‘I was educated for the Church,’ continued Mr Wickham,’ and Mr Darcy’s father left me, on his death, the best living to which he had the power to make an appointment, as soon as it became free. He was my godfather and he was very fond of me. He thought that he had provided for my future, but the living was given to somebody else.’
‘Good heavens!’ said Elizabeth. ‘But surely that was against the law?’
‘My godfathers wishes were not expressed clearly. Mr Darcy treated his father’s words as a suggestion with certain conditions connected with it, and claimed that I had no right to the living because of some imagined wrongdoings of mine. But the fact is that he hates me.’
‘This is quite shameful! He deserves that the truth should be made public.’
‘Until I can forget his father, I can never be the means of shaming the son.’
Elizabeth honoured him for such feelings.
‘We were born in the same place, and brought up together. My father managed the late Mr Darcy’s affairs, and gave all his time to the care of his property.’
‘I am surprised that Mr Darcy’s pride has not made him fairer to you. I should have thought that he would have been too proud to be dishonest.’
‘It is surprising,’ replied Wickham, ‘because his pride has often caused him to be generous, to give his money freely, to be an excellent host and a kind landowner, and to do good to the poor. He also has brotherly pride. He looks after his sister very well.’
‘What sort of a girl is Miss Darcy?’
He shook his head. ‘I wish I could call her likeable. But she is too much like her brother — very, very proud.’
‘I am astonished at Mr Darcy’s friendship with Mr Bingley. How can Mr Bingley, who is so agreeable and friendly to everyone, like such a man? He cannot know what Mr Darcy is.’
‘Probably not. But Mr Darcy can please when he wishes. He can be a good companion if he thinks it worth taking the trouble. He is a very different man among those who are his equals in the world.’
Mr Wickham’s attention was caught a little later by Mr Collins mentioning the name of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. He asked Elizabeth in a low voice whether her relations were acquainted with the family.
‘You know, of course, that Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady Anne Darcy were sisters, and therefore she is aunt to the present Mr Darcy. Her daughter, Miss de Bourgh, will have a very large fortune, and it is believed that she and her cousin will unite the two properties by marriage.’
This information made Elizabeth smile, as she thought of Miss Bingley. All that lady’s hopes would be disappointed, if he was already promised to another.