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Fitzwilliam by now. Or should he say Miss Bingley had made the decision for him? His lips tipped up. This was exactly what he needed. He would be refreshed by the sea, away from Miss Bingley, and he would get his mind off Elizabeth Bennet. Every time Miss Bingley fawned over him, he wished Elizabeth was in her place. Every time he saw happy couples, he wished they were he and Elizabeth. He had to master his thoughts regarding her, or he would end up in Bedlam. Brighton would not have been a destination he would have chosen, as it did not have the best reputation.

This was due no doubt due to the Prince Regent holding court with his mistress at the Marine Pavilion after having abandoned his wife in London. Elizabeth almost leaned out of the carriage window as they rode through Brighton, so excited she was to view the sights. This would be her first time seeing the English Channel, or any ocean, and she was quite exhilarated.

She had read descriptions of the ocean in books, but there was no substitute for encountering it herself. After that, she did not care what attractions they visited. Their journey to Brighton had come about principally due to Mr. Elizabeth had never forgotten what he had said about the conduct of her family. When Lydia had received an invitation to accompany Col. Lydia, an unabashed flirt let loose in a military camp with her friend, who was only two years elder than Lydia, was a means for disaster.

However, her discussion with Mr. Bennet regarding Lydia staying home had come to no avail, and Lydia had cheerfully departed for Brighton. Then the Gardiners had arrived to take Elizabeth on their excursion through Derbyshire. When Elizabeth had mentioned her concerns, both Gardiners had agreed and were quite anxious.

They had changed their destination on the hope that they could keep Lydia in check. Otherwise, all three had feared Lydia would cause a scandal and ruin the reputation of the entire family. During the short journey from Longbourn, Elizabeth had often reflected upon Mr. He had been absolutely correct. It had hurt to admit that even after explaining how Lydia would behave in Brighton, her father had swept aside her concerns.

Along with that embarrassment was the knowledge that she had been so inordinately wrong with what she had accused him of regarding Mr. She could not imagine how furious Mr. Darcy must have been. Elizabeth knew she would never see him again and could not write him an apology, but she still vowed to improve the conduct of her family however she could. That included her own tendency to judge without knowing all the facts. She owed Mr. Darcy no less after being so abominably rude to him. What is concerning you? Gardiner leaned towards Elizabeth, who sat on the carriage bench across from the Gardiners.

She pasted on a smile and turned to her favorite aunt. I did not notice I had sighed so often. No, only Jane knew how rudely she had spurned Mr. Darcy and how mistaken she had been regarding Mr. But rest assured, we will soon have her under guidance. Elizabeth smiled at the both of them, full of gratitude that they had listened and agreed with her concerns regarding Lydia.

It was too late this day to call upon the Forsters, but on the morrow, they would, and she could relax. Plus, with all the new sights and entertainments in Brighton, Mr. Darcy would be replaced in her thoughts. That would give her relief for the first time since she had returned from Hunsford.

Darcy walked on the wooden floor of the Meryton assembly room, his heels making a rhythmic clack-tap as he paced around the perimeter. No one could hear him, though, for all the noise the uncouth country louts were making as they tried to dance. He glanced away and avoided eye contact with the many matrons lining the walls. Darcy did not want their attention, nor would he pay any compliment to their unwed and rather plain daughters. He also had to avoid catching the eye of the men in the room, as they all wanted to be associated with a man of good fortune and standing.

This entire thing was a farce, and he regretted Mr. Bingley ever talking him into joining him at this assembly. Darcy turned around and walked back the way he had come. He avoided the punch bowl and refreshments for he could be easily trapped there and have to listen to some matron detail the qualifications of her unaccomplished and plain daughter.

The only beautiful country miss he had seen was the one that Mr. Bingley was conversing with. Darcy rolled his eyes. Bingley fell in love every month without fail. Everywhere they went, there was a new women Mr. Bingley was sure he would marry, but after a few weeks the obsession would fade. This time it was that eldest Bennet girl. She was uncommonly pretty, but that did not mean she would make a good wife or had good enough connections to marry. It was unlucky for Mr. Darcy that the country dance had finished and Mr.

