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  • CHAPTER 14

  • During dinner, Mr. Bennet scarcely spoke at all; but when the servants were withdrawn,

  • he thought it time to have some conversation with his guest, and therefore

  • started a subject in which he expected him

  • to shine, by observing that he seemed very fortunate in his patroness.

  • Lady Catherine de Bourgh's attention to his wishes, and consideration for his comfort,

  • appeared very remarkable.

  • Mr. Bennet could not have chosen better. Mr. Collins was eloquent in her praise.

  • The subject elevated him to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a most

  • important aspect he protested that "he had never in his life witnessed such behaviour

  • in a person of rank--such affability and

  • condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady Catherine.

  • She had been graciously pleased to approve of both of the discourses which he had

  • already had the honour of preaching before her.

  • She had also asked him twice to dine at Rosings, and had sent for him only the

  • Saturday before, to make up her pool of quadrille in the evening.

  • Lady Catherine was reckoned proud by many people he knew, but he had never seen

  • anything but affability in her.

  • She had always spoken to him as she would to any other gentleman; she made not the

  • smallest objection to his joining in the society of the neighbourhood nor to his

  • leaving the parish occasionally for a week or two, to visit his relations.

  • She had even condescended to advise him to marry as soon as he could, provided he

  • chose with discretion; and had once paid him a visit in his humble parsonage, where

  • she had perfectly approved all the

  • alterations he had been making, and had even vouchsafed to suggest some herself--

  • some shelves in the closet upstairs."

  • "That is all very proper and civil, I am sure," said Mrs. Bennet, "and I dare say

  • she is a very agreeable woman. It is a pity that great ladies in general

  • are not more like her.

  • Does she live near you, sir?" "The garden in which stands my humble abode

  • is separated only by a lane from Rosings Park, her ladyship's residence."

  • "I think you said she was a widow, sir?

  • Has she any family?" "She has only one daughter, the heiress of

  • Rosings, and of very extensive property." "Ah!" said Mrs. Bennet, shaking her head,

  • "then she is better off than many girls.

  • And what sort of young lady is she? Is she handsome?"

  • "She is a most charming young lady indeed.

  • Lady Catherine herself says that, in point of true beauty, Miss de Bourgh is far

  • superior to the handsomest of her sex, because there is that in her features which

  • marks the young lady of distinguished birth.

  • She is unfortunately of a sickly constitution, which has prevented her from

  • making that progress in many accomplishments which she could not have

  • otherwise failed of, as I am informed by

  • the lady who superintended her education, and who still resides with them.

  • But she is perfectly amiable, and often condescends to drive by my humble abode in

  • her little phaeton and ponies."

  • "Has she been presented? I do not remember her name among the ladies

  • at court."

  • "Her indifferent state of health unhappily prevents her being in town; and by that

  • means, as I told Lady Catherine one day, has deprived the British court of its

  • brightest ornaments.

  • Her ladyship seemed pleased with the idea; and you may imagine that I am happy on

  • every occasion to offer those little delicate compliments which are always

  • acceptable to ladies.

  • I have more than once observed to Lady Catherine, that her charming daughter

  • seemed born to be a duchess, and that the most elevated rank, instead of giving her

  • consequence, would be adorned by her.

  • These are the kind of little things which please her ladyship, and it is a sort of

  • attention which I conceive myself peculiarly bound to pay."

  • "You judge very properly," said Mr. Bennet, "and it is happy for you that you possess

  • the talent of flattering with delicacy.

  • May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or

  • are the result of previous study?"

  • "They arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes amuse

  • myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be

  • adapted to ordinary occasions, I always

  • wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible."

  • Mr. Bennet's expectations were fully answered.

  • His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest

  • enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance,

  • and, except in an occasional glance at

  • Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.

  • By tea-time, however, the dose had been enough, and Mr. Bennet was glad to take his

  • guest into the drawing-room again, and, when tea was over, glad to invite him to

  • read aloud to the ladies.

  • Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but, on beholding it (for

  • everything announced it to be from a circulating library), he started back, and

  • begging pardon, protested that he never read novels.

  • Kitty stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed. Other books were produced, and after some

  • deliberation he chose Fordyce's Sermons.

  • Lydia gaped as he opened the volume, and before he had, with very monotonous

  • solemnity, read three pages, she interrupted him with:

  • "Do you know, mamma, that my uncle Phillips talks of turning away Richard; and if he

  • does, Colonel Forster will hire him. My aunt told me so herself on Saturday.

  • I shall walk to Meryton to-morrow to hear more about it, and to ask when Mr. Denny

  • comes back from town."

  • Lydia was bid by her two eldest sisters to hold her tongue; but Mr. Collins, much

  • offended, laid aside his book, and said:

  • "I have often observed how little young ladies are interested by books of a serious

  • stamp, though written solely for their benefit.

  • It amazes me, I confess; for, certainly, there can be nothing so advantageous to

  • them as instruction. But I will no longer importune my young

  • cousin."

  • Then turning to Mr. Bennet, he offered himself as his antagonist at backgammon.

  • Mr. Bennet accepted the challenge, observing that he acted very wisely in

  • leaving the girls to their own trifling amusements.

  • Mrs. Bennet and her daughters apologised most civilly for Lydia's interruption, and

  • promised that it should not occur again, if he would resume his book; but Mr. Collins,

  • after assuring them that he bore his young

  • cousin no ill-will, and should never resent her behaviour as any affront, seated

  • himself at another table with Mr. Bennet, and prepared for backgammon.

CHAPTER 14

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Chapter 14 - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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    羅致 posted on 2014/06/03
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