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|Chapter 31 (Vol. II, Chap. VIII)|
|(Vol. II, Chap. 7)
||Table of Contents
||(Vol. II, Chap. 9)|
|Chapter 31 (Vol. II, Chap. VIII)
|Colonel Fitzwilliam's manners were very much admired at the
parsonage, and the ladies all felt that he must add
considerably to the pleasure of their engagements at Rosings.
It was some days, however, before they received any invitation
thither, for while there were visitors in the house they could
not be necessary; and it was not till Easter-day, almost a week
after the gentlemen's arrival, that they were honoured by such
an attention, and then they were merely asked on leaving church
to come there in the evening. For the last week they had seen
very little of either Lady Catherine or her daughter. Colonel
Fitzwilliam had called at the parsonage more than once during
the time, but Mr. Darcy they had only seen at church.
|The invitation was accepted of course, and at a proper hour
they joined the party in Lady Catherine's drawing room. Her
ladyship received them civilly, but it was plain that their
company was by no means so acceptable as when she could get
nobody else; and she was, in fact, almost engrossed by her
nephews, speaking to them, especially to Darcy, much more than
to any other person in the room.
|Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed really glad to see them; any thing
was a welcome relief to him at Rosings; and Mrs. Collins's
pretty friend had moreover caught his fancy very much. He now
seated himself by her, and talked so agreeably of Kent and
Hertfordshire, of travelling and staying at home, of new books
and music, that Elizabeth had never been half so well
entertained in that room before; and they conversed with so
much spirit and flow, as to draw the attention of Lady
Catherine herself as well as of Mr. Darcy. His eyes had been
soon and repeatedly turned towards them with a look of
curiosity; and that her ladyship after a while shared the
feeling, was more openly acknowledged, for she did not scruple
to call out,
|"What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam? What is it you are
talking of? What are you telling Miss Bennet? Let me hear
what it is."
|"We are speaking of music, Madam," said he, when no longer able
to avoid a reply.
|"Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my
delight. I must have my share in the conversation, if you are
speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose,
who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better
natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a
great proficient. And so would Anne, if her health had allowed
her to apply. I am confident that she would have performed
delightfully. How does Georgiana get on, Darcy?"
|Mr. Darcy spoke with affectionate praise of his sister's
|"I am very glad to hear such a good account of her," said Lady
Catherine; "and pray tell her from me, that she cannot expect
to excel, if she does not practise a great deal."
|"I assure you, Madam," he replied, "that she does not need such
advice. She practises very constantly."
|"So much the better. It cannot be done too much; and when I
next write to her, I shall charge her not to neglect it on any
account. I often tell young ladies, that no excellence in
music is to be acquired, without constant practice. I have
told Miss Bennet several times, that she will never play really
well, unless she practises more; and though Mrs. Collins has no
instrument, she is very welcome, as I have often told her, to
come to Rosings every day, and play on the piano forte in
Mrs. Jenkinson's room. She would be in nobody's way, you know,
in that part of the house."
|Mr. Darcy looked a little ashamed of his aunt's ill breeding,
and made no answer.
|When coffee was over, Colonel Fitzwilliam reminded Elizabeth of
having promised to play to him; and she sat down directly to
the instrument. He drew a chair near her. Lady Catherine
listened to half a song, and then talked, as before, to her
other nephew; till the latter walked away from her, and moving
with his usual deliberation towards the piano forte, stationed
himself so as to command a full view of the fair performer's
countenance. Elizabeth saw what he was doing, and at the first
convenient pause, turned to him with an arch smile, and said,
|"You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this
state to hear me? But I will not be alarmed though your sister
does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that
never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My
courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me."
|"I shall not say that you are mistaken," he replied, "because
you could not really believe me to entertain any design of
alarming you; and I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance
long enough to know, that you find great enjoyment in
occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your
|Elizabeth laughed heartily at this picture of herself, and said
to Colonel Fitzwilliam, "Your cousin will give you a very
pretty notion of me, and teach you not to believe a word I say.
I am particularly unlucky in meeting with a person so well able
to expose my real character, in a part of the world where I had
hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit. Indeed,
Mr. Darcy, it is very ungenerous in you to mention all that you
knew to my disadvantage in Hertfordshire -- and, give me leave
to say, very impolitic too -- for it is provoking me to
retaliate, and such things may come out, as will shock your
relations to hear."
|"I am not afraid of you," said he, smilingly.
|"Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of," cried
Colonel Fitzwilliam. "I should like to know how he behaves
|"You shall hear then -- but prepare yourself for something very
dreadful. The first time of my ever seeing him in
Hertfordshire, you must know, was at a ball -- and at this
ball, what do you think he did? He danced only four dances!
I am sorry to pain you -- but so it was. He danced only four
dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and, to my certain
knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of
a partner. Mr. Darcy, you cannot deny the fact."
|"I had not at that time the honour of knowing any lady in the
assembly beyond my own party."
|"True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball room.
Well, Colonel Fitzwilliam, what do I play next? My fingers
wait your orders."
|"Perhaps," said Darcy, "I should have judged better, had
I sought an introduction, but I am ill qualified to recommend
myself to strangers."
|"Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?" said Elizabeth,
still addressing Colonel Fitzwilliam. "Shall we ask him why a
man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is
ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?"
|"I can answer your question," said Fitzwilliam, "without
applying to him. It is because he will not give himself the
|"I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,"
said Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen
before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear
interested in their concerns, as I often see done."
|"My fingers," said Elizabeth, "do not move over this instrument
in the masterly manner which I see so many women's do. They
have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the
same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my
own fault -- because I would not take the trouble of
practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as
capable as any other woman's of superior execution."
|Darcy smiled, and said, "You are perfectly right. You have
employed your time much better. No one admitted to the
privilege of hearing you, can think any thing wanting. We
neither of us perform to strangers."
|Here they were interrupted by Lady Catherine, who called out to
know what they were talking of. Elizabeth immediately began
playing again. Lady Catherine approached, and, after listening
for a few minutes, said to Darcy,
|"Miss Bennet would not play at all amiss, if she practised
more, and could have the advantage of a London master. She has
a very good notion of fingering, though her taste is not equal
to Anne's. Anne would have been a delightful performer, had
her health allowed her to learn."
|Elizabeth looked at Darcy to see how cordially he assented to
his cousin's praise; but neither at that moment nor at any
other could she discern any symptom of love; and from the whole
of his behaviour to Miss De Bourgh she derived this comfort for
Miss Bingley, that he might have been just as likely to marry
her, had she been his relation.
|Lady Catherine continued her remarks on Elizabeth's
performance, mixing with them many instructions on execution
and taste. Elizabeth received them with all the forbearance of
civility; and at the request of the gentlemen, remained at the
instrument till her ladyship's carriage was ready to take them
|(Vol. II, Chap. 7)
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||(Vol. II, Chap. 9)|
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in English and Chinese