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Bingley headed towards him. He was all big smiles, engaging in conversation with everyone he passed and finding everyone wonderful. I hate to see you standing by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance. Darcy stared at his friend, who had the detestable habit of trying to make everyone surrounding him just as happy and loving everyone and everything as he did.

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You know how I detest it unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this, it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room who it would not be a punishment to stand up with. It was harsh, more harsh than what he normally would have said, but the utter lack of propriety in these people, especially that Mrs.

Bennet, had already driven him beyond the bend. Oh for blazes and damnation. Had he started a new obsession already? That should put Bingley off this preposterous idea of him dancing and instead distract him with his latest love. She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! There is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you who is very pretty and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you. Darcy raised an eyebrow. He had not noticed another girl in the room that looked anything like the girl that Bingley had chosen.

Turning around, he looked for a moment at the young woman sitting there on the bench, one of the Bennet girls. I am in no humor present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.

He would have never been so rude around his own class in town or even in Derbyshire, but this county he could not stand. Bingley followed his advice and walked off to be with his partner. Darcy scowled after her as she had heard him. That made him even more irritated, for he had always prided himself on acting like a gentleman at all times, yet he had insulted her. Not only had he insulted the girl, but she was not plain or ugly.

He was actually admiring her backside as she quickly walked away from him. He watched as she stopped a group of girls and spoke to them, and they all laughed. Just his luck to insult the only girl at the assembly that stirred his interest. Darcy turned and stormed off to the punch table. He dared any matron to trap him in this mood.

He needed a strong drink to get through the rest of tonight. Elizabeth laughed. What poppycock. There are many beautiful girls here tonight. I daresay Mr. Darcy must have worked hard to be this disagreeable in such a happy setting such as this. I will pay him no mind from here on. He can have no consequence in my life, and I certainly shall have none in his. She knew no one could see through her happy visage to the pang she felt in her chest. The insult was hard to bear, especially because the man was quite handsome. Charlotte looked sharply at her friend. Make sure you do not make sport of him, for he is a man ten times your consequence and could cause problems.

She loved Charlotte, but their views on many subjects were quite different. He will have nothing to do with me. You are much too serious and concerned about these matters. Come, let us go over to Jane, see how she is doing, and meet the Mr. Bingley she has monopolized all evening. Elizabeth was happy to see how attentive Mr.

Later that evening all the Bennet females discussed all parts of the assembly while Mr. Bennet begged them not to discuss any more of it within his hearing. The girls continued their discussions upstairs as they got ready for bed. Elizabeth sighed. She had cheerfully removed every thought of that earlier scene before now.

He probably is not normally like that, not if he is a friend of Mr. Elizabeth looked aside at her sister with raised eyebrows as she continued to braid her hair. This was the first time he had been in public, and he chose to say that! Know there is nothing you can do to make his behavior better in my eyes, for it was absolutely horrendous. Jane did not say anything else about Mr. Darcy but did mention that it was unusual for two men of so different attitudes to be friends, and perhaps Mr. Darcy was not as bad as they all thought. Elizabeth rolled her eyes, pulled the covers up and lay in bed.

If there was a fault she wished Jane would stop it would be her propensity to see the good in everyone, even people that did not deserve it. While Mr. Elizabeth accepts the first position as a governess she can find—with the Countess of Bremont and her ward, Madeleine. The Countess is crueler than she could have imagined, and Elizabeth finds herself a virtual prisoner alongside Madeleine. Darcy searches for Elizabeth with the only information he has: her name and her position. Will he find Elizabeth before the Countess separates them forever?

Elizabeth walked to the dresser she and Jane shared. Jane had the top two drawers and Elizabeth the bottom two. The drawer closest to the floor never slid out smoothly but would catch on the left side. Elizabeth jerked it for the last time and pulled it out. She gathered all her dresses into her arms and then turned to put them in the large trunk on the floor. As she pushed the clothes down, the scent of lavender permeated the air. Elizabeth smiled as she remembered when she had picked the lavender last summer and dried it.

