grant,
fearing greatly for her sister, was thankful to lead her to her own
room, there to recover as best she might from the frightful shock of Tom
Bertram's news. Darcy soon went upstairs to prepare for his journey, and
his wife busied herself with helping him, and with placing in his
luggage any article she could think of that might conduce to the sick
man's comfort, while a maze of thoughts occupied her mind, chilling
fear, apprehension, and dread of what might be happening to the loved
friend at such a distance, and anxiety on account of Miss Crawford,
whose trembling and distressed condition had not escaped her.

A few minutes later Georgiana came to her door, showing traces of tears,
but quite calm, and begging to be made useful. Elizabeth was just then
giving some directions to the maid, so Georgiana waited until they were
done, and then, coming close to her sister, she said: "Elizabeth, do you
think we could do anything for Miss Crawford? I went to wish her
good-night, and she tried to smile and say something sympathizing, but
could hardly utter the words. I am sure she is terribly concerned about
all this. She almost looks like a different person, so pale and
stricken. Do you think she can possibly be caring for Cousin Robert all
the time, and not know it till now? Oh, dear Elizabeth, is it not
dreadful to think it may be too late?"

Elizabeth gazed at her sister, listening intently, and pondering all
Georgiana said. True, indeed, that it would be a dreadful thing to
contemplate, if Mary really loved Fitzwilliam, and the knowledge came
too late to do good to either. And even if Mary knew her own heart at
last, was it not too late, when pride sealed her lips, and Fitzwilliam
was lying near to death, forty miles away, perhaps never more able to
see her or hear her? Elizabeth experienced a momentary feeling of
despair; the powers ranged against her seemed almost too strong to be
attacked; but rallying her forces, and putting in the front of her mind
the one hopeful thought that Fitzwilliam might live till Darcy reached
him, or longer, she said to Georgiana: "I think I shall try; I will ask
her to send him a message, if it is as we think; it will be better than
nothing, even if he is only just able to understand it."

"Oh, yes, yes," exclaimed Georgiana, clasping her hands in intense
eagerness, "do ask her, dear Elizabeth; she will surely tell you, and my
brother will tell him. Whatever happens, she will be glad to think she
has done it. Do ask her; do not lose a minute; there is so little time."

Voices were heard in the corridor; Darcy was speaking to the servants,
who were carrying out his luggage. Elizabeth hesitated no longer,
pausing only to say: "Dear Georgiana, would you mind going to sit with
Mr. Bertram? I am afraid it may be tiresome for you to entertain a
stranger just now, but he is alone, and it would be only a kind
attention, after what he has done for us," and to receive Georgiana's
assent, before going swiftly to Miss Crawford's room.

She found that Georgiana's description had been all too accurate. Miss
Crawford had not wept, but her expression of hopeless misery sent a pang
through Elizabeth's heart. She had sent her sister away, and had been
sitting on her bed, too stunned for action, almost for thought, and she
made no resistance when Elizabeth placed her on the couch, sat beside
her, and taking both her hands, began to plead with her, quickly and
simply, without premeditation.

"Dear Miss Crawford, I have come to ask you to do something for my poor
cousin, something which only you can do. You heard what Mr. Bertram
said, of his dangerous state, and it distressed you as much as us, I
know. I would not for a moment seek to pry into your inmost feelings,
but we are come to matters of life and death, and it is on _his_ account
that I do venture to ask you, if you feel that you could listen to him
if he were here, then will you send him a word, a message, something to
show that you are thinking of him?"

Mary replied after a minute or two, in a stifled voice: "I would send
him such a message, but do you think he would care to have it?"

"I do, indeed, most truly. I understand your hesitation; you think you
cannot speak of love to him, when he has not spoken to you; but I would
stake my life on his devotion and faithfulness. The words you send him
will bring comfort and peace of mind, whatever the issue."

Mary shuddered, and withdrew her trembling hands. "Mr. Bertram seems to
think he will die."

"We cannot tell; he is a strong man and had not had the best advice when
Mr. Bertram was there. We can only hope, and my husband is starting
almost immediately, and will carry any message you feel able to send,
trusting that he will be in time to deliver it."

"Oh, yes, yes," exclaimed Mary, rising and walking restlessly about the
room; "he is so good and generous that if he still cares, he would
overlook all, he would pardon the errors and foolishness that have led
to this misunderstanding--but the past, Mrs. Darcy, does he know and
forgive that? I wish I could tell. Seeing Mr. Bertram brings it all back
again--my brother, his sister--the divorce--what Lady Catherine heard,
the world believes, you know--and just when one repents it all most, it
comes back just like a spectre to haunt one."

Elizabeth replied very earnestly: "At such a time as this, it would be
cruel to mislead you, and I only say what I sincerely believe, that
Colonel Fitzwilliam knows everything to which you refer, and it makes
not the smallest difference to him. It would not, you should be aware,
to any man whose love was worthy of the name. That should not weigh with
you for a moment. The only thing that signifies in the least is whether
you can return that love: the only barrier between you is being unable
to return it. I would not urge you against your will, or take advantage
of a moment of strong emotion; you alone know whether it would make you
happier to send a word of hope to him."

"Happier? Ah, I do not know," said Mary sorrowfully. "I do not seem able
to think of happiness. And yet, I should be glad for him to know, since
you think he still cares to know, and it is all I can now do for him.
You need not be afraid of my not trusting my feelings, Mrs. Darcy. This
has shown me all too late what they really are, though my folly and
obstinacy have blinded me all these months."

"We will not say too late, dear Miss Crawford," said Elizabeth, going up
to where Miss Crawford was standing by the mantelshelf, leaning her head
on her arm. "We do not know that it is too late, and I believe that it
will be an immense comfort to you to take this one step. Explanations
can come after. I am not afraid of Colonel Fitzwilliam being unable to
clear away all doubts and fears when he is able to speak for himself
again."

There was a moment's pause, and Elizabeth continued: "I must not stay
now. Mr. Darcy is so impatient to be off, but I will be back to you.
Will you tell me what I may say? so little will suffice; or would you
rather write it?"

Mary shook her head, still keeping her face hidden, and said in a barely
audible voice: "Ask Mr. Darcy, if he will be so kind--explain things to
him how you like--but say I send Colonel Fitzwilliam my--my love; that I
beg his forgiveness; and that I hope--he will soon--be able to come
home--to me."

Elizabeth just caught the last words, waited to assure herself there was
no more, and pressing Mary's hand, went quietly out of the room. Though
much moved by their interview, the exigencies of the moment demanded
that she should quickly recover her composure, and brace herself for the
parting with her husband. There would be time--all too much time--for
thought when the moment of action was over; there would be hours of
suspense to be borne and another sufferer to console. As she came out
upon the gallery, she heard persons talking and moving in the hall
below, and distinguished her husband's voice saying: "I ought to be with
him soon after one o'clock," words which revived her courage, and she
descended to find Darcy, Georgiana and Mr. Bertram standing by the
hearth, Darcy completely equipped for his journey, and the servants
waiting by the front door.

