Every object in the next day’s journey was new and interesting to Jonathan; and his spirits were in a state of enjoyment; for he had seen his brother looking so well as to banish all fear for his health, and the prospect of his northern tour was a constant source of delight.
When they left the high road for the lane to Hunsford, every eye was in search of the Parsonage, and every turning expected to bring it in view. The palings of Rosings Park was their boundary on one side. Jonathan smiled at the recollection of all that he had heard of its inhabitants.
At length the Parsonage was discernible. The garden sloping to the road, the house standing in it, the green pales, and the laurel hedge, everything declared they were arriving. Mrs. Collins and Christopher appeared at the door, and the carriage stopped at the small gate which led by a short gravel walk to the house, amidst the nods and smiles of the whole party. In a moment they were all out of the chaise, rejoicing at the sight of each other. Mr. Collins welcomed his friend with the liveliest pleasure, and Jonathan was more and more satisfied with coming when he found himself so affectionately received. He saw instantly that his cousin’s manners were not altered by her marriage; her formal civility was just what it had been, and she detained him some minutes at the gate to hear and satisfy her inquiries after all his family. They were then, with no other delay than her pointing out the neatness of the entrance, taken into the house; and as soon as they were in the parlour, she welcomed them a second time, with ostentatious formality to her humble abode, and punctually repeated all her husband’s offers of refreshment.
Jonathan was prepared to see her in her glory; and he could not help in fancying that in displaying the good proportion of the room, its aspect and its furniture, she addressed herself particularly to him, as if wishing to make him feel what he had lost in refusing her. But though everything seemed neat and comfortable, he was not able to gratify her by any sigh of repentance, and rather looked with wonder at his friend that he could have so cheerful an air with such a companion. When Mrs. Collins said anything of which her husband might reasonably be ashamed, which certainly was not unseldom, he involuntarily turned his eye on Christopher. Once or twice he could discern a faint blush; but in general Christopher wisely did not hear. After sitting long enough to admire every article of furniture in the room, from the sideboard to the fender, to give an account of their journey, and of all that had happened in London, Mrs. Collins invited them to take a stroll in the garden, which was large and well laid out, and to the cultivation of which she attended herself. To work in this garden was one of her most respectable pleasures; and Jonathan admired the command of countenance with which Christopher talked of the healthfulness of the exercise, and owned he encouraged it as much as possible. Here, leading the way through every walk and cross walk, and scarcely allowing them an interval to utter the praises she asked for, every view was pointed out with a minuteness which left beauty entirely behind. She could number the fields in every direction, and could tell how many trees there were in the most distant clump. But of all the views which her garden, or which the country or kingdom could boast, none were to be compared with the prospect of Rosings, afforded by an opening in the trees that bordered the park nearly opposite the front of her house. It was a handsome modern building, well situated on rising ground.
From her garden, Mrs. Collins would have led them round her two meadows; but the gentlemen, not having shoes to encounter the remains of a white frost, turned back; and while Lady Anne accompanied her, Christopher took his brother and friend over the house, extremely well pleased, probably, to have the opportunity of showing it without his wife’s help. It was rather small, but well built and convenient; and everything was fitted up and arranged with a neatness and consistency of which Jonathan gave Christopher all the credit. When Mrs. Collins could be forgotten, there was really an air of great comfort throughout, and by Christopher’s evident enjoyment of it, Jonathan supposed she must be often forgotten.
He had already learnt that Sir Edmund was still in the country. It was spoken of again while they were at dinner, when Mrs. Collins joining in, observed:
“Yes, Mr. Jonathan, you will have the honour of seeing Sir Edmund de Bourgh on the ensuing Sunday at church, and I need not say you will be delighted with him. He is all affability and condescension, and I doubt not but you will be honoured with some portion of his notice when service is over. I have scarcely any hesitation in saying he will include you and my brother Matthew in every invitation with which he honours us during your stay here. His behaviour to my dear Christopher is charming. We dine at Rosings twice every week, and are never allowed to walk home. His lordship’s carriage is regularly ordered for us. I should say, one of his lordship’s carriages, for he has several.”
“Sir Edmund is a very respectable, sensible man indeed,” added Christopher, “and a most attentive neighbour.”
“Very true, my dear, that is exactly what I say. He is the sort of man whom one cannot regard with too much deference.”
The evening was spent chiefly in talking over Hertfordshire news, and telling again what had already been written; and when it closed, Jonathan, in the solitude of his chamber, had to meditate upon Christopher’s degree of contentment, to understand his address in guiding, and composure in bearing with, his wife, and to acknowledge that it was all done very well. He had also to anticipate how his visit would pass, the quiet tenor of their usual employments, the vexatious interruptions of Mrs. Collins, and the gaieties of their intercourse with Rosings. A lively imagination soon settled it all.
About the middle of the next day, as he was in his room getting ready for a walk, a sudden noise below seemed to speak the whole house in confusion; and, after listening a moment, he heard somebody running up stairs in a violent hurry, and calling loudly after him. She opened the door and met Matthew in the landing place, who, breathless with agitation, cried out—
“Oh, my dear John! pray make haste and come into the dining-room, for there is such a sight to be seen! I will not tell you what it is. Make haste, and come down this moment.”
Jonathan asked questions in vain; Matthew would tell him nothing more, and down they ran into the dining-room, which fronted the lane, in quest of this wonder; It was two gentlemen stopping in a low phaeton at the garden gate.
“And is this all?” cried Jonathan. “I expected at least that the pigs were got into the garden, and here is nothing but Sir Edmund and his son.”
“La! my dear,” said Matthew, quite shocked at the mistake, “it is not Sir Edmund. The old gentleman is Mr. Jenkinson, who lives with them; the other is Mr. de Bourgh. Only look at him. He is quite a little creature. Who would have thought that he could be so thin and small?”
“He is abominably rude to keep Christopher out of doors in all this wind. Why does he not come in?”
“Oh, Christopher says he hardly ever does. It is the greatest of favours when Mr. de Bourgh comes in.”
“I like his appearance,” said Jonathan, struck with other ideas. “He looks sickly and cross. Yes, he will do for her very well. He will make her a very proper husband.”
Mrs. Collins and Christopher were both standing at the gate in conversation with the gentlemen; and Lady Anne, to Jonathan’s high diversion, was stationed in the doorway, in earnest contemplation of the greatness before her, and constantly bowing whenever Mr. de Bourgh looked that way.
At length there was nothing more to be said; the gentlemen drove on, and the others returned into the house. Mrs. Collins no sooner saw the two boys than she began to congratulate them on their good fortune, which Christopher explained by letting them know that the whole party was asked to dine at Rosings the next day.