She put it in her drawers to scent her clothes. She would miss her lavender bushes, the plant drying room, the grounds of Longbourn. She knew all the paths, the hiding spots of birds, foxes, and deer. Who would check on the next generation of hedgehogs? Elizabeth would have to tell Charlotte where to look for them. A creak in the hallway alerted Elizabeth to someone approaching her room. She turned to find Charlotte standing just outside the door.

There were no rugs in the room anymore to silence the sound of shoes. Elizabeth looked closer at her friend and saw Charlotte wringing her hands, the tightened corners of her mouth. Elizabeth held out her hands to Charlotte. You seem anxious, Charlotte. Is anything the matter? You know Mr. Collins and I would not mind at all if you stayed at Longbourn.

As a matter of fact, I would enjoy our close friendship greatly. She knew how hard it would be for Charlotte to say goodbye this day, but it had to be done. Charlotte tilted the corner of her lips up. And Mr. Collins is often gone in the fields and walking about town. I fear he does not have as much to do here as he did at Hunsford. I would greatly love it if you could stay, Lizzy. It is not right for us to stay here in Longbourn any longer. You have been most kind and generous letting us stay for several months after Papa died. It gave us time to find new places to live.

We will never forget that. But do you all have to go? I can understand how difficult it is for your mother to live here, but do you and Jane need to leave? There is no need for you to leave and seek employment when you can stay here. Think of how that will affect your ability to marry well. Elizabeth grinned and looked away through the beam of sunlight flowing through the single window, out to the winter landscape outside.

She knew Charlotte was desperate now, but she would be fine. Her family lived not far, and Meryton and all the landscape was familiar to her. Elizabeth felt a pang of sadness, but she pushed it down again. She had to be strong and look forward with optimism. There was no other course of action for them. Bennet had not left them enough money to live on, not to even rent a small house to keep the family together.

The Phillips did not have enough room for Jane and Elizabeth as well as the rest of the Bennets. The eldest two had to leave. When a family of five girls is left with not enough money to live on there must be some way to make ends meet. Elizabeth beamed at her friend. I shall miss you greatly as well.

But the longer we stay the harder it will be for us to leave. No, it is better for us to leave now and make our way in the world. Elizabeth nodded. We will stay there while we find employment as governesses. I am sure Jane will find employment with the very first family she interviews with. She really does love children.

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It is the perfect job for her. Charlotte smiled while Elizabeth laughed, but she was worried for Elizabeth. You can write to me at the Gardiners as they will always know where I am. Servants carried the trunks from the upstairs bedrooms down the stairs and out the door to the waiting carriages. The clattering of servants going up and down the stairs made it hard to hear anyone speak.

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Bennet yelled orders to the servants for the packing of the trunks in the carriage going to Meryton. She also gave orders as to the care of the belongings they could not take with them due to lack of room. Collins patiently listened even though they had heard it all before. They knew Mrs. Bennet was overcome with nerves at this final departure from Longbourn as a household member.

The last few months living with the Collins at Longbourn had gone better than Elizabeth had expected.

Chapter 28

Bennet had moved to a smaller room as she could not, and did not want to, stay in the master bedroom. She had spent more time at the house of her sister in Meryton than at Longbourn during the last month, so the move was not the upheaval to her life that it could have been. Kitty and Mary also accompanied their mother to Meryton on her trips. Kitty was glad to be away from the boring life at Longbourn, and Mary was glad to be recognized as a proficient pianoforte player by the Phillips. The trio enjoyed their time walking and conversing about many subjects. Elizabeth pointed out her favorite walking paths and known locations of certain animals and plants.

It was easier to leave Longbourn knowing her friend would continue to watch over the plants and various animals she had fed. Bennet exclaimed at the uncaring superiors where Mr. Wickham was stationed. They had not given the Wickhams enough leave to travel from the far north to Meryton and stay for a sennight as Mrs. Bennet had wanted. Lydia would not travel by herself, and Wickham did not want to come, so the Wickhams did not come at all. The last of the trunks were loaded onto the carriages. The Bennets hugged as tears rolled down many faces.