Georgiana, who had been enduring keen anxiety during Elizabeth's
absence, and had been exerting herself to keep the gentlemen occupied in
eating and talking, so that Elizabeth might not be interrupted too soon
by Darcy's haste to depart, gave her a nervous glance, which was
tempered by relief when she saw her sister draw Darcy into the library
for a few parting words. She could scarcely attend to Mr. Bertram's
amiable chatter, or reply to his inquiries for Mr. and Mrs. Bingley, and
the other friends he had met on his previous visit, for picturing in her
mind what was going on in the library and trying to decide whether
Elizabeth had been successful in her mission.

At last the door opened; they reappeared; Darcy was grave, but Georgiana
thought his brow had somewhat lightened since he went in, and Elizabeth
gave her a bright and reassuring look. There was no time for more, and
the carriage was already waiting; the farewells were quickly spoken, and
in another moment Darcy had passed out and was gone.



Chapter XXV


To Elizabeth and Georgiana, the events of the evening seemed like a
dreadful dream. Less than an hour ago they had been sitting at their
occupations, as tranquil and secure as if disaster did not exist; and
now the bolt had fallen, scattering them and bringing to each its
message of terror and dismay. Georgiana felt as if it would be the
hardest matter in the world to settle to any pretence of the ordinary
life again, until news reached them from her brother; she longed to be
able to be alone, to think it all over quietly, or to go to Elizabeth,
to hear the result of her appeal to Miss Crawford, and instead she was
obliged to establish herself in the drawing-room with Mr. Bertram, who
showed no sign of wishing to go to bed, but was evidently prepared to
sit up talking and drinking tea until midnight.

Georgiana took out her embroidery frame, and prepared to be as agreeable
a listener as she could, for she expected Elizabeth, who had gone to
Miss Crawford, would come back at any minute, and she really felt more
than a common measure of gratitude to Mr. Bertram for the service he
had rendered them. This gratitude she again endeavoured to express, when
Mr. Bertram began discussing the heavy state of the roads, and the
consequent delays to which Darcy might be subjected.

"Pray do not name it, Miss Darcy; as I said, I am only too glad to have
been of the slightest assistance. It was a mere chance that I was there,
for I should have returned home this week, but the open weather tempted
me to stay on for a day or two longer."

"It was indeed fortunate for us, for we should have had no information
until to-morrow, if we had had to wait for a letter."

Tom Bertram repeated that he "was very glad," looking into the fire in
an absent-minded way that Georgiana scarcely noticed, so absorbed was
she in her thoughts. She paid but little more attention when he suddenly
rose, stationed himself with his back to the fire, and a little nearer
her, and began to speak, apparently on the same topic, for in the first
few minutes she could only gather an impression of his sharing in the
events following the accident; his telling Mr. Ashley that he was a
friend of Colonel Fitzwilliam's, and knew all his relatives, and would
be the fittest person to bear the news to them; of Mr. Ashley's heartily
agreeing, and of his haste to get home and order his carriage and start.
The narrative went on, Georgiana hearing very little after
Leicestershire was left behind, for her thoughts had lingered with the
poor sufferer there, when, with a start, she became aware that all this
was directed at _her_, that Mr. Bertram was trying to explain that he
had welcomed the opportunity of hurrying to Pemberley, because it would
doing her and her family a service, than which he could have no greater
satisfaction, and because it would afford him the privilege of being in
her presence once more. Georgiana, amazed and horrified, endeavoured to
stop him; but Tom was not to be prevented from making a speech which he
had been rehearsing for at least four hours on his journey. Some words
which fell from her lips, an appeal to have some respect for this sad
occasion, which she had snatched at as the argument most likely to move
him, were of no avail. That he could address her at such a time he
immediately pointed out to be a proof of his ardour, which merited
pardon by reason of its unquenchable nature, for he had intended, he
explained, to wait until he came to Desborough at the end of the month,
and then to have sought an interview, but his impatience to throw
himself at her feet and declare his passion would brook no delay.

Nothing could have been more distasteful to Georgiana than such
sentiments. To hear the words "admiration" and "devotion" uttered by Mr.
Bertram was not only an outrage upon the present hour, occupied as it
was with the gravest solicitude for the life of a friend, but also upon
the past, when similar words had been spoken to her by William Price.
From no one else could she bear to hear them; coming from his cousin,
she could almost have called them an insult. Of course, he could not
know that, but it almost seemed like trading upon having placed them
under an obligation to him, that he should presume to speak in a manner
so repugnant to her. Too vexed to choose her words, when Mr. Bertram
stopped for breath, having brought his peroration to a close by an offer
in correct form of his hand and heart, she replied coldly that she was
much honoured by his proposals, but it was entirely out of her power to
accept them. Bertram had not expected a favourable reply on the instant,
but he had hardly expected so decisive an unfavorable one. He stepped
forward with outstretched hands, and an eager, "But, Miss Darcy--" to
which her only response was to move haughtily away, and at that moment,
to the relief of the lady and the chagrin of the gentleman, Elizabeth
entered the room. Only the good manners habitual to both could have
helped them to carry off the situation. Tom Bertram, checked in one of
his flights of eloquence, descended to earth again with an observation
on the weather, and for the next few minutes the temperature and the
prospects of rain were debated with great earnestness.

Elizabeth could hardly have failed to guess what kind of interview she
had interrupted, and out of compassion to Georgiana she soon recommended
her to go to bed. The young girl needed no second bidding; Bertram
opened the door to her with great ceremony, which was acknowledged by
the slightest of bows, and she gladly sought the shelter of her room,
astonished to find that it was not more than half-past nine o'clock.
Could it be possible that it was barely two hours since Mr. Bertram's
arrival? Would this interminable evening, with its shocks, surprises and
disturbances, and yet more surprises, ever draw to a close? Georgiana
was so unnerved that she sat down and shed a few tears, but a few only,
for with such a real grief ever present, she could not spare much
consideration for Mr. Bertram's unwelcome attack. It had been
bewildering and annoying, but she was not going to worry about it. He
had acted on some silly impulse, and could not possibly be serious. He
scarcely knew her--a week's acquaintance, and he talked of heartfelt
devotion, and expected her to be ready to listen to such nonsense! She
could not conceive what had actuated him, and resented greatly that
merely because he was heir to a title and fortune, and had ridden
forty-five miles in a great hurry, he should suppose himself to be an
acceptable suitor. Some expressions he had used, showing that he was
confident of having the approval of her family, roused her special
indignation. If only she had not so unluckily been alone with him--if
Mrs. Grant had not gone upstairs!

Mrs. Grant! Georgiana started violently, for until that moment she had
completely forgotten the association of Mr. Bertram with their two
guests. She had supposed Mary's agitation to be caused merely by the
news of Colonel Fitzwilliam, and now perceived that the sight of the
messenger must have been painful enough apart from all else. What
miserable complications had resulted from the fact that it should have
been Tom Bertram, of all their acquaintance, who had happened to be
hunting with the Belvoir hounds that day! But she could not wish his
deed of kindness undone, nor she believed could Miss Crawford, or anyone
else, whatever the present inconvenience to themselves, for everything
was unimportant compared with what his coming had effected; and now, it
would not matter if only he would go away again immediately. Georgiana
sat meditating schemes by which she, Mary and Mrs. Grant might all avoid
seeing him again, when a knock at her door was followed by the entrance
of Elizabeth.

