The coach conveyed Mr Collins and his five cousins to Meryton; and the girls had the pleasure of hearing that Mr Wickham had accepted their uncle’s invitation.
When he walked into the room, Elizabeth was struck afresh by the fineness of his person. He chose to sit beside her and after a while asked, in a hesitating manner, how long Mr Darcy had been in the neighbourhood.
“About a month,” said Elizabeth. “He is a man of very large property in Derbyshire, I understand.”
“Yes,” replied Wickham. “I have been connected with his family from my infancy.”
Elizabeth looked surprised.
“You may well be surprised, Miss Bennet, after seeing the cold manner of our meeting yesterday. The truth is, we are not on friendly terms.”
“I think him very disagreeable,” said Elizabeth.
“His father was one of the best men that ever breathed, and the truest friend I ever had. You see, the church ought to have been my profession. I should now have been in possession of a most valuable living, had it not been for the gentleman we were speaking of.”
“Yes – in his will the late Mr Darcy bequeathed me the best living to become vacant. He was my godfather. He meant to provide for me amply; but when the living fell vacant, it was given elsewhere.”
“Good heavens!” cried Elizabeth. “How could his will be disregarded?”
“There was a certain doubt in the terms of the bequest – or Mr Darcy chose to doubt it. We are very different sort of men, and he hates me!”
“He deserves to be publicly disgraced!”
“He will be; but not by me. While I remember the kindness of his father, I can never expose him!”
“But what made him behave so cruelly?” she asked.
“Jealousy,” replied Mr Wickham simply. “My father was an attorney, but he gave up everything to be of use to the late Mr Darcy and gave all his time to the care of the Pemberley property. He was old Mr Darcy’s closest friend. Just before my father’s death, Mr Darcy gave him a promise to provide for me. But his son’s jealousy put an end to any chance of that.”
“I had not thought Mr Darcy so bad as this – even though I have never liked him. How can Mr Bingley be friends with such a man? He cannot know what Mr Darcy is.”
“Probably not. Mr Darcy can be a most agreeable companion if he thinks it worth his while. I believe he is a very kind and careful guardian to his sister.”
“What sort of a girl is Miss Darcy?”
“Much like her brother – very, very proud. She is sixteen years of age, and, since her father’s death, has lived in London, where a lady superintends her education.”
At this moment, Mr Wickham’s attention was caught by the voice of Mr Collins mentioning the name of his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. He asked Elizabeth whether her relative was intimately acquainted with the family of de Bourgh.
“I hardly know how Mr Collins was introduced to her,” she replied, “but he has not known her long.”
“Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady Anne Darcy were sisters. Lady Catherine is aunt to the present Mr Darcy.”
They continued talking together till supper put an end to private conversation. Elizabeth could think of nothing but Mr Wickham, and what he had told her, all the way home.
- afresh – if you do something afresh, you do it again in a different way.
- amply – enough or more than enough; plentifully.
- bequeath – if you bequeath your money or property to someone, you legally state that they should have it when you die.
- bequest – money or property which you legally leave to someone when you die.
- disgraced – you use disgraced to describe someone whose bad behaviour has caused them to lose the approval and respect of the public or of people in authority.
- expose – to expose a person or situation means to reveal that they are bad or immoral in some way.
- infancy – the period of your life when you are a very young child.
- superintend – if you superintend something, you have responsibility for ensuring that it is carried out properly.
- will – a document in which you declare what you want to happen to your money and property when you die.
- worth while (or worth one’s while) – worth the time or effort spent