• Victoria Reeve

Pride & Prejudice Flipped CHAPTER 29

Ms. Collins’s triumph, in consequence of this invitation, was complete. The power of displaying the grandeur of her patron to her wondering visitors, and of letting them see his civility towards herself and her husband, was exactly what she had wished for; and that an opportunity of doing it should be given so soon, was such an instance of Sir Percy’s condescension, as she knew not how to admire enough.

“I confess,” said she, “that I should not have been at all surprised by his lordship’s asking us on Sunday to drink tea and spend the evening at Rosings. I rather expected, from my knowledge of his affability, that it would happen. But who could have foreseen such an attention as this? Who could have imagined that we should receive an invitation to dine there (an invitation, moreover, including the whole party) so immediately after your arrival!”

“I am the less surprised at what has happened,” replied Lady Willa, “from that knowledge of what the manners of the great really are, which my situation in life has allowed me to acquire. About the court, such instances of elegant breeding are not uncommon.”

Scarcely anything was talked of the whole day or next morning but their visit to Rosings. Ms. Collins was carefully instructing them in what they were to expect, that the sight of such rooms, so many servants, and so splendid a dinner, might not wholly overpowerthem.

When the gentlemen were separating for the toilette, she said to Edward –

“Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about your apparel. Sir Percy is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us which becomes himself and his son. I would advise you merely to put on whatever of your clothes is superior to the rest – there is no occasion for anything more. Sir Percy will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. He likes to have the distinction of rank preserved.”

While they were dressing, she came two or three times to their different doors, to recommend their being quick, as Sir Percy very much objected to be kept waiting for his dinner. Such formidable accounts of his lordship, and his manner of living, quite frightened Martin Lucas who had been little used to company, and he looked forward to his introduction at Rosings with as much apprehension as his mother had done to her presentation at St.James’s.

As the weather was fine, they had a pleasant walk of about half a mile across the park. Every park has its beauty and its prospects; and Edward saw much to be pleased with, though he could not be in such raptures as Ms. Collins expected the scene to inspire, and was but slightly affected by her enumeration of the windows in front of the house, and her relation of what the glazing altogether had originally cost Lady Louisa deBourgh.

When they ascended the steps to the hall, Martin’s alarm was every moment increasing, and even Lady Willa did not look perfectly calm. Edward’s courage did not fail him. He had heard nothing of Sir Percy that spoke him awful from any extraordinary talents or miraculous virtue, and the mere stateliness of money or rank he thought he could witness without trepidation.

From the entrance-hall, of which Ms. Collins pointed out, with a rapturous air, the fine proportion and the finished ornaments, they followed the servants through an ante-chamber, to the room where Sir Percy, his son, and Mr. Jenkinson were sitting. His lordship, with great condescension, arose to receive them; and as Ms. Collins had settled it with her husband that the office of introduction should be his, it was performed in a proper manner, without any of those apologies and thanks which she would have thoughtnecessary.

In spite of having been at St. James’s Lady Willa was so completely awed by the grandeur surrounding her, that she had but just courage enough to make a very low curtsey, and take her seat without saying a word; and her son, frightened almost out of his senses, sat on the edge of his chair, not knowing which way to look. Edward found himself quite equal to the scene, and could observe the three gentlemen before him composedly. Sir Percy was a tall, large man, with strongly-marked features, which might once have been handsome. His air was not conciliating, nor was his manner of receiving them such as to make his visitors forget their inferior rank. He was not rendered formidable by silence; but whatever he said was spoken in so authoritative a tone, as marked his self-importance, and brought Ms. Georgiana Wickham immediately to Edward’s mind; and from the observation of the day altogether, he believed Sir Percy to be exactly what sherepresented.

When, after examining the father, in whose countenance and deportment he soon found some resemblance of Ms. Darcy, he turned his eyes on the son, he could almost have joined in Martin’s astonishment at his being so thin and so small. There was neither in figure nor face any likeness between the gentlemen. Mr. de Bourgh was pale and sickly; his features, though not plain, were insignificant; and he spoke very little, except in a low voice, to Mr. Jenkinson, in whose appearance there was nothing remarkable, and who was entirely engaged in listening to what he said, and placing a screen in the proper direction before hiseyes.

After sitting a few minutes, they were all sent to one of the windows to admire the view, Ms. Collins attending them to point out its beauties, and Sir Percy kindly informing them that it was much better worth looking at in thesummer.

The dinner was exceedingly handsome, and there were all the servants and the articles of plate which Ms. Collins had promised; and, as she had likewise foretold, she took her seat at the bottom of the table, by his lordship’s desire, and looked as if she felt that life could furnish nothing greater. She carved, and ate, and praised with delighted alacrity; and every dish was commended, first by her and then by Lady Willa, who was new enough recovered to echo whatever her daughter-in-law said, in a manner which Edward wondered Sir Percy could bear. But Sir Percy seemed gratified by their excessive admiration, and gave most gracious smiles, especially when any dish on the table proved a novelty to them. The party did not supply much conversation. Edward was ready to speak whenever there was an opening, but he was seated between Charles and Mr. de Bourgh – the former of whom was engaged in listening to Sir Percy, and the latter said not a word to him all dinner-time. Mr. Jenkinson was chiefly employed in watching how little Mr. de Bourgh ate, pressing him to try some other dish, and fearing he was indisposed. Martin thought speaking out of the question, and the ladies did nothing but eat andadmire.