"Yes, Georgiana," Elizabeth said, smiling in response to the girl's shy
glance, "Mr. Bertram has made me his confidante. I am sorry if you were
upset, my dear; he seems to be afraid it was something of a surprise to
you, but he hopes you will take time, and do him the honour of thinking
it over."

"Oh, no, no, Elizabeth," Georgiana burst out, her cheeks crimsoning, "I
do not want time--I shall not think it over. I do not care for Mr.
Bertram in the least, and I never shall. Please tell him to go away and
forget all about it."

"Why, my dear, this is very determined. He began in the wrong way, I
think, and certainly at the wrong time, but he is very anxious to be
allowed to come back, and set about his wooing more gradually. I told
him I thought you were quite unaware of his feelings."

"So I was, but I do not want to hear about them," said Georgiana, more
quietly, for she was beginning to be a little ashamed of her anger. "I
am very much obliged to Mr. Bertram--I know it is very kind of him, and
everything, but I cannot possibly marry him."

"Are you sure it is entirely out of the question?" asked Elizabeth. "You
were a little startled, perhaps. It is true, we have not seen much of
him, but he is very agreeable, and his position is unexceptionable.
Above all, he bears a high character as far as we know, and has a good
heart, as his action of to-day proves. His cousin, Mr. Price, spoke very
warmly of him. Unless you are quite certain, I think your brother would
like you to give the matter due consideration, as at any other time than
this you might feel more in a mood for such subjects."

"Pray, pray, Elizabeth," exclaimed Georgiana, nervously, "do not ask me.
Even if we were not in trouble to-day, as we are, it would make no
difference. I am sure Mr. Bertram is excellent and amiable, but I do
not--I cannot--I hope Fitzwilliam will not be angry, but I dislike the
idea so very much."

"If that is so, my dear Georgiana, you shall not be tormented about it
any more. I do not know if I am glad or sorry, it has all happened so
quickly, but it is right that you should judge for yourself. Mr. Bertram
will be greatly disappointed, still, that cannot be helped. I suppose I
am to be deputed to get rid of the poor man."

"If you would be so very kind, Elizabeth."

"Well, I must break it to him early to-morrow morning, since I really
think we have had agitations enough for one evening. In any case, I
should have had to ask him to cut his visit short, for from what I have
heard, I do not think that Miss Crawford would care to see him again."

"No, no, indeed, that must be prevented if possible. And now, do tell
me, for I have been longing for an opportunity to ask you, what was the
result of your conversation, if I may be allowed to hear it?"

Elizabeth related briefly what had passed between them, and told how her
husband could scarcely believe at first that Miss Crawford had yielded,
and had voluntarily sent the message that he was asked to deliver, but
on being convinced of her sincerity, he willingly promised that if his
cousin's state permitted it, he would convey to him the words of hope
and comfort, and would endeavour to make anything clear that Fitzwilliam
might not be able to understand.

"Of course, we had so few minutes together," said Elizabeth, "and your
brother had not thought of it all for so long. He quite believed that
all was over between them; he did not even know that she had owned to
caring for him once. It was difficult for him to realize that she always
had cared, though he did not need me to tell him what happiness it would
be to poor Robert to know it, if he reached him in time."

"I am so glad, so very glad," cried Georgiana, the tears of joy standing
in her eyes. "It is as it should be. My brother will see it all
plainly, when he thinks it over. Poor Miss Crawford! How she must have
suffered! She did not realize it herself, I suppose, and that was why
she would not meet him again. I do not quite understand how it all
happened, but it does not signify now. If he lives, nothing need keep
them apart, and at all events, he will have her message. Nothing will
make me believe that it is too late for that."

This naturally led them back to a discussion of the accident, the
condition of the victim, and all the chances and possibilities of the
case, which could not be gone over often enough. Elizabeth at last
prepared to leave the room, as the hour was late, but struck by a
passing recollection, she looked back from the door to say, with a
smile: "I must tell you, Georgiana, that _your_ attitude has surprised
me more than Mr. Bertram's. Lately, when you have been looking so pale
and unlike yourself, it has occurred to me that there must be some
person of whom you were thinking a great deal, with a disturbing effect;
and I confess that when I interrupted you and Mr. Bertram this evening,
it crossed my mind that he might be that person."

"Elizabeth! how could you think such a thing?" exclaimed Georgiana,
turning away, blushing and confused, and thankful that Elizabeth had not
directly asked her whether any such person was in existence.



Chapter XXVI


The disconsolate Mr. Bertram duly took his leave the following morning,
having seen no one besides Mrs. Darcy and Mrs. Grant, but a brief
interview with the former had convinced him of the futility of any
second application to her sister-in-law. He was quite unable to account
for his rebuff, and his vexation, combined with the awkwardness that he
felt in Mrs. Grant's presence, made their party round the
breakfast-table an exceedingly uncomfortable one. Tom Bertram was
possessed of a great deal more conscience than Mr. Yates, and could
never have used Miss Crawford's name as freely as that gentleman had
done; moreover, he was quite conscious that his own family deserved a
share of the blame for the _esclandre_, which was usually borne by the
two chief culprits; consequently a meeting with any of the Crawfords was
quite as unwelcome to him as to them, and he was greatly relieved when,
after an exchange of formal civilities, he could betake himself to his
carriage and give directions to be conveyed to Desborough Park. To be
sure, he was antedating his visit there by ten or twelve days; but he
knew that he would be welcomed by the hospitable Bingleys, and they
would all be eager to hear the shocking news.

The ladies at Pemberley passed the next few hours in the deepest anxiety
and suspense. They tried to talk of other things, but they could think
of little but the one subject. Georgiana would have forgotten Mr.
Bertram as soon as he was out of the house, for she could not believe
his regard for her to be very genuine, or his wound very deep, but that
she so dreaded the disapprobation of her brother, when he should come to
hear of what had happened. Even Elizabeth would not have been surprised
if she had wished to accept him! It was mortifying in a way, though a
relief in another, that no one ever supposed it was possible that Mr.
Price could have cared for _her_!

Darcy had promised to send off an express letter as early as he could,
and a servant had gone to the neighbouring town to meet it, and so avoid
delay. Dinner was just over, a meal which they could only make a
pretence of eating, when the butler entered, and they saw that he had
brought the longed-for dispatch. It was taken to Mrs. Darcy, and she
lost not a moment in communicating its contents. The news was not what
they had dreaded; indeed, the account was as good as could be expected;
Darcy found his cousin's condition to be grave, but not hopeless, for
Colonel Fitzwilliam had recovered consciousness before his arrival. He
was not permitted to talk, but was able to understand what was said to
him. The surgeon had enjoined perfect quiet, and though at present he
could scarcely diagnose all the injuries, he believed that the head had
escaped. The danger was not over, but the patient's good constitution
would help him materially, and the fact that he was enduring severe
pain was not considered to be an altogether unfavorable symptom.

