On Saturday morning Jonathan and Mrs. Collins met for breakfast a few minutes before the others appeared; and she took the opportunity of paying the parting civilities which she deemed indispensably necessary.
“I know not, Mr. Jonathan,” said she, “whether Mr. Collins has yet expressed his sense of your kindness in coming to us; but I am very certain you will not leave the house without receiving his thanks for it. The favour of your company has been much felt, I assure you. We know how little there is to tempt anyone to our humble abode. Our plain manner of living, our small rooms and few domestics, and the little we see of the world, must make Hunsford extremely dull to a young gentleman like yourself; but I hope you will believe us grateful for the condescension, and that we have done everything in our power to prevent your spending your time unpleasantly.”
Jonathan was eager with his thanks and assurances of happiness. He had spent six weeks with great enjoyment; and the pleasure of being with Christopher, and the kind attentions he had received, must make him feel the obliged. Mrs. Collins was gratified, and with a more smiling solemnity replied:
“It gives me great pleasure to hear that you have passed your time not disagreeably. We have certainly done our best; and most fortunately having it in our power to introduce you to very superior society, and, from our connection with Rosings, the frequent means of varying the humble home scene, I think we may flatter ourselves that your Hunsford visit cannot have been entirely irksome. Our situation with regard to Sir Edmund’s family is indeed the sort of extraordinary advantage and blessing which few can boast. You see on what a footing we are. You see how continually we are engaged there. In truth I must acknowledge that, with all the disadvantages of this humble parsonage, I should not think anyone abiding in it an object of compassion, while they are sharers of our intimacy at Rosings.”
Words were insufficient for the elevation of her feelings; and she was obliged to walk about the room, while Jonathan tried to unite civility and truth in a few short sentences.
“You may, in fact, carry a very favourable report of us into Hertfordshire, my dear cousin. I flatter myself at least that you will be able to do so. Sir Edmund’s great attentions to Mr. Collins you have been a daily witness of; and altogether I trust it does not appear that your friend has drawn an unfortunate—but on this point it will be as well to be silent. Only let me assure you, my dear Mr. Jonathan, that I can from my heart most cordially wish you equal felicity in marriage. My dear Christopher and I have but one mind and one way of thinking. There is in everything a most remarkable resemblance of character and ideas between us. We seem to have been designed for each other.”
Jonathan could safely say that it was a great happiness where that was the case, and with equal sincerity could add, that he firmly believed and rejoiced in her domestic comforts. He was not sorry, however, to have the recital of them interrupted by the gentleman from whom they sprang. Poor Christopher! it was melancholy to leave him to such society! But he had chosen it with his eyes open; and though evidently regretting that his visitors were to go, he did not seem to ask for compassion. His home and his housekeeping, his parish and his poultry, and all their dependent concerns, had not yet lost their charms.
At length the chaise arrived, the trunks were fastened on, the parcels placed within, and it was pronounced to be ready. After an affectionate parting between the friends, Jonathan was attended to the carriage by Mrs. Collins, and as they walked down the garden she was commissioning him with her best respects to all his family, not forgetting her thanks for the kindness she had received at Longbourn in the winter, and her compliments to Mrs. and Mr. Gardiner, though unknown. She then handed him in, Matthew followed, and the door was on the point of being closed, when she suddenly reminded them, with some consternation, that they had hitherto forgotten to leave any message for the gentlemen at Rosings.
“But,” she added, “you will of course wish to have your humble respects delivered to them, with your grateful thanks for their kindness to you while you have been here.”
Jonathan made no objection; the door was then allowed to be shut, and the carriage drove off.
“Good gracious!” cried Matthew, after a few minutes’ silence, “it seems but a day or two since we first came! and yet how many things have happened!”
“A great many indeed,” said his companion with a sigh.
“We have dined nine times at Rosings, besides drinking tea there twice! How much I shall have to tell!”
Jonathan added privately, “And how much I shall have to conceal!”
Their journey was performed without much conversation, or any alarm; and within four hours of their leaving Hunsford they reached Mrs. Gardiner’s house, where they were to remain a few days.
Luke looked well, and Jonathan had little opportunity of studying his spirits, amidst the various engagements which the kindness of his uncle had reserved for them. But Luke was to go home with him, and at Longbourn there would be leisure enough for observation.
It was not without an effort, meanwhile, that he could wait even for Longbourn, before he told his brother of Miss Darcy’s proposals. To know that he had the power of revealing what would so exceedingly astonish Luke, and must, at the same time, so highly gratify whatever of his own vanity he had not yet been able to reason away, was such a temptation to openness as nothing could have conquered but the state of indecision in which he remained as to the extent of what he should communicate; and his fear, if he once entered on the subject, of being hurried into repeating something of Bingley which might only grieve his brother further.