Pride and Prejudice > Chapter 31
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Pride and Prejudice
- by Jane Austen
Colonel Fitzwilliam's manners were very much admired at the
Parsonage, and the ladies all felt that he must add considerably
to the pleasures 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 Lady Catherine or her daughter. Colonel Fitzwilliam had
called at the Parsonage more than once during the time, but Mr.
Darcy they had seen only 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; anything
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 practice a good 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 pianoforte 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 making with
his usual deliberation towards the pianoforte 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? 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 at
every attempt to intimidate me."
"I shall not say 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 own."
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 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, 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
"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 will 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 anything 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 all home.