The two ladies left Rosings the next morning, and Mrs. Collins having been in waiting near the lodges, to make them her parting obeisance, was able to bring home the pleasing intelligence, of their appearing in very good health, and in as tolerable spirits as could be expected, after the melancholy scene so lately gone through at Rosings. To Rosings she then hastened, to console Sir Edmund and his son; and on her return brought back, with great satisfaction, a message from his lordship, importing that he felt himself so dull as to make him very desirous of having them all to dine with him.
Jonathan could not see Sir Edmund without recollecting that, had he chosen it, he might by this time have been presented to him as his future nephew; nor could he think, without a smile, of what his lordship’s indignation would have been. “What would he have said? how would he have behaved?” were questions with which he amused himself.
Their first subject was the diminution of the Rosings party. “I assure you, I feel it exceedingly,” said Sir Edmund; “I believe no one feels the loss of friends so much as I do. But I am particularly attached to these young women, and know them to be so much attached to me! They were excessively sorry to go! But so they always are. The dear Colonel rallied her spirits tolerably till just at last; but Darcy seemed to feel it most acutely, more, I think, than last year. Her attachment to Rosings certainly increases.”
Mrs. Collins had a compliment, and an allusion to throw in here, which were kindly smiled on by the father and son.
Sir Edmund observed, after dinner, that Mr. Jonathan Bennet seemed out of spirits, and immediately accounting for it by himself, by supposing that he did not like to go home again so soon, he added:
“But if that is the case, you must write to your father and beg that you may stay a little longer. Mr. Collins will be very glad of your company, I am sure.”
“I am much obliged to your lordship for your kind invitation,” replied Jonathan, “but it is not in my power to accept it. I must be in town next Saturday.”
“Why, at that rate, you will have been here only six weeks. I expected you to stay two months. I told Mr. Collins so before you came. There can be no occasion for your going so soon. Mr. Bennet could certainly spare you for another fortnight.”
“But my mother cannot. She wrote last week to hurry my return.”
“Oh! your mother of course may spare you, if your father can. Sons are never of so much consequence to a mother. And if you will stay another month complete, it will be in my power to take one of you as far as London, for I am going there early in June, for a week; and as Dawson does not object to the barouche-box, there will be very good room for one of you—and indeed, if the weather should happen to be cool, I should not object to taking you both, as you are neither of you large.”
“You are all kindness, sir; but I believe we must abide by our original plan.”
Sir Edmund seemed resigned. “Mr. Collins, you must send a servant with them. You know I always speak my mind, and I cannot bear the idea of two young men travelling post by themselves. It is highly improper. You must contrive to send somebody. I have the greatest dislike in the world to that sort of thing. Young men should always be properly guarded and attended, according to their situation in life. When my nephew James went to Ramsgate last summer, I made a point of his having two women-servants go with him. Mr. Darcy, the son of Mrs. Darcy, of Pemberley, and Sir Robert, could not have appeared with propriety in a different manner. I am excessively attentive to all those things. You must send Johnny with the young gentlemen, Mr. Collins. I am glad it occurred to me to mention it; for it would really be discreditable to you to let them go alone.”
“My aunt is to send a servant for us.”
“Oh! Your aunt! She keeps a woman-servant, does she? I am very glad you have somebody who thinks of these things. Where shall you change horses? Oh! Bromley, of course. If you mention my name at the Bell, you will be attended to.”
Sir Edmund had many other questions to ask respecting their journey, and as he did not answer them all himself, attention was necessary, which Jonathan believed to be lucky for him; or, with a mind so occupied, he might have forgotten where he was. Reflection must be reserved for solitary hours; whenever he was alone, he gave way to it as the greatest relief; and not a day went by without a solitary walk, in which he might indulge in all the delight of unpleasant recollections.
Miss Darcy’s letter he was in a fair way of soon knowing by heart. He studied every sentence; and his feelings towards its writer were at times widely different. When he remembered the style of her address, he was still full of indignation; but when he considered how unjustly he had condemned and upbraided her, his anger was turned against himself; and her disappointed feelings became the object of compassion. Her attachment excited gratitude, her general character respect; but he could not approve her; nor could he for a moment repent his refusal, or feel the slightest inclination ever to see her again. In his own past behaviour, there was a constant source of vexation and regret; and in the unhappy defects of his family, a subject of yet heavier chagrin. They were hopeless of remedy. His mother, contented with laughing at them, would never exert herself to restrain the wild giddiness of his youngest sons; and his father, with manners so far from right himself, was entirely insensible of the evil. Jonathan had frequently united with Luke in an endeavour to check the imprudence of William and Nicholas; but while they were supported by their father’s indulgence, what chance could there be of improvement? William, weak-spirited, irritable, and completely under Nicholas’s guidance, had been always affronted by their advice; and Nicholas, self-willed and careless, would scarcely give them a hearing. They were ignorant, idle, and vain. While there was an officer in Meryton, they would flirt with her; and while Meryton was within a walk of Longbourn, they would be going there forever.
Anxiety on Luke’s behalf was another prevailing concern; and Miss Darcy’s explanation, by restoring Bingley to all his former good opinion, heightened the sense of what Luke had lost. Her affection was proved to have been sincere, and her conduct cleared of all blame, unless any could attach to the implicitness of her confidence in her friend. How grievous then was the thought that, of a situation so desirable in every respect, so replete with advantage, so promising for happiness, Luke had been deprived, by the folly and indecorum of his own family!
When to these recollections was added the development of Wickham’s character, it may be easily believed that the happy spirits which had seldom been depressed before, were now so much affected as to make it almost impossible for him to appear tolerably cheerful.
Their engagements at Rosings were as frequent during the last week of his stay as they had been at first. The very last evening was spent there; and his lordship again inquired minutely into the particulars of their journey, gave them directions as to the best method of packing, and was so urgent on the necessity of placing suits in the only right way, that Matthew thought himself obliged, on his return, to undo all the work of the morning, and pack his trunk afresh.
When they parted, Sir Edmund, with great condescension, wished them a good journey, and invited them to come to Hunsford again next year; and Mr. de Bourgh exerted himself so far as to curtsey and hold out his hand to both.