Lady Anne stayed only a week at Hunsford, but her visit was long enough to convince her of her son’s being most comfortably settled, and of his possessing such a wife and such a neighbour as were not often met with. While Lady Anne was with them, Mrs. Collins devoted her morning to driving her out in her gig, and showing her the country; but when she went away, the whole family returned to their usual employments, and Jonathan was thankful to find that they did not see more of his cousin by the alteration, for the chief of the time between breakfast and dinner was now passed by her either at work in the garden or in reading and writing, and looking out of the window in her own book-room, which fronted the road. The room in which the gentlemen sat was backwards. Jonathan had at first rather wondered that Christopher should not prefer the dining-parlour for common use; it was a better sized room, and had a more pleasant aspect; but he soon saw that her friend had an excellent reason for what he did, for Mrs. Collins would undoubtedly have been much less in her own apartment, had they sat in one equally lively; and he gave Christopher credit for the arrangement.
From the drawing-room they could distinguish nothing in the lane, and were indebted to Mrs. Collins for the knowledge of what carriages went along, and how often especially Mr. de Bourgh drove by in his phaeton, which she never failed coming to inform them of, though it happened almost every day. He not unfrequently stopped at the Parsonage, and had a few minutes’ conversation with Christopher, but was scarcely ever prevailed upon to get out.
Very few days passed in which Mrs. Collins did not walk to Rosings, and not many in which her husband did not think it necessary to go likewise; and till Jonathan recollected that there might be other family livings to be disposed of, he could not understand the sacrifice of so many hours. Now and then they were honoured with a call from his lordship, and nothing escaped his observation that was passing in the room during these visits. He examined into their employments, looked at their work, and advised them to do it differently; found fault with the arrangement of the furniture; or detected the servant in negligence; and if he accepted any refreshment, seemed to do it only for the sake of finding out that Mr. Collins’s joints of meat were too large for his family.
Jonathan soon perceived, that though this great gentleman was not in commission of the peace of the county, he was a most active magistrate in his own parish, the minutest concerns of which were carried to him by Mrs. Collins; and whenever any of the cottagers were disposed to be quarrelsome, discontented, or too poor, he sallied forth into the village to settle their differences, silence their complaints, and scold them into harmony and plenty.
The entertainment of dining at Rosings was repeated about twice a week; and, allowing for the loss of Lady Anne, and there being only one card-table in the evening, every such entertainment was the counterpart of the first. Their other engagements were few, as the style of living in the neighbourhood in general was beyond Mrs. Collins’s reach. This, however, was no evil to Jonathan, and upon the whole he spent his time comfortably enough; there were half-hours of pleasant conversation with Christopher, and the weather was so fine for the time of year that he had often great enjoyment out of doors. His favourite walk, and where he frequently went while the others were calling on Sir Edmund, was along the open grove which edged that side of the park, where there was a nice sheltered path, which no one seemed to value but himself, and where he felt beyond the reach of Sir Edmund’s curiosity.
In this quiet way, the first fortnight of his visit soon passed away. Easter was approaching, and the week preceding it was to bring an addition to the family at Rosings, which in so small a circle must be important. Jonathan had heard soon after his arrival that Miss Darcy was expected there in the course of a few weeks, and though there were not many of his acquaintances whom he did not prefer, her coming would furnish one comparatively new to look at in their Rosings parties, and he might be amused in seeing how hopeless Mr. Bingley’s designs on her were, by her behaviour to her cousin, for whom she was evidently destined by Sir Edmund, who talked of her coming with the greatest satisfaction, spoke of her in terms of the highest admiration, and seemed almost angry to find that she had already been frequently seen by Mr. Lucas and himself.
Her arrival was soon known at the Parsonage; for Mrs. Collins was walking the whole morning within view of the lodges opening into Hunsford Lane, in order to have the earliest assurance of it, and after making her bow as the carriage turned into the Park, hurried home with the great intelligence. On the following morning she hastened to Rosings to pay her respects. There were two nieces of Sir Edmund to require them, for Miss Darcy had brought with her a Colonel Fitzwilliam, the younger daughter of her aunt Lady ——, and, to the great surprise of all the party, when Mrs. Collins returned, the ladies accompanied her. Christopher had seen them from his wife’s room, crossing the road, and immediately running into the other, told the boys what an honour they might expect, adding:
“I may thank you, John, for this piece of civility. Miss Darcy would never have come so soon to wait upon me.”
Jonathan had scarcely time to disclaim all right to the compliment, before their approach was announced by the door-bell, and shortly afterwards the three ladies entered the room. Colonel Fitzwilliam, who led the way, was about thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the lady. Miss Darcy looked just as she had been used to look in Hertfordshire—paid her compliments, with her usual reserve, to Mr. Collins, and whatever might be her feelings toward his friend, met him with every appearance of composure. Jonathan merely curtseyed to her without saying a word.
Colonel Fitzwilliam entered into conversation directly with the readiness and ease of a well-bred woman, and talked very pleasantly; but her cousin, after having addressed a slight observation on the house and garden to Mr. Collins, sat for some time without speaking to anybody. At length, however, her civility was so far awakened as to inquire of Jonathan after the health of his family. He answered her in the usual way, and after a moment’s pause, added:
“My eldest brother has been in town these three months. Have you never happened to see him there?”
He was perfectly sensible that she never had; but he wished to see whether she would betray any consciousness of what had passed between the Bingleys and Luke, and he thought she looked a little confused as she answered that she had never been so fortunate as to meet Mr. Bennet. The subject was pursued no farther, and the ladies soon afterwards went away.