The report was, in general, an intense relief, though anxiety still
prevailed, and deep compassion and concern must still possess those who
listened. Still it was much to be thankful for; on reflection, it seemed
to be the best they could have hoped. Georgiana remained with Mrs.
Grant, talking it over, while Elizabeth drew Miss Crawford into her
boudoir, and said: "I know you will like to hear the rest of my
husband's letter. It is meant for you only. He writes: 'As soon as I was
allowed to speak to Fitzwilliam, and had ascertained that he was
comfortable as he could be made, I told him what you desired me to say
respecting Miss Crawford's presence in our house, and the confidence she
made to you. It seemed to be a great surprise to him, and I feared would
excite him too much; but when I repeated her message, in the exact words
which you gave me, I could perceive an immediate effect on him for good.
He seemed slow to believe it, and murmured a few syllables about its
being too great a happiness; but, after about half an hour, he signed
that he wished to speak to me again, and whispered: "Send her my love:
tell her that she has given me something to live for." He was not able
to say more and soon after fell asleep; you must recollect that there is
a great deal of fever, and consequent weakness. Still, he is decidedly
not worse, and I am more than half inclined to think that the stimulus
his mind has received may help towards his recovery. You know I am not
given to conjecture, but he is surprisingly ready to do everything he is
told, and anxious to think himself better. If I am right, the
responsibility will be Miss Crawford's, and it is one which I think she
will not be unwilling to bear. Pray give her my warmest regards, and
tell her I hope the time is not far distant when we shall be happily
reunited at Pemberley.'"

Such a letter could not all at once be realized, or recovered from. Mary
Crawford tried to utter some words of thanks, but tears impeded her
speech. Only when the joy burst upon her was she fully conscious of all
the misery of the last few months; the light served to make the darkness
more visible. Looking back upon the mists of pride, of resentfulness,
and misunderstanding, from which she had emerged, it seemed almost
incredible for a time that she had reached the clearer air, the sunshine
of love and mutual comprehension. She longed to turn to her kind friend,
to talk freely with her, over all that had seemed puzzling, and when,
after a very few anxious days, better accounts from Leicestershire began
to come in, and the gloom lifted, they could venture to let their minds
dwell on hopeful possibilities once more. It was satisfactory that the
whole situation was already known to the other members of their little
party, and that Georgiana, as well as Mrs. Grant, could freely offer the
affection and sympathy of a sister.

"Mrs. Darcy," said Mary one day, "I am possessed with a curiosity to
know which you think worst of me for--my keeping Colonel Fitzwilliam at
arm's length while in London, or my confession of weakness the other
day, after the bold assertions I made when you spoke to me during our
walk?"

"Indeed, I do not think ill of you for any of those things," returned
Elizabeth; "they seem to me to have been most natural; but what do I
think was a little bit foolish, was your allowing Sir Walter Elliot to
be so attentive that the world concluded you were engaged. Your friends
ought to have warned you that it might deter persons you really esteemed
from approaching you."

"I was afraid you were going to say something about that!" exclaimed
Miss Crawford, holding her hands to her ears in mock dismay. "I quite
expect that Colonel Fitzwilliam and I shall spend some hours in violent
mutual recrimination when he arrives, and that will be one of our
subjects. But, seriously, Mrs. Darcy, although I know now it was
unpardonably foolish, I was not conscious then of the comments that were
being made. Our friendship with the Elliots had quite another aspect for
me, other possibilities connected with my brother--but that will not
interest you. I tolerated Sir Walter Elliot, but I never liked him, and
I never thought of him as having any serious intentions, until a
good-natured friend, Mrs. Palmer, called to congratulate me on my
supposed engagement. By the way, she told me that her mother, Mrs.
Jennings, had meant to come by with her, but had been prevented; I did
not know the worthy Mrs. Jennings then, but since I have met her I have
felt thankful she was not present on that occasion; it would have been
rather overwhelming."

"She must have been sorry to miss such an opportunity," said Elizabeth,
with a smile.

"Yes, poor Mrs. Jennings! But congratulations on a thing that has _not_
happened are rather difficult to receive at any time, are they not? From
that moment, I do assure you, I got a horrid fright, and determined to
change my attitude towards Sir Walter Elliot completely. I must have
been partly successful, for it precipitated things to such an extent--at
all events, the result was not agreeable. It really was a wretched time!
and Colonel Fitzwilliam disappeared and no one knew where or why."

Elizabeth had long realized that her cousin had not been the only
sufferer in the past year, and she knew that Miss Crawford's lively
manner of talking was often assumed to hide deeper emotions. She truly
rejoiced that whatever fears and anxieties might have to be endured
before the lovers met again, nothing could shake the foundations of
their happiness.

After about ten days, Darcy's letters made it clear that the danger was
past, and steady, if slow, progress might be looked for. He was, of
course, quite unable to visit, and Georgiana, who had written to Mrs.
Wentworth to postpone her visit, consulted Elizabeth as to whether it
would be better to abandon it altogether, but Elizabeth thought that it
would be unnecessary to do so, and also a pity, for Georgiana's sake,
and Darcy, on being applied to give his consent to her journeying to
London with the escort of two servants, as had been originally proposed.

The plan, therefore, was to stand. A date was arranged with Captain
Wentworth, and on a cold windy evening of the second week in February,
Mr. Darcy's carriage with Mr. Darcy's sister, drove up to the hotel in
St. James's Street where her host was to meet her. The said carriage was
to return through Leicestershire, for it was hoped, that, in the course
of the next few days, Colonel Fitzwilliam might be well enough to be
brought back in it to Pemberley.

The inclement weather, solitude, and fatigue had sent Georgiana's
spirits down to a low ebb as she looked out at the wet streets, and
recalled her last visit to London, under such very different
circumstances. It was impossible for her not to be thinking of William
Price, and the occasion when they had been together there, and wondering
if he was in town at that minute. She would have liked to know that he
was, even though it was so utterly improbable that they should meet,
since neither of them could know what the other's movements were. Such
thoughts were bad companions for Georgiana, but the arrival of Captain
Wentworth, kind and cheerful as ever, and with the heartiest of
welcomes, did much to disperse the gloom, and he proved such an
enlivening companion on the following day that when they reached
Winchester in time for a late dinner, she did not feel as bad as if she
had been travelling for so many hours.

To see Mrs. Wentworth again was a keen pleasure. The letters they had
exchanged formed the groundwork of a more intimate friendship, for
despite Anne's seniority in years, their natures were thoroughly
congenial, and within a few hours Georgiana felt completely at home in
the charming little house not far from the Cathedral, which Captain
Wentworth had purchased soon after his marriage.

She and her hostess were sitting together, the first day of her visit,
exchanging inquiries after their mutual friends, and Georgiana was half
hoping to hear some mention of William Price's name, as from what she
had seen at Mrs. Hurst's dinner-party, she judged that the Wentworths
knew him tolerably well. Yes--Mrs. Wentworth referred to that
evening--said that she had seen Mrs. Hurst when last she was in
town--Miss Darcy had heard more lately, probably--did she remember the
young officer, Captain Price now, who had been present on that occasion?

Georgiana could reply in quite her ordinary manner that she had
frequently seen Mr. Price since, and told of his visits to Desborough
and Pemberley.