When the gentlemen returned to the drawing-room, there was little to be done but to hear Sir Percy talk, which he did without any intermission till coffee came in, delivering his opinion on every subject in so decisive a manner, as proved that he was not used to have his judgement controverted. He inquired into Charles’s domestic concerns familiarly and minutely, gave him a great deal of advice as to the management of them all; told him how everything ought to be regulated in so small a family as his; and instructed him as to the care of his cows and his poultry. Edward found that nothing was beneath this great man’s attention, which could furnish him with an occasion of dictating to others. In the intervals of his discourse with Charles, he addressed a variety of questions to Martin and Edward, but especially to the latter, of whose connections he knew the least, and who he observedtoCharleswasaverygenteel,handsomekindofboy.Heasked him, at different times, how many brothers he had, whether they were older or younger than himself, whether any of them were likely to be married, whether they were handsome, where they had been educated, what carriage his mother kept, and what had been his father’s name before marriage? Edward felt all the impertinence of his questions but answered them very composedly. Sir Percy thenobserved,

“Your mother’s estate is entailed on Ms. Collins, I think. For your sake,” turning to Charles, “I am glad of it; but otherwise I see no occasion for entailing estates from the male line. It was not thought necessary in Lady Louisa de Bourgh’s family. Do you play and sing, Mr. Bennet?”

“A little.”

“Oh! then – some time or other we shall be happy to hear you. Our instrument is a capital one, probably superior to – You shall try it someday. Do your brothers play and sing?”

“One of them does.”

“Why did not you all learn? You ought all to have learned. The Mr. Webbs all play, and their mother has not so good an income as yours. Do you draw?”

“No, not at all.”

“What, none of you?”

“Not one.”

“That is very strange. But I suppose you had no opportunity. Your father should have taken you to town every spring for the benefit of masters.”

“My father would have had no objection, but my mother hates London.”

“Has your governor left you?”

“We never had any governor.”

“No governor! How was that possible? Five sons brought up at home without a governor! I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education.”

Edward could hardly help smiling as he assured him that had not been the case.

“Then, who taught you? Who attended to you? Without a governor, you must have been neglected.”

“Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us as wished to learn never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle, certainly might.”

“Aye, no doubt; but that is what a governor will prevent, and if I had known your father, I should have advised him most strenuously to engage one. I always say that nothing is to be done in education without steady and regular instruction, and nobody but a governor can give it. It is wonderful how many families I have been the means of supplying in that way. I am always glad to get a young person well placed out. Four nephews of Mr. Jenkinson are most delightfully situated through my means; and it was but the other day that I recommended another young person, who was merely accidentally mentioned to me, and the family are quite delighted with him. Mr. Charles, did I tell you of Sir Metcalf’s calling yesterday to thank me? He finds Mr. Pope a treasure. ‘Sir Percy,’ said he, ‘you have given me a treasure.’ Are any of your younger brothers out, Mr.Bennet?”

“Yes, sir, all”

“All! What, all five out at once? Very odd! And you only the second. The younger ones out before the elder ones are married! Your younger brothers must be veryyoung?”

“Yes, my youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps he is full young to be much in company. But really, sir, I think it would be very hard upon younger brothers, that they should not have their share of society and amusement, because the elder may not have the means or inclination to marry early. The last-born has a good right to the pleasures of youth at the first. And to be kept back on such a motive! I think it would not be very likely to promote brotherly affection or delicacy of mind.”

“Upon my word,” said his lordship, “you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person. Pray, what is your age?”

“With three younger brothers grown up,” replied Edward, smiling, “your lordship can hardly expect me to ownit.”

Sir Percy seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer; and Edward suspected himself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with so much impertinence.

“You cannot be more than twenty, I am sure, therefore you need not conceal your age.”

“I am not one-and-twenty.”

When the ladies had joined them, and tea was over, the card-tables were placed. Sir Percy. Lady Willa, and Charles and Ms. Collins sat down to quadrille; and Mr. de Bourgh chose to play at casino, the two boys had the honour of assisting Mr. Jenkinson to make up his party. Their table was superlatively stupid. Scarcely a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the game, except when Mr. Jenkinson expressed his fears of Mr. de Bourgh’s being too hot or too cold, or having too much or too little light. A great deal more passed at the other table. Sir Percy was generally speaking – stating the mistakes of the three others, or relating some anecdote of himself. Ms. Collins was employed in agreeing to everything his lordship said, thanking him for every fish she won, and apologising if she thought she won too many. Lady Willa did not say much. She was storing her memory with anecdotes and noblenames.

When Sir Percy and his son had played as long as they chose, the tables were broken up, the carriage was offered to Ms. Collins, gratefully accepted and immediately ordered. The party then gathered round the fire to hear Sir Percy determine what weather they were to have on the morrow. From these instructions they were summoned by the arrival of the coach; and with many speeches of thankfulness on Ms. Collins’s side and as many curtsies on Lady Willa’s they departed. As soon as they had driven from the door, Edward was called on by his cousin to give his opinion of all that he had seen at Rosings, which, for Charles’s sake, he made more favourable than it really was. But his commendation, though costing him some trouble, could by no means satisfy Ms. Collins, and she was very soon obliged to take his lordship’s praise into her ownhands.

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