Elizabeth obeyed, and running into her own room for her parasol, attended her noble guest down stairs. As they passed through the hall, Lady Catherine opened the doors into the dining-parlour and drawing- room, and pronouncing them, after a short survey, to be decent looking rooms, walked on.
Her carriage remained at the door, and Elizabeth saw that her waiting-woman was in it. They proceeded in silence along the gravel walk that led to the copse; Elizabeth was determined to make no effort for conversation with a woman who was now more than usually insolent and disagreeable.
``How could I ever think her like her nephew?'' said she, as she looked in her face.
As soon as they entered the copse, Lady Catherine began in the following manner: --
``You can be at no loss, Miss Bennet, to understand the reason of my journey hither. Your own heart, your own conscience, must tell you why I come.''
Elizabeth looked with unaffected astonishment.
``Indeed, you are mistaken, Madam. I have not been at all able to account for the honour of seeing you here.''
``Miss Bennet,'' replied her ladyship, in an angry tone, ``you ought to know, that I am not to be trifled with. But however insincere you may choose to be, you shall not find me so. My character has ever been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness, and in a cause of such moment as this, I shall certainly not depart from it. A report of a most alarming nature reached me two days ago. I was told that not only your sister was on the point of being most advantageously married, but that you, that Miss Elizabeth Bennet, would, in all likelihood, be soon afterwards united to my nephew, my own nephew, Mr. Darcy. Though I know it must be a scandalous falsehood, though I would not injure him so much as to suppose the truth of it possible, I instantly resolved on setting off for this place, that I might make my sentiments known to you.''
``If you believed it impossible to be true,'' said Elizabeth, colouring with astonishment and disdain, ``I wonder you took the trouble of coming so far. What could your ladyship propose by it?''
``At once to insist upon having such a report universally contradicted.''
``Your coming to Longbourn, to see me and my family,'' said Elizabeth coolly, ``will be rather a confirmation of it; if, indeed, such a report is in existence.''
``If! Do you then pretend to be ignorant of it? Has it not been industriously circulated by yourselves? Do you not know that such a report is spread abroad?''
``I never heard that it was.''
``And can you likewise declare, that there is no foundation for it?''
``I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer.''
``This is not to be borne. Miss Bennet, I insist on being satisfied. Has he, has my nephew, made you an offer of marriage?''
``Your ladyship has declared it to be impossible.''
``It ought to be so; it must be so, while he retains the use of his reason. But your arts and allurements may, in a moment of infatuation, have made him forget what he owes to himself and to all his family. You may have drawn him in.''
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