Mrs. Wentworth listened with interest. "I am very glad you have seen
something in him, for I am sure you must all have liked him, do you
not?" she said. "But, now, what an odd creature he is, never to have
mentioned it. To be sure, I have not seen him since, or he would
probably have done so, but hearing from a friend that he was in England
again, and knowing you had met, I wrote to ask him to come and spend a
few days here during your visit. It was a great liberty, I know, dear
Miss Darcy, but he is a first favourite with Captain Wentworth and me,
and we thought it would have been pleasant for him to have come just
now; young people always amuse each other. He has so little time on
shore, and up to last week I believed he was still abroad."

Georgiana's heart beat as if it would suffocate her, but she managed to
return her friend's look, and say in a steady voice: "Yes, it would have
been very nice. Is Captain Price not able to come?"

"No, most unfortunately not. I am very sorry, more so than ever now I
know he has been to your part of the world. But he writes to say he
fears he ought not to come--all sorts of regrets, and to tell Miss Darcy
he is very sorry not to see her again. It is not at all clear why he
cannot come, for he only repeats that he is sailing again some time next
month, and thinks he had better stay in London, or go down to see his
sister, until he goes."

Georgiana sat perfectly silent, gazing into the fire. Even from Mrs.
Wentworth's first words she had not expected that William Price was
coming, but to feel that the opportunity had been within his reach, and
he could not--her heart told her that it was _would_ not--avail himself
of it, was very hard to bear. He was right not to come, if he believed
that the reason for his rejection still existed; Georgiana honoured him
for that; but was there anything else? Had he changed his mind? Was he
ceasing to care? Georgiana hardly knew, until that bitter moment, how
much she had been pinning her hopes upon seeing him again some day; and
she thought, with something like bitterness, that it had not been much
use to picture him in London, and consequently somewhat nearer to her,
when, as things stood, he was immeasurably far away, whether in London
or in Derbyshire or on the North Sea.

Her want of response passed unnoticed as Captain Wentworth entered the
room, proposing to take the ladies out. His wife observed that she had
been telling Miss Darcy of Captain Price's refusal of their invitation,
and of their puzzle to account for it.

"Yes, it is a very ungallant thing, is it not, Miss Darcy? particularly
when he has been told what an attraction we had for him. I thought he
would have come, as he is so often up and down this road, between
Southampton and London, but I suppose he has got some other irons in the
fire."

Georgiana was glad to be able to leave the room, passing off the subject
with a smile and a vague expression of regret, but the tumult of her
mind was so painfully great that it was some days before she could find
anything like the quiet enjoyment in her surroundings which she had
promised herself. All those feelings which she had striven to repress
were rising up again with renewed force. She struggled with herself
alone, for she could not bear to tell Mrs. Wentworth the whole story; it
was different for Miss Crawford with Elizabeth, but in this case the
best-intentioned friend could not disentangle the skein.

Not long after her arrival she had the delight of hearing from Elizabeth
that the engagement of Fitzwilliam and Mary was an accomplished fact. He
was at home again, none the worse for the journey, and gaining strength
rapidly under so many efficient nurses, "which of course means _one!_"
wrote Elizabeth. Her pleasure was enhanced, a few days later, by
receiving a letter from her cousin himself, the first he had been
allowed to write, in which he spoke with gratitude of the happiness he
had so nearly missed, and thanked Georgiana affectionately for her share
in bringing it about. "Indeed," he said, "we owe to the kindness and
patience of our friends a debt we can never repay. How cantankerous and
troublesome you must have thought me when we were in London! and yet you
bore with me, then and always, with unfailing sweetness. I can wish you
nothing better, my dearest cousin, than to be as happy as I am, though I
do not know who is fit, by fortune and merit, to deserve you."

Mary wrote in much the same strain, and Georgiana could read their
letters without a pang of selfish envy, with no feeling but that of
rejoicing on her friends' behalf. This was heartily shared in by Mrs.
Wentworth, who proved the most sympathetic of listeners, having seen the
early stages of the affair at Bath, and knowing, from her own
observation and by what she had collected from Mrs. Darcy's letter, more
than Georgiana of the obstacles which had hindered its progress up to
now; but both preferred to talk only of its happy conclusion, and of the
strange and unexpected means by which it had been brought about.



Chapter XXVII


About five weeks after he had posted his letter to Mrs. Wentworth,
William Price was walking along Wigmore Street, on his way to the
Yates's house in Cavendish Square. It was a cold, foggy evening in
March, and the murky gloom of the wet streets, which the oil lamps at
intervals rather emphasized than relieved, seemed to William to be a fit
surrounding for anyone in his dreary frame of mind. He could not wish
the letter unwritten; it was better not to see Georgiana as long as
there was the barrier between them raised by what she had told him in
November, that she had never thought of caring for him, believing that
he returned Kitty's affection. And yet it was too hard a task not to
wish to see her again, since he was leaving England the following day on
a voyage which would last for many months. He had no longer any fear of
his cousin's rivalry, for during his last visit to Mansfield Tom Bertram
had replied, with great coolness, when anxiously interrogated, that on
the occasion of his going to Pemberley with the news of Colonel
Fitzwilliam's accident, he had come to the conclusion that he and Miss
Darcy would not suit. But even if by some dispensation of Providence she
had not married anyone else in the course of a year, how could the
situation be sufficiently elucidated to set William free ever to address
her again?

During the three months that had elapsed since the Pemberley ball his
simple and straightforward nature had wrestled with the most difficult
problem he had ever been called upon to face. The great events of his
life--the various steps in his career, his sister's marriage, his
father's death, and the providing for the family, had all come in the
natural order of things, and for him the right line of conduct, as of
feeling, had been at the same time the obvious one. And so he had
supposed it would be when it came to affairs of the heart. If a man fell
in love, he would try to win the affection of the woman he had chosen,
and ask her to marry him; and if she did not care for him enough, he
must either give it up, or wait awhile before making another effort. But
to be refused, because another woman happened to have fallen in love
with him! William had accepted his dismissal at the time in sheer
bewilderment; but the more he thought it over, the more inadequate the
reason seemed for separating him and Georgiana. She had not absolutely
said that it was impossible to care for him; she had only refused to
listen to him or talk of it, which was only natural if she thought him
in honour bound to Kitty; but William's conscience was perfectly clear
towards Kitty, and he tormented himself incessantly with the thought of
all that he might have done towards gaining Georgiana's affection,
during the weeks that they were together, had it not been for this
wretched misunderstanding. She had taken it all as intended for Kitty;
why had they not seen the truth? Kitty might have seen, everyone might
have seen, everyone was deserving of blame, except Georgiana. One moment
William was marvelling that anyone could have misunderstood what to him
was the simplest, most natural thing in the world, and the next had
dropped back with despair into the thought: "She might have cared, if
she had only known. And now she will not even have forgiven me for
making Miss Kitty unhappy, and I have no chance of setting that right."

