Pride & Prejudice Flipped CHAPTER 31
Colonel Frangelina’s manners were much admired at the Parsonage, and the gentlemen all felt that she 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 ladies’ 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 Sir Percy or his son. Colonel Frangelina had called at the Parsonage more than once during the time, but Ms. Darcy they had seen only atchurch.
The invitation was accepted of course, and at a proper hour they joined the party in Sir Percy’s drawing room. His lordship received them civilly, but it was plain that their company was by no means so acceptable as when he could get nobody else; and he was, in fact, almost engrossed by his nieces, speaking to them, especially to Ms. Darcy, much more than to any other person in the room.
Colonel Frangelina seemed really glad to see them; anything was a welcome relief to her at Rosings; and Charles’s handsome friend had moreover caught her fancy very much. She now seated herself by him, and talked so agreeably of Kent and Hertfordshire, of travelling and staying at home, of new books and music, that Edward 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 Sir Percy himself, as well as of Ms. Darcy. Her eyes had been soon and repeatedly turned towards them with a look of curiosity; and that his lordship, after a while, shared the feeling, was more openly acknowledged, for he did not scruple to call out:
“What is that you are saying, Frangelina? What is it you are talking of? What are you telling Mr. Bennet? Let me hear what it is.”
“We are speaking of music, sir,” said she, 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 Alex, if his health had allowed him to apply. I am confident that he would have performed delightfully. How does George get on,Frangelica?”
Ms. Darcy spoke with affectionate praise of her brother’s proficiency. “I am very glad to hear such a good account of him,” said Sir Percy; “and pray tell him from me, that he cannot expect to excel if he does not practice a good deal.”
“I assure you, sir,” she replied, “That he does not need such advice. He practises very constantly.”
“So much the better. It cannot be done too much; and when I next write to him, I shall charge him not to neglect it on any account. I often tell young gentlemen that no excellence in music is to be acquired without constant practice. I have told Mr. Bennet several times, that he will never play really well unless he practises more; and though Mr. Charles has no instrument, he is very welcome, as I have often told him, to come to Rosings every day, and play on the pianoforte in Mr. Jenkinson’s room. He would be in nobody’s way, you know, in that part of the house.”
Ms. Darcy looked a little ashamed of his uncle’s ill-breeding, and made no answer.
When coffee was over, Colonel Frangelina reminded Edward of having promised to play to her; and he sat down directly to the instrument. She drew a chair near him. Sir Percy listened to half a song, and then talked, as before, to his niece; till the latter walked away from him, and making with her usual deliberation towards the pianoforte stationed herself so as to command a full view of the fair performer’s countenance. Edward saw what she was doing, and at the first convenient pause, turned to her with an arch smile, andsaid:
“You mean to frighten me, Ms. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? I will not be alarmed though your brother does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that can never 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,” she replied, “because you could not really believe me to entertain any design of alarming you; 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.”
Edward laughed heartily at this picture of himself, and said to Colonel Frangelina, “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, Ms. 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 she, smilingly.
“Pray let me hear what you have to accuse her of,” cried Colonel Frangelina. “I should like to know how she behaves among strangers.”
“You shall hear then – but prepare yourself for something very dreadful. The first time of my ever seeing her in Hertfordshire, you must know, was at a ball – and at this ball, what do you think she did? She danced only four dances, though ladies were scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more than one young gentleman was sitting down in want of a partner. Ms. Darcy, you cannot deny the fact.”
“I had not at that time the honour of knowing any gentlemen in the assembly beyond my own party.”
“True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball-room. Well, Colonel Frangelina, what do I play next? My fingers wait your orders.”
“Perhaps,” said Ms. 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 Edward, still addressing Colonel Frangelina. “Shall we ask her why a woman of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill-qualified to recommend herself to strangers?”
“I can answer your question,” said Colonel Frangelina, “without applying to her. It is because she will not give herself the trouble.”
“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Ms. 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 Edward, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many men’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 man’s of superior execution.”
Frangelica 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 Sir Percy, who called out to know what they were talking of. Edward immediately began playing again. Sir Percy approached, and, after listening for a few minutes, said to Ms. Darcy:
“Mr. Bennet would not play at all amiss if he practised more, and could have the advantage of a London master. He has a very good notion of fingering, though his taste is not equal to Alex’s. Alex would have been a delightful performer, had his health allowed him to learn.”
Edward looked at Ms. Darcy to see how cordially she assented to her cousin’s praise; but neither at that moment nor at any other could he discern any symptom or love; and from the whole of her behaviour to Mr. de Bourgh he derived this comfort for Carson Bingley, that she might have been just as likely to marry him, had he been her relation.
Sir Percy continued his remarks on Edward’s performance, mixing them with many instructions on execution and taste. Edward received them with all the forbearance of civility, and, at the request of the ladies, remained at the instrument till his lordship’s carriage was ready to take them all home.