In the next three chapters, we get a break from the long, rambling letters. Yay!
Buried in a mass of letters, Elizabeth sits up and sees one from Charlotte. Yay! Then she remembers Charlotte is now Mrs. Collins. Eugh. She opens the letter anyway. Charlotte is inviting her to stay with them. Mmm, okay sure. It's been a while since Liz has had such a deliciously easy target as Collins.
Charlotte's Dad, Sir William Lucas and Charlotte's sister, Maria (Okay Austen, way to introduce another character super late in the game!), join Elizabeth on her journey. On the way, they stop by the Gardiners' house to check in on Jane.
(SO MANY PEOPLE in that last sentence. If you're lost, check out the map here.)
So in case it's all a big blurry mess, Jane went to stay with the Gardiners after Bingley & the Netherfield folk peaced out and left Netherfield for London. She's basically doing a Boy-Detox.
Jane looks okay to Liz, but you never know. She checks with Mrs. Gardiner, and Mrs. G says Jane is okay overall--a little up and down, but that's to be expected. Then Mrs. G brings up Wickham. Liz tells her that he is now pursuing a Miss King...who comes with a For Sale sign and cash.
Mrs. G scolds Wickham for pursuing a girl simply for the sake of money. And I'm going to put on my Super Nerd hat here for a second, because Liz brings up this great Paradox of the time she was living in:
When Wickham was pursuing Liz, Mrs. G was all: Hey! Not Cool! Neither of you guys have money, you can't get married! How imprudent!
Now that Wickham is purusing Miss King, Mrs. G is all: Hey! Not Cool! You shouldn't only pursue a girl because she's rich! How mercenary!
What's a girl to do??????
At the end of this heady conversation, Mrs. G invites Liz on a bit of a nature tour of England after she's visited Charlotte. And Elizabeth gets that amazing line:
"Ah yes! What are men to rocks and mountains?"
Amen sister. Amen.
Liz & Sir William Lucas & Maria arrive at Hunsford, the abode of Collins & Charlotte. Collins makes sure to point out all the awesome things about his house--
--"Check out our hedges! See how tall they are? Man they are SO TALL. What a bummer, Elizabeth, that you don't have hedges like these...and did I point out our rose bushes? I mean, right? They are so awesome--oh, I forgot yours all died last winter, sorry Elizabeth...OH, and look at our awesome shoe rack, I mean, this is NOT an Ikea shoe rack, it is like, REAL WOOD, you could have been putting your shoes on THIS shoe rack EVERY DAY, if you had accepted my proposal, but I'm SURE you're not bummed about that AT ALL--did I mention how pointy our roof is?"--
Subtle, Mr. Collins. Subtle.
Things quiet down, Liz gets to talk to Charlotte alone for a little bit, when suddenly there's a flurry of shouts.
"CHARLOTTE--COME QUICK--OH MY--COME CHARLOTTE--YOU MUST--CHARLOTTE!!!!!!!!!!"
Liz & Charlotte run outside, because obviously you don't shout like that unless something is on fire or dying or drowning...and Collins jumping up and down and pointing at a carriage parked at the end of the road.
"What is it, dear?" says Charlotte.
"ANNE DE BOURGH!!!!!!" shouts Collins who looks like a rabid fan at a concert who maybe just peed his pants a little.
Liz sticks out her hip and is about to look at Charlotte to share one of their famous "Really!?" looks, but before she can do so, Charlotte starts moving excitedly toward the carriage.
Oh no. Has Charlotte converted to Collinsism?
Charlotte seems to be speaking to someone inside the carriage. The conversation ends, the carriage drives off, and Charlotte comes back.
"We've all been invited to dine with Lady Catherine tomorrow evening!"
Collins lets out a sound that's half utter delight and half terror.
Liz cocks an eyebrow. She takes a breath. Okay. Here we go.
The next day the entire crew arrives at Rosings Park, Lady Catherine's giant, intimidating estate. And what a crew. Maria looks like she's about to faint. Collins looks like he's about to pee, from excitement or nervousness, Liz isn't sure. Even Sir William Lucas is slightly green. Charlotte is the only one who looks relatively calm. Good for you, Charlotte, we know who wears the pants in this relationship.
They enter. Collins opens his mouth to speak and Charlotte quickly intercepts that impending train wreck. Charlotte introduces every one. And they sit down to dinner. Lady Catherine rearranges how everyone is sitting, several times.
Musical chairs anyone?
They find seats suitable to her Ladyship. Liz checks out Anne de Bourgh, who, if you'll remember, has technically been engaged to Mr. Darcy since birth. Anne is a tiny little thing, chronically ill, completely silent and miserable. Liz wishes the two of them much happiness...muahaha.
Cue Regency pleasantries.
After dinner they go to drawing room to wait for coffee. Lady Catherine takes stock of the room and delivers her opinion on every subject she can think of with dictatorial decisiveness. Liz thinks Lady Catherine only needs a hairless cat and signature catch phrase to complete her Evil Villain Taking Over The World act.
And then she turns to Elizabeth. She fires questions fatal accuracy. Here is a list of every question Lady Catherine actually poses to Liz, direct from the book. Sometimes Liz gets time to answer, sometimes not:
How many sisters do you have?
Older or younger?
Any of them likely to be married?
Any of them handosme (pretty)?
Are you all educated?
Does your father keep a carriage?
Your mother's maiden name? (WTF??!!)
Do you play and sing?
Do your sisters play and sing?
Why didn't you all learn?
Do you draw?
None of you?
Has your governness left you?
Who taught you?
Who attended to you?
Are any of your younger sisters out?
Your younger sisters must be very young?
What is your age--
"ENOUGH ALREADY, JEEZY PETES, WHAT THE @#$% DO YOU WANT FROM ME???"
Okay, she doesn't really say that. But come on, if YOU had questions fired at you like that, how would YOU react??
Amazingly, Liz manages to channel her frustration with Lady Catherine into a saucy, politically correct response: "With all my younger sisters grown up, you can hardly expect me to own up to my age."
Lady Catherine is astonished. No one has ever broken the Line of Questions before. Who the hell is this girl, anyway? She decides to keep a close eye on this one.
When coffee is over, they play cards, and go.
As they leave, Collins asks: What did you think of Lady Catherine?
Collins: That's okay, I'll tell you what to think!! (Cue long uninteresting ramble...so uninteresting that even Austen didn't write it. She ended the chapter there.)
NEXT WEEK: We meet the Hunky Colonel & Darcy Attempts To Practice Conversation! (one of my favorite scenes!)
Comment below with YOUR reaction if you were questioned in such a way as Lady Catherine questioned Liz!
Caitlin Lushington is the Co-Artistic Director of the Enso Theatre Ensemble, a teacher, director, and actress. Sometimes she works too hard, sometimes she forgets things, and she strives to put the car keys back in the same place every time. She drinks tea every morning from her TARDIS mug and "Mr. Tea" diffuser. She loves the morning and wishes she had a photographic memory, so she could remember the names of every person she meets.