Mr Collin’s plan was not altered on seeing the five Bennet daughters. Jane’s lovely face confirmed him in his views, and for the first evening of his stay she was his settled choice. The next morning, however, in a talk with Mrs Bennet before breakfast, amid very pleasant smiles and general encouragement, he was given a caution against Jane, who had, it seemed, a wealthy suitor.
Mr Collins had only to change from Jane to Elizabeth – and it was soon done. Mrs Bennet began to trust that she might soon have two daughters married.
In the middle of the morning, all the Bennet girls decided to walk into Meryton. Mr Collins was persuaded to join them, at the request of Mr Bennet, who was most anxious to get rid of him and have his library to himself; for there Mr Collins had followed him after breakfast and talked with little cessation of his house and garden at Hunsford. Though prepared, as Mr Bennet told Elizabeth, to meet folly and conceit in every other room, he drew the line at encountering it in his library.
In pompous nothings on Mr Collins’s side, and murmured agreement 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 attention was caught by a young man, whom they had never seen before, walking with an officer on the other side of the way. The officer was a Mr Denny, whom they knew well. Kitty and Lydia, under pretence of wanting something in an opposite shop, led the way across the street, and had just gained the pavement when the two gentlemen reached the same spot. Mr Denny begged permission to introduce his friend, Mr Wickham, who had accepted a commission in their corps. The young man wanted only a uniform to make him completely charming.
The party were talking together very agreeably when the sound of horses drew their attention, and Darcy and Bingley were seen riding down the street towards them. Bingley had eyes only for Jane; and Mr Darcy was determining not to fix his eyes on Elizabeth, when they were suddenly arrested by the sight of the stranger. Elizabeth was astonished to see how both changed colour, one looked white, the other red. Mr Wickham, after a few moments, touched his hat – a salutation that Mr Darcy just deigned to return.
In another minute Mr Bingley rode on with his friend.
Mr Denny and Mr Wickham walked with the young ladies to the door of Mr Philips’s house, and then made their bows. Mrs Philips was always glad to see her nieces and received Mr Collins most politely. Some of the officers were to dine with the Philipses the next day, and their aunt promised to include Mr Wickham if the family from Longbourn would come in the evening.
As they walked home, Elizabeth related to Jane what she had seen pass between the two gentlemen; but Jane could no more explain such behaviour than her sister.
- arrest – attract the attention of (someone)
- at the request of – if you do something at someone’s request, you do it because they have asked you to
- cessation – the cessation of something is the stopping of it
- deign – if you say that someone deigned to do something, you are expressing your disapproval of the fact that they did it unwillingly, because they thought they were too important to do it
- get rid of – take action so as to be free of (a troublesome or unwanted person or thing)
- relate – if you relate a story, you tell it
- under the pretence of something – if you do something under false pretences, you do it when people do not know the truth about you and your intentions