"It is just like a ship that has run aground on a sandbank in the fog,"
mused William. "You can't do anything until it has cleared--at least, I
can't. If she had refused me out and out, I would have gone down to
Winchester and had another good try--a fellow who has only three months
on shore to every nine at sea deserves that, I think--but I can't face
her again as long as I can imagine her saying to herself, 'What about my
poor Kitty?' Oh, what a blind fool I was, and how I wasted those ten
days!"

He was so deep in thought that in crossing a side street he almost ran
into a gentleman who was going towards Portman Square. Recognition
followed on the mutual apologies, and Mr. Knightley exclaimed: "Why,
William! I am glad to see you again--if it can be called seeing in this
atmosphere; I thought you were gone."

"No, sir, but I sail to-morrow from Portsmouth: the _Medusa,_ you know.
They altered our destination at the last minute."

"And what is it to be?"

"Nova Scotia first, sir; we are taking out a draft to increase the
garrison there."

"Lucky fellow that you are; you will have seen the whole world in a year
or two. I'm afraid it sounds like a long absence this time, but you
never mind that, do you?"

"Well, sir--" William hesitated, then looked up with a frank smile--"it
won't be any good, but for once in a way I wish I could get to a home
station for a bit."

Mr. Knightley waited, but perceiving that he was not to hear any more,
said kindly: "Unless you are in a great hurry, come in and say good-bye
to Mrs. Knightley; she would be sorry to miss you, especially as you are
so near."

William readily turned back, for apart from the kindness of the
Knightleys, their house had a special attraction for him; and when a few
minutes later they entered the drawing-room, his thoughts flew back to
the moment when he had first seen Georgiana: she had been standing by
that very chair, that velvet screen had been the background to the
lovely figure in the white ball-dress. It was necessary to put such
thoughts as these resolutely away, and give his attention to Mrs.
Knightley, whom they found alone, reading some letters which had just
arrived by the country post. She greeted William cordially, without any
surprise at seeing him still in England; it was always a little
difficult for Emma to realize that people had important affairs of their
own; and that they should have had any existence apart from that which
she had chosen to imagine for them constituted the surprise. Therefore
she looked earnestly and inquiringly at William as he sat down, and made
so long a pause that he began to wonder what he was expected to say,
until Mr. Knightley came in from the hall, where he had been ordering
the servant to bring in lamps, and explained the circumstances of
William's call. It was then Emma's turn to be astonished: "Going to sea
again, Captain Price? That is indeed a sad thing; I thought you were
going to settle in England for a time; your friends have seen nothing of
you."

"There's no such thing as settling in England for a sailor, Mrs.
Knightley," returned William, trying to speak cheerily; "at least, not
at twenty-four. And I have been home for a long time now; the North Sea
cruise this winter counts for nothing, you know."

"The North Sea!" repeated Emma, still more overwhelmed. "I thought you
were with your mother, or in Derbyshire."

"Oh, no," replied William, in as indifferent a tone as he could. "I have
not been to Derbyshire since the middle of November. We were at
Copenhagen for three weeks, the rest of the time moving about, and I
have just come from spending a week at Mansfield."

Emma was then almost speechless with disappointment. Mr. Knightley,
regretful, but amused, drew his chair up to the fire and began asking
about William's plans, which were to leave London on the following
morning by the twelve o'clock coach, thus allowing ample time to reach
Portsmouth and bestow himself and his baggage on board before the ship
sailed at seven in the evening. Mr. Knightley inquired what would happen
if he arrived too late, but William could hardly picture the
consequences of such a breach of discipline. He had never known it to
happen; he supposed the culprit would be court-martialled, and probably
degraded three years; he imagined that no circumstances could possibly
be allowed to extenuate so grievous a crime. Mr. Knightley suggested
that a breakdown of the coach or other conveyance might cause inevitable
delay, and William's answer to this was that one took the risk of these
things in putting off one's return to the very last day of one's leave;
some accident, of course, might occur, but in general, those officers
who were not obliged to be on board earlier spent every moment of their
leave of absence on shore.

"I probably should have gone back yesterday, however," he added, "but
the mother of a friend of mine, Cooper, who is on board the _Queen
Charlotte_ at Southampton, is very ill in London, and he cannot come to
see her, so he asked me to call at the house and bring him the latest
reports. I was returning from there when I met you this evening. I
intended going earlier in the day, but I am glad now that I was
prevented from doing so."

"Emma, my dear," said Mr. Knightley, "you are not appreciating our
friend's pretty speeches." Emma started, smiled, then tried to rouse
herself and say something to William in the nature of cordial good
wishes for his voyage, and in moving her chair, the letters she had been
reading fell from her knee to the floor. William, as he picked them up,
reflected that probably something in their contents was occupying Mrs.
Knightley's mind; and he was beginning to think about making his adieux,
when Mr. Knightley continued, speaking to his wife: "Have you any
interesting news there, as a parting gift for a traveler?"

"No, I think not," replied Emma. "This is from Mrs. Weston, but there is
nothing but Highbury gossip in it, which Captain Price would not--and
this other one I have not read; I thought it was Harriet's writing. No!"
holding it up to a candle, "it is not, after all. It is--well--I can
hardly--it looks like--in fact, I believe it is from Kitty Bennet."

"Indeed!" said Mr. Knightley, and added, after a momentary pause: "We
have not heard anything of her for a great while."

Emma could not help glancing towards William Price, but her glance told
her nothing, for he sat perfectly passive, looking at no one, with
perhaps a trifle deeper tinge of colour in his cheeks. The pause
threatened to grow embarrassing, so she began to open the letter,
hurriedly saying: "Miss Bennet seems still to be in Derbyshire. I should
have thought she would have returned home before this."

"You stayed at Pemberley, did you not, William, as well as at Mr.
Bingley's?" inquired Mr. Knightley.

"Yes," said William. "Mr. and Mrs. Darcy were so kind as to invite me
there with the rest, for their ball. What a beautiful place it is! Even
at that time of year one was struck with it."

"And you have not seen any of them since, I conclude, as you have been
abroad," proceeded Mr. Knightley.

William was replying in the negative, when stopped by an exclamation
from Mrs. Knightley, who was reading the letter with every sign of
astonishment. "George!" she cried, "what do you think has happened? You
will never guess! It is perfectly amazing! I can hardly believe it
myself. Well--!" as she turned over a page, "if she had not told me
herself, I could never--was there ever anything so unexpected?"

"We shall know better when you have told us what this astounding news
is, my dear," said her husband. "Has Miss Bennett become engaged to be
married, by any chance?"

"How could you have guessed it?" exclaimed Mrs. Knightley, dropping the
letter to gaze at him. "It is the very last thing I should have thought
of. Oh, Captain Price!" remembering her visitor in some confusion. "But
I am sure you might know it, as she does not say it is private."

"The reason I guessed it," said Mr. Knightley, smiling, "is because no
other intelligence causes quite the same amount of excitement, as you
must admit, Emma. May we hear some more particulars, now that we have
got over the first shock?" Mr. Knightley was talking partly in order to
spare his young friend, thinking it just possible that the news of
Kitty's engagement might not be very welcome to the young man.