Collins wished Jane and Elizabeth good fortune as he helped both into their carriage. Elizabeth settled on the worn leather bench, and the carriage moved as Jane climbed in. Jane shared a wide eyed look with Elizabeth. Both steeled themselves for a rough ride to town. As the carriage moved onwards, the eldest Bennet girls waved to the Collins and the rest of their family. The clatter of hooves and wheels on the gravel made it impossible to hear anything that was said to them.

But the girls waved and smiled until the coach moved past the row of hedges. Elizabeth leaned back against the coach with a sigh. Now, she had plenty of time to think about the future and the past without anyone noticing. She looked at Jane who sat next to her and wished that somehow, in some way, Mr. Bingley would make his way back to Jane. Elizabeth leaned back against the carriage and looked out the window at the passing countryside as she wistfully remembered the kindness and changed behavior of Mr.

Darcy when she had seen him at Lambton and his fine estate of Pemberley. She wiped it away surreptitiously, hoping that Jane had not seen her crying. Elizabeth had put on a good front to everyone, including Jane, that nothing bothered her. But when she had time to herself, when no one was around, Elizabeth would remember the most perfect man: Mr.

Elizabeth will marry Mr. Collins even if Mrs. Bennet has to drag her to the altar. When Mr. Bennet dies, Mr. Collins takes over Longbourn. Elizabeth, who has promised only to marry for love, refuses. But as her mother and sisters take increasingly drastic steps to force Elizabeth to wed, how long can she resist? Will Elizabeth make the ultimate sacrifice to save her family from being cast out? She was quite sure that Mrs. Bennet had arranged for their carriage to come last, which did not make the Bingleys any fonder of the Bennets. Elizabeth had a first-hand view of how much some Bingleys wanted them to leave.

Bingley was still talking to Jane, completely oblivious to Caroline Bingley, Mrs. Louisa Hurst, and Mr. Hurst yawning, coughing and making pointed comments about how much they wanted to go to bed. This embarrassment on top of the entire mortifying and disappointing evening made Elizabeth wish she could fly home like a bird. Elizabeth was glad Jane and Mr. Bingley had this extra time to talk to each other, though. She was sure that Mr. Bingley would offer for Jane within a sennight. However, that was the only thing Elizabeth was glad for this evening.

She had spent extra time on her hair and dress to look good for George Wickham, who never even appeared at the ball. He had sent a word with his friend Denny that he decided it was best if he did not show up because of someone else there.

Denny did not name anyone, but pointedly looked at Mr. So Mr. Darcy had ruined her evening without even trying. Then he had the gall to ask her to dance! This after he insulted her at the Meryton Assembly when he stated that she was not handsome enough to tempt him! Elizabeth did not care for men who could not make up their minds. She especially did not care for men who ruined the livelihoods of others. Namely how Mr. Charlotte Lucas had warned her not to make Mr. Darcy angry, that he was a man of great consequence. Charlotte was of course correct; however, Elizabeth could not keep quiet about such injustices as Mr.

Darcy did to poor George Wickham. During her dances with Mr. Darcy, she questioned him. It did not go well. She left the dance more frustrated than ever with Mr. She did not know nor care what Mr. Darcy thought of her. The man may have 10, pounds a year, but he lived in Derbyshire. How did his opinion even matter to her?

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He was just a friend of Mr. Bingley, an arrogant and proud friend. Then the Bingley sisters had to stick their nose into it. Caroline told her that she did not know the particulars, but she was quite sure George Wickham had done something awful to Mr. Did they not think that Mr. Darcy told them whatever would make him look good? And then, to make the night even worse, Elizabeth had accidentally agreed to dance the first two with Mr.

What an embarrassment! She blushed just remembering it. Collins did not even know how to dance correctly. He stepped on her feet, turned in the wrong directions and used her exceedingly ill. She could not wait to get away from him, but he continued to embarrass her, along with her entire family, except Jane, throughout the night. If she had to listen to Miss.

