SIR WILLIAM STAYED only a week at Hunsford, but his visit was long enough to convince him of his daughter’s being most comfortably settled. Mr. Collins devoted his mornings to driving Sir William out in his gig, and showing him the country; but when he went away, the whole family returned to their usual employments.
Now and then they were honoured with a call from Lady Catherine, and nothing escaped her observation during these visits. She examined into their employments, looked at their work, and advised them to do it differently; found fault with the arrangement of the furniture; or detected the housemaid in negligence; and if she accepted any refreshment, seemed to do it only for the sake of finding out that Mrs. Collins’s joints of meat were too large for her family.
Elizabeth soon perceived, that though this great lady was no longer engaged in the daily defense of her country, she was a most active magistrate in her own parish, the minutest concerns of which were carried to her by Mr. Collins; and whenever any of the cottagers were disposed to be quarrelsome, discontented, or too poor, she sallied forth into the village to implore them to settle their differences, or failing that, wielding her still-mighty blade to settle them herself.
The entertainment of dining at Rosings was repeated about twice a week; and, allowing for the loss of Sir William, and there being only one card-table in the evening, every such entertainment was the counterpart of the first. On one such occasion, Elizabeth was solicited to spar with several of her ladyship’s ninjas for the amusement of the party.
The demonstration took place in Lady Catherine’s grand dojo, which she had paid to have carried from Kyoto, brick by brick, on the backs of peasants. The ninjas wore their traditional black clothing, masks, and Tabbi boots; Elizabeth wore her sparring gown, and her trusted Katana sword. As Lady Catherine rose to signal the beginning of the match, Elizabeth, in a show of defiance, blindfolded herself.
“My dear girl,” said her ladyship, “I suggest you take this contest seriously. My ninjas will show you no mercy.”
“Nor I they, your ladyship.”
“Ms. Bennet, I remind you that you lack proper instruction in the deadly arts. Your master was a Chinese monk-these ninjas hail from the finest dojos in Japan.”
“If my fighting is truly inferior, then your ladyship shall be spared the trouble of watching it for very long.”
Elizabeth set her feet, and Lady Catherine, realising she would never convince such a stubborn, unusual girl, snapped her fingers. The first ninja drew his sword and let out a battle cry as he charged directly at Elizabeth. When his blade was only inches from her throat, she moved from her opponent’s path and dragged her Katana across his belly. The ninja dropped to the floor-his innards spilling from the slit faster than he could stuff them back in. Elizabeth sheathed her sword, knelt behind him, and strangled him to death with his own large bowel.
Lady Catherine snapped her fingers a second time, and another ninja charged-this one unleashing throwing stars as he advanced. Elizabeth drew her Katana and shielded herself from the first three flying weapons, then snatched the fourth out of the air and threw it back at its originator-striking him in the thigh. The ninja cried out and grabbed the wound with both hands, and Elizabeth brought her blade down, taking off not only the hands, but the leg which they held firmly. The ninja fell to the floor and was promptly beheaded.
Though discontented with such a beginning, Lady Catherine held the greatest hopes for her third and final ninja, the deadliest of the three. But no sooner had she snapped her fingers, than Elizabeth flung her Katana across the dojo, piercing the ninja’s chest and pinning him against a wooden column. Elizabeth removed her blindfold and confronted her
“‘MY DEAR GIRL,’ SAID HER LADYSHIP, ‘I SUGGEST YOU TAKE THIS CONTEST SERIOUSLY. MY NINJAS WILL SHOW YOU NO MERCY.’”
opponent, who presently clutched the sword handle, gasping for breath. She delivered a vicious blow, penetrating his rib cage, and withdrew her hand-with the ninja’s still-beating heart in it. As all but Lady Catherine turned away in disgust, Elizabeth took a bite, letting the blood run down her chin and onto her sparring gown.
“Curious,” said Elizabeth, still chewing. “I have tasted many a heart, but I dare say, I find the Japanese ones a bit tender.”
Her ladyship left the dojo without giving compliment to Elizabeth’s skills.
Their other engagements were few, as the style of living in the neighbourhood was beyond Mr. Collins’s reach. This, however, was no evil to Elizabeth, and upon the whole she spent her time comfortably enough; there were half-hours of pained, almost unintelligible conversation with Charlotte, and the weather was so fine for the time of year that she had often great enjoyment out of doors. Her favourite walk was along the open grove which edged that side of the park, where there was a nice sheltered path, which no one seemed to value but herself, and where she felt beyond the reach of Lady Catherine’s curiosity.
In this quiet way, the first fortnight of her visit soon passed away. Easter was approaching, and the week preceding it was to bring an addition to the family at Rosings, which in so small a circle must be important. Elizabeth had heard soon after her arrival that Mr. Darcy was expected there in the course of a few weeks, and though there were not many of her acquaintances whom she did not prefer, his coming would furnish one comparatively new to look at in their Rosings parties, and she might be amused in seeing how hopeless Miss Bingley’s designs on him were, by his behaviour to his cousin, for whom he was evidently destined by Lady Catherine, who talked of his coming with the greatest satisfaction, spoke of him in terms of the highest admiration, and seemed almost angry to find that he had already been frequently seen by Miss Lucas and herself.
His arrival was soon known at the Parsonage; for Mr. Collins was walking the whole morning within view of the lodges opening into Hunsford Lane, in order to have the earliest assurance of it, and after making his bow as the carriage turned into the Park, hurried home with the great intelligence. On the following morning he hastened to Rosings to pay his respects. There were two nephews of Lady Catherine to require them, for Mr. Darcy had brought with him a Colonel Fitzwilliam, the younger son of his uncle, and, to the great surprise of all the party, when Mr. Collins returned, the gentleman accompanied him. Charlotte had seen them from her husband’s room, crossing the road, and immediately running into the other, told the girls what an honour they might expect, adding:
“I fank you, Eliza, for dis piece of c-civiwity. Mr. Dah-cey would never have c-come so soon to w-w-w-wait upon me.”
Elizabeth had scarcely time to disclaim all right to the compliment, before their approach was announced by the door-bell, and shortly afterwards the three gentlemen entered the room. Colonel Fitzwilliam, who led the way, was about thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the gentleman. Mr. Darcy looked just as he had been used to look in Hertfordshire-paid his compliments, with his usual reserve, to Mrs. Collins, and whatever might be his feelings toward her friend, met her with every appearance of composure. Elizabeth merely curtseyed to him without saying a word.
Colonel Fitzwilliam entered into conversation directly with the readiness and ease of a well-bred man, and talked very pleasantly; but his cousin, after having addressed a slight observation on the house and garden to Mrs. Collins, sat for some time without speaking to anybody. At length, however, his civility was so far awakened as to inquire of Elizabeth after the health of her family. She answered him in the usual way, and after a moment’s pause, added:
“My eldest sister has been in town these three months. Have you never happened to see her there?”
She was perfectly sensible that he never had; but she wished to see whether he would betray any consciousness of what had passed between the Bingleys and Jane, and she thought she perceived a slight twitch in his eye as he answered that he had never been so fortunate as to meet Miss Bennet. The subject was pursued no farther, and the gentlemen soon afterwards went away.