William, however, was leaning forward with an expression of eager
interest, and Mrs. Knightley, looking at her letter, went on: "She is
engaged to a Mr. James Morland, the rector of the parish in which Mr.
and Mrs. Bingley live. He is quite young--only appointed last year--she
met him first when she went down there in June--perfectly charming--the
most agreeable man she has ever met--does not disapprove of dancing--Mr.
Bingley and her sister so delighted--a lovely old house--so near to dear
Jane--exquisitely happy--she is going home directly, and hopes to come
to town and see me."

William could contain himself no longer. He sprang up, looked at the
clock, took a few quick steps through the room, then, coming back, he
abruptly asked: "Is this really true, Mrs. Knightley?"

"Quite true, Captain Price, I am afraid--at least, I mean there can be
no doubt of it; in fact, they are going to be married in June, she says.
I assure you, I had not the slightest suspicion. I have only heard the
gentleman's name once or twice, no more. It is so odd, so
inexplicable--"

Mr. Knightley could not forbear smiling at his wife's perplexity, for he
perceived that for some reason or other William was in no need of
commiseration, and, indeed, could hardly wait for Mrs. Knightley to
finish. Holding out his hand, he said: "Pray give Miss Bennet my
congratulations, and a thousand good wishes for her happiness. I fear I
must not stay longer now, so will say good-bye, Mrs. Knightley, with
many thanks for all your kindness--I am indeed grateful for all you have
done for me."

"But Captain Price, you are not going already?" exclaimed Emma, now
completely bewildered. "Do not, I beg, let me drive you away, we will
not talk about anything disagreeable. We were just going to have dinner;
it is late to-night on account of Mr. Knightley's having had to go out,
and I hoped you would have stayed to dine with us."

Mr. Knightley seconded the invitation, but William unhesitatingly
declined. "You are very good, but I must not delay so long. It is only
six, and I think I can catch the eight o'clock coach, if I hurry, as my
things are nearly packed."

"The eight o'clock coach?" repeated Mr. Knightley, helping his guest
into his coat when it became evident that he was determined to go. "I
thought you said you were not returning until to-morrow morning."

"Yes, I did, but I find now that I shall have to go to Winchester; I
shall just have time; it is the most fortunate thing that could have
happened."

"It is not very fortunate for us," said Emma. "But you surely will not
attempt to get to Winchester to-night?"

"No, but I shall get as far as Guilford, in all probability. I beg your
pardon, Mrs. Knightley, I am shockingly ill-mannered; what must you be
thinking of me? Do overlook it just this once; nothing but the most
urgent affairs would carry me away from here so much sooner than I had
intended."

His smile and winning manner were irresistible, and Emma was obliged to
let him go, saying she would expect to hear all about the urgent affairs
some day. William seemed to get to the front door in two strides, and
was fumbling with the lock before his host could reach him, with offers
of refreshment, which he would not stay to accept. Mr. Knightley shook
hands with him, saying kindly: "Well, William, I am sorry you had to run
away, especially as we shall not see you for so long. Besides, it is
really too cruel, after having whetted our curiosity by this mysterious
change of plan."

"Oh, sir, I know it is too bad--if I only had a little more time--but it
is the sailing to-morrow that is the very mischief--if you knew, you
would understand that my only chance is to go now, as quickly as I can.
I will write and tell you how I get on. Please make my apologies to Mrs.
Knightley."

"The only thing Mrs. Knightley will not forgive is your having no dinner
to-night. Yes, indeed, we shall look forward to hearing. Good-bye, and
good luck be with you."

The good luck had begun already, William thought, as he plunged into the
streets, which no longer appeared dark and foggy, since the aspect of
the whole world had changed to him in the last few minutes. Was it not
the most extraordinary stroke of good fortune which had led him to meet
Mr. Knightley that evening? He had not intended to call, for he had
believed them to be at their house in the country, and he would have
heard nothing, and would have passed through Winchester the next day,
within a mile of Georgiana, without knowing that he was free! A day
later--the horror of it was almost too great to contemplate--would have
been too late, too late to speak or write, even if anyone had troubled
to send him the information. Mrs. Knightley herself had not suspected
that Miss Bennet's engagement was a matter of such stupendous importance
to him. William did not trouble to think of what she had suspected, his
only idea being to make his way to Georgiana with all speed. He must see
her before he sailed--that was the pressing necessity; everything else
would right itself. What if he did not find her? If she were ill, or
out of the house, or gone home again? Every kind of apprehension sprang
up in his mind, to be reasoned away or fought down by vigorous action.
His impatience was so great that he hardly knew how he got through the
journey, beginning with the hasty drive to the coach office, the finding
there was a seat still vacant, booking it, and tramping about till the
time of starting; the innumerable frets and delays along the road; the
arrival at Guilford, the bespeaking of a post-chaise, and descending
before daylight the next morning to claim it; the hurried breakfast at
Farnham, and the last interminable twenty miles, until the moment when
he drove down the long hill into Winchester and heard the Cathedral
clock striking eleven.

Leaving his portmanteaux at the "George," he walked straight to the
Wentworths' house, which he knew well from previous visits, and was
shown into a room where Captain and Mrs. Wentworth sat together. His
early appearance created some surprise and excessive pleasure; they were
totally unsuspicious of its real cause, and concluded only that he had
reconsidered his refusal. His eager inquiry as to whether Miss Darcy
were still with them, and whether he could see her, aroused a momentary
fear that he had brought bad news for her, but it speedily became
evident that he was on quite a different errand.

"Oho, William, you sly fellow, so it is Miss Darcy you are come to see?"
exclaimed Captain Wentworth. "Well, we congratulate you upon your good
sense, do we not, Anne? But why in the world did you not come down weeks
ago, when you had the chance?"

William avoided answering this, and as his friends still did not
understand the urgency of the case, he was obliged again to go through
the particulars of the _Medusa_, and Portsmouth, and seven o'clock.
Now, indeed, were the precious moments not to be wasted; Anne left the
room, but returned directly, saying: "Captain Price, I am very sorry,
but I find Miss Darcy has gone out. She talked of wishing to do some
errands in the town, but I did not know she had already started. What is
to be done?"

William was quite clear that there was only one thing to be done,
namely, to go in search of Miss Darcy, and asked which shops she was
likely to have visited. Mrs. Wentworth named one or two, and called
after him as he was hurrying away, to suggest that if he was not
successful in finding her in either, it was possible she might, as the
day was so fine, have gone to finish her walk in the grounds of Wolvesey
Palace, a favourite spot of hers for a stroll. Armed with information
William was gone on the instant.

It was fortunate that he had obtained it, for his inquiries in the High
Street were fruitless, and he thereupon retraced his steps under the
archway and past the Cathedral, turned along College Street, and finally
found himself in the old Palace gardens, where, seated with a book among
a quiet part of the ruins, he presently came upon Georgiana. She did not
see him until he was close at hand, when she sprang up, scarce able to
believe her eyes, and the colour deepening in her cheeks; and William
forgetting all the lengthy explanations he had intended to make, darted
towards her, impulsively exclaiming: "Oh, how glad I am to see you
again! I came back--I could not help it--everything is all right--you
will let me speak now--am I too late? Have I the least chance--any
chance at all?"

Georgiana unconsciously yielded her hand to his, but shrank back a
little as she faltered: "But--but Kitty?"