Bingley utter one more time how much she wished to go to bed, Elizabeth did not know what she would do. And no, she would not sit on Mr. She did not know how Mr. Collins ever came to be a parson. He was so entranced with the female figure. She pitied whoever had to marry him, for no one could stand his fawning behavior for long. She vowed to marry for love; nothing less than love, to a man that was intelligent, playful, and one that she respected. Darcy did not feel that he had to stand with the Bingleys and wait for their last guests to leave, but for some reason he could not keep himself from the occupation.

So, he stood quietly listening to the comments of Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, the quiet talk of Mr. He had not thought his friend in danger until Mrs. Bennet had stated during the ball that she expected Mr. Bingley to offer for Miss Bennet soon. He then paid attention to his friend and Miss Bennet throughout the rest of the evening. He would much rather have kept an eye on those two, but the rest of the Bennet family, except Elizabeth, seemed determined to make spectacles of themselves.

His attention was drawn to their lack of decorum over and over. It was obvious that the Bennet family was an embarrassment. It was a miracle that Mr. Bingley chose to dance and talk to Miss Bennet, given the poor behavior exhibited by Mrs. There was no way he would let Mr. Bingley make such a monumental mistake and offer for Miss Bennet. Sure, Miss Bennet was nice and pleasing to look at, but her family was horrid.

The younger girls, Lydia and Kitty, ran around and played as if a ball was a big lark for them. Mary Bennet could not understand that this was not her own theater to showcase her lackadaisical pianoforte talents. And that singing voice! Darcy shuddered. He could not think of anything bad about Elizabeth, though. Her eyes, her pleasing form, her luscious lips.

He had enjoyed holding her hand while dancing with her. Unfortunately George Wickham had told her a fictional version of events that Elizabeth believed. She had spent their dance questioning him. Of course she did not outright accuse him, but her questions were obviously about Wickham. Instead of being angry at Elizabeth, he was attracted even more to her quick mind. However, he was very angry at Wickham.

It was far too dangerous to pay any more attention to Elizabeth Bennet. He greatly admired her wit, intelligence, and pleasing figure, but it was too dangerous for him to continue to think of her, let alone be around her. He could not marry someone with such a family as hers. He would have to exert control on himself; the same control that he had put forth in every other aspect of his life. He would ignore the Bennets, especially Elizabeth Bennet, from this day forward.

Oh, that insufferable man! To think that he could have made his proposal in any manner that she would have accepted. For him to think that she would have accepted after he told her how inferior her connections were! Elizabeth could not stand still and contain her anger at Mr. How did he ever think anyone would be flattered by that? Especially after finding out from Col. Fitzwilliam that it was Mr. Bingley left Netherfield suddenly and without proposing to Jane!

Elizabeth was so angry she knew she would not be able to calm down unless she got out of the house and walked. She put on her Spencer and walking shoes, and took off for her favorite walk in Rosings Park. The number of times that she had run into Mr. Darcy while he had been walking the very same grounds had been too many.

Elizabeth now realized that had probably been his version of courting. She walked fast without seeing where she was going as she kept thinking back on what had just occurred with Mr. The man who would always seem to dislike her, who did not want anything to do with her, who had even told Mr. Bingley that she was not handsome enough to tempt him. Why would he propose marriage? It was preposterous! And for him to be upset that she denied him? She could not wait to write Jane about this. Actually this was something that would probably have to be told in person, as it would take too much paper and ink to tell properly.

How unexpected was that proposal! And yet she could not tell Jane why she was so angry with Mr. How could she ever marry someone who had thwarted the love growing between Jane and Mr. Did he tell you where he was going for his business errand? And what business does he have in Hunsford?

Fitzwilliam fussed with this jacket. He was not going to tell his aunt the reason Mr. His cousin had been quite concerned when they found out from Mr. Collins that Elizabeth Bennet stayed home. If Lady Catherine heard where Mr. Darcy had gone it would not be from him. He comes to Rosings but once a year. I will not have him spend his time away.

Go and find him, Richard. Tell him I want to speak with him. Fitzwilliam bowed to the room and left. He was glad to leave, as he had been tired of listening to Mr. Collins talk about himself or admire anything his aunt said. How he could stand that level of flattery and obsequiousness was beyond him. Fitzwilliam would walk the path to the Collins Parsonage and expected to find Mr. Darcy on the grounds of Rosings Park. Yes, do go and bring it here.

I should very much like to see it. Collins popped up from the sofa, bowed, and backed away until he could leave the room without turning his back on his patroness. The only person in England who should be treated as such was the King of England. Collins was grateful that her friend Elizabeth was not present with the mood Lady Catherine was in.

Darcy walked one of his favorite routes on the grounds of Rosings Park. He could not go back inside the house immediately as he was much too upset. Would he never get rid of that lying millstone around his neck? He would have to write Elizabeth a letter. It was not possible to speak to her with any measure of civility after he proposed to her. And he had thought the offer of his hand would be greeted with favor! To not only be turned down, but in such a manner as to insult him! No, he had not expected that. Darcy continued to walk through the grounds of Rosings Park without seeing where he was going, reliving that horrible moment in the Collins Parsonage over and over.

Collins reached the parsonage in record time. He was sure Lady Catherine de Bourgh would admire his brilliant turn of phrase. He gathered both and left to walk back to Rosings Park. He had not spared one thought to his cousin Elizabeth, who should have been in the house suffering from a headache. He was thinking so much of how Lady Catherine would admire his sermon that he failed to notice the village women walking on a path towards him.

There you are. We had hoped to find you today. Collins stopped. I am on my way back to Rosings Park as Lady Catherine de Bourgh had sent me on an errand to fetch a new book of spiritual readings. I must hurry back to her, you see. I do not have time to tarry. The village woman would not be so easily put off as that. Though they did not have the wealth of Lady Catherine de Bourgh nor the elevated status of being the daughters of an earl, they were both married to wealthy landowners, one of whom had a daughter getting married soon.

They understood Mr. Collins needed to get back to his patroness, especially if she was waiting for him. They were therefore willing to accompany him on his walk through the grounds to Rosings Park while they talked to him about the upcoming wedding. Elizabeth had been walking on the grounds of Rosings Park replaying over and over the scene that had occurred in the Collins Parsonage between her and Mr. She felt a little regret regarding what she said to Mr. However, after remembering that he had disparaged her relations to her face, she stomped down on her remorse.

She was so inwardly focused that she missed the large tree root in front of her, which she tripped over. She tumbled and finally landed on her front with her dress up almost to her shoulders. She had attempted to brace herself during the fall but now her hands hurt too much to push herself off the ground. She turned her hands over to see her palms scratched and bleeding. This has to go down as one of the worst days of my life. She was therefore in quite an awkward position with her rump high in the air, her dress still up near her shoulders, and her chemise completely exposed when she heard a gasp.

Elizabeth looked up to see a pair of highly polished Hessian boots along with a long greatcoat. She followed the legs up to the countenance she knew quite well, having just seen it not long ago. It was Mr. Elizabeth looked in the mirror without seeing her reflection. She still could not believe her good fortune. Her wish, for her sister Jane to be married to Mr. Bingley, had come true on the very same day Fitzwilliam proclaimed to still love and care for her when he asked for her hand a second time. Darcy had undertaken a very quick and dangerous trip to bring back a physician from London, who had correctly diagnosed her with arsenic poisoning.

Without Mr. Darcy walking towards her. She smiled at him, still amazed at how very lucky she was indeed. Your wife has a habit of doing that.

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But it is too late to do anything about that now! Elizabeth turned around and reached her arms out, though he was still unused to her spontaneous hugs to relax completely. I love my wife just the way she is. He was still in awe of his good fortune. Elizabeth blushed, glancing down after the kiss. For I shall not give it up that I am the luckiest one and I imagine you will not give up that you are. Elizabeth ran her hands down Mr.