Breathless from haste, and full of anxiety as to his reception, William
hardly knew whether he had been intelligible, but there was something
in Georgiana's look which showed him, even while she hesitated, that he
was understood--even more--welcomed. Her very question was an answer to
him, and that he quickly disposed of it, and yet in a manner entirely
satisfactory to her, could not be doubted, making thereby the glorious
discovery that his cause was won, when he had been almost ready to
despair of achieving anything in the short time at his command.

It seemed at first impossible that it could be true, but the surprise of
receiving a good fortune beyond one's deserts is one to which it is easy
to grow accustomed. The fact of Kitty's engagement, once realized, could
be put aside as something delightful to be thought over at leisure; but
for the present moment there were only two people in the world, and
those two could give themselves up, unchecked by any sense of guilt or
responsibility, to the exquisite happiness of love acknowledged and
returned. Perfect confidence might now exist between them; William might
repeat, and far more eloquently, all that he had said in the picture
gallery at Pemberley; and Georgiana might now venture to confess the
feelings which in that interview had awakened to life. To her, indeed,
it was easier to listen than to talk, for after her long
self-repression, the relief, the wonderful change, were almost
overwhelming; her heart had been too deeply stirred, and her habitual
shyness was not soon to be overcome. But William's joy in the fruition
of his hopes, so infinitely more complete than any he had dared to hope
for, and his gratitude to herself, had to be put into words in his own
frank and eager way, touched now with the earnest gravity befitting so
great an occasion.

It was one of those beautiful mornings which sometimes occur in the
ungenial early months of the year, as a reminder that spring is
actually on its way. By noon, the pale sunshine had some warmth, and the
lovers paced to and fro, or sat in the sheltered corner which had seen
their meeting, while a soft breeze rustled in the ivy and the murmuring
of the stream could be heard just beyond the old wall. Georgiana lifted
a face of delight to the blue sky, and watched the rooks busy in the elm
trees near, while occasionally other sounds came to them, unnoticed at
the time, but being woven into the picture which their memories would
always hold of that hour, voices, gay with youth and spirits, of the
college boys as they passed in and out of their gateway, and the slow
sweet chimes from the tower of the Cathedral.

Georgiana knew something of William's plans, but to learn that their
parting must take place almost immediately was indeed a blow, until
consoling reflections came, and they reminded each other of what a trial
of faith and patience his departure in other circumstances would have
meant. Of course, it would have made no real difference; neither would
admit the possibility of its having caused any change in their feelings,
but there was comfort in knowing that now theirs was an attachment which
separations could only strengthen, and in the light of which
misunderstandings could no longer exist. Both lamented William's being
unable to see Mr. and Mrs. Darcy before he sailed, but Georgiana
anticipated no opposition on their part, and this thought gave perhaps
the crowning touch to a felicity so intense that she could hardly
believe it to be hers.

Captain and Mrs. Wentworth's warmth of kindness was to be expected, in
view of their affection for both the young people. William stayed with
them until four o'clock, which gave time for many plans to be made, and
the more important letters to be written, and when at last he said his
farewells he buoyed himself and Georgiana up with the promise that it
should be no more than six months before he returned to claim her.

When he had actually gone, she went to her room, feeling in need of
solitude to compose her mind after a day of such wonders. It was
impossible that she should not let fall a few tears at the thought of
William's going every moment farther and farther from her when they had
only just begun to realize the delight, the security of their new
relation to each other, but they were not the bitter tears of
hopelessness that she had so often shed in the last few months.

Whatever the period of his absence, it would be long, and the lot of the
one left behind, inactive, would be the hardest; but Georgiana was
willing to wait in thankfulness and quiet trust for whatever the future
might bring. That there might be anxieties and alarms, she knew, but the
heart which had once and for all been given to William Price was strong
in courage as in tenderness, and the remembrance of the vows they had
exchanged had glorified her life.

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy came to Winchester shortly afterwards, to take
her home. Her news, while explaining many things, had been a
considerable surprise to them, and Darcy deemed it necessary to make
further inquiries about the young man, who, it appeared, now desired to
be even more closely connected with his family than had at first been
thought. Though regretting, for his sister's sake, the profession of the
man she had chosen, he could not withhold his approval when she had
convinced him how completely her happiness was bound up in the affair;
and, indeed, he could hear nothing on any side but what was in Captain
Price's favour, so while Lady Catherine, who had made a show of
objection, was appeased by the substantial fortune and the relationship
with the Bertrams, Darcy and Elizabeth found contentment in their
knowledge of his character and position.

All went as delightfully as Georgiana could have wished. Darcy, who had
been inclined to regret Mr. Bertram's dismissal when he first heard of
it, became so entirely reconciled to the idea of his cousin as a
substitute, that Georgiana never heard a word of the dreaded scolding;
and Captain Wentworth promised that all his own, and his brother-in-law,
Admiral Croft's, interest should be used towards hastening William's
promotion and shortening his absence, for he declared it would be
impossible to do too much for a lady who, in spite of early prejudices,
was venturing to trust so far in the fidelity of sailors as actually to
be going to marry one of them.

Georgiana had many questions to ask about Kitty's engagement, and from
what Elizabeth told her of the particulars given by Jane, she was able
to piece the story together for herself. Morland had sincerely tried to
forget Kitty, but her return to Desborough, more bewitching than ever,
had shown him how vain had been his efforts. And when the intimacy
between the Rectory and the Park had been renewed under his sister's
auspices, what wonder if Kitty's feelings towards him changed somewhat
with the changed circumstances? If, touched by his continued devotion,
and a little piqued by the want of appreciation in another quarter, she
had allowed him to see that a second attempt would not be treated like
the first? Georgiana rejoiced to think that Kitty had the power of
consoling herself, and that she was at that moment adoring Mr. Morland
as whole-heartedly as she had ever adored Mr. Price.

The two girls exchanged letters of congratulations, but it was no longer
possible to write with quite the same openness as of old, though
Georgiana's good wishes lacked nothing of affectionate sincerity. Kitty
declared herself too busy with the preparation of her wedding clothes to
send a long letter, and perhaps also a small feeling of resentment
lingered in her mind, and prompted the remark: "I thought you must have
been in love with him all the time, though you would not admit it."

She had, however, nothing to envy Georgiana, for had she not achieved
the distinction of being the first of the three brides? The ceremony at
the parish church near Longbourn was fixed for Midsummer, and was
attended by a number of relatives and friends; while the Darcys soon
after had the pleasure of witnessing the marriage of Mary Crawford and
Colonel Fitzwilliam, which took place in London in the following month.
The latter couple settled in town, but also possessed themselves of a
small hunting lodge in Leicestershire, whence the road to Pemberley and
back was frequently traversed, though it is to be hoped with less haste
and agitation than by two persons who made the journey on a certain
melancholy day in January.

It was long before William learned the true history of his cousin's
second visit to Pemberley, but Georgiana could afford to smile at the
recollection of it, when, some three months after the announcement of
her engagement, the families of Darcy and Bingley received the wedding
cards of Mr. Thomas Bertram and Miss Isabella Thorpe.


THE END





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