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Georgiana and her companion Mrs. Annesley would be accompanying them in their own separate carriage. Despite feeling guilty that Mr. Darcy had not seen his sister Georgiana for several months, Elizabeth was glad Georgiana was in her own carriage. She wanted Mr. Darcy to herself for a while. Elizabeth laughed and patted his chest. Have you met my mother? No, I think it is much better for us to leave as quickly as possible. Miss Bennet's lovely face confirmed his views, and established all his strictest notions of what was due to seniority; and for the first evening she was his settled choice.

The next morning, however, made an alteration; for in a quarter of an hour's tete-a-tete with Mrs. Bennet before breakfast, a conversation beginning with his parsonage-house, and leading naturally to the avowal of his hopes, that a mistress might be found for it at Longbourn, produced from her, amid very complaisant smiles and general encouragement, a caution against the very Jane he had fixed on.

Collins had only to change from Jane to Elizabeth—and it was soon done—done while Mrs. Bennet was stirring the fire. Elizabeth, equally next to Jane in birth and beauty, succeeded her of course. Bennet treasured up the hint, and trusted that she might soon have two daughters married; and the man whom she could not bear to speak of the day before was now high in her good graces. Lydia's intention of walking to Meryton was not forgotten; every sister except Mary agreed to go with her; and Mr. Collins was to attend them, at the request of Mr. Bennet, who was most anxious to get rid of him, and have his library to himself; for thither Mr.

Collins had followed him after breakfast; and there he would continue, nominally engaged with one of the largest folios in the collection, but really talking to Mr. Bennet, with little cessation, of his house and garden at Hunsford. Such doings discomposed Mr. Bennet exceedingly. In his library he had been always sure of leisure and tranquillity; and though prepared, as he told Elizabeth, to meet with folly and conceit in every other room of the house, he was used to be free from them there; his civility, therefore, was most prompt in inviting Mr.

Collins to join his daughters in their walk; and Mr. Collins, being in fact much better fitted for a walker than a reader, was extremely pleased to close his large book, and go. In pompous nothings on his side, and civil assents on that of his cousins, their time passed till they entered Meryton. The attention of the younger ones was then no longer to be gained by him.

Their eyes were immediately wandering up in the street in quest of the officers, and nothing less than a very smart bonnet indeed, or a really new muslin in a shop window, could recall them. But the attention of every lady was soon caught by a young man, whom they had never seen before, of most gentlemanlike appearance, walking with another officer on the other side of the way.

The officer was the very Mr. Denny concerning whose return from London Lydia came to inquire, and he bowed as they passed. All were struck with the stranger's air, all wondered who he could be; and Kitty and Lydia, determined if possible to find out, led the way across the street, under pretense of wanting something in an opposite shop, and fortunately had just gained the pavement when the two gentlemen, turning back, had reached the same spot. Denny addressed them directly, and entreated permission to introduce his friend, Mr. Wickham, who had returned with him the day before from town, and he was happy to say had accepted a commission in their corps.

This was exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted only regimentals to make him completely charming. His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address. The introduction was followed up on his side by a happy readiness of conversation—a readiness at the same time perfectly correct and unassuming; and the whole party were still standing and talking together very agreeably, when the sound of horses drew their notice, and Darcy and Bingley were seen riding down the street.

On distinguishing the ladies of the group, the two gentlemen came directly towards them, and began the usual civilities. Bingley was the principal spokesman, and Miss Bennet the principal object. He was then, he said, on his way to Longbourn on purpose to inquire after her. Darcy corroborated it with a bow, and was beginning to determine not to fix his eyes on Elizabeth, when they were suddenly arrested by the sight of the stranger, and Elizabeth happening to see the countenance of both as they looked at each other, was all astonishment at the effect of the meeting.

Both changed colour, one looked white, the other red. Wickham, after a few moments, touched his hat—a salutation which Mr. Darcy just deigned to return. What could be the meaning of it? It was impossible to imagine; it was impossible not to long to know. In another minute, Mr.