Mrs. Phillips was always glad to see her nieces; and the two
eldest, from their recent absence, were particularly welcome, and
she was eagerly expressing her surprise at their sudden return
home, which, as their own carriage had not fetched them, she
should have known nothing about, if she had not happened to
see Mr. Jones's shop-boy in the street, who had told her that
they were not to send any more draughts to Netherfield because
the Miss Bennets were come away, when her civility was
claimed towards Mr. Collins by Jane's introduction of him. She
received him with her very best politeness, which he returned
with as much more, apologising for his intrusion, without any
previous acquaintance with her, which he could not help
flattering himself, however, might be justified by his relationship
to the young ladies who introduced him to her notice. Mrs.
Phillips was quite awed by such an excess of good breeding; but
her contemplation of one stranger was soon put to an end by
exclamations and inquiries about the other; of whom, however,
she could only tell her nieces what they already knew, that Mr.
Denny had brought him from London, and that he was to have a
lieutenant's commission in the ----shire. She had been watching
him the last hour, she said, as he walked up and down the street,
and had Mr. Wickham appeared, Kitty and Lydia would certainly
have continued the occupation, but unluckily no one passed
windows now except a few of the officers, who, in comparison
with the stranger, were become "stupid, disagreeable fellows."
Some of them were to dine with the Phillipses the next day, and
their aunt promised to make her husband call on Mr. Wickham,
and give him an invitation also, if the family from Longbourn
would come in the evening. This was agreed to, and Mrs.
Phillips protested that they would have a nice comfortable noisy
game of lottery tickets, and a little bit of hot supper afterwards.
The prospect of such delights was very cheering, and they parted
in mutual good spirits. Mr. Collins repeated his apologies in
quitting the room, and was assured with unwearying civility that
they were perfectly needless.
As they walked home, Elizabeth related to Jane what she had
seen pass between the two gentlemen; but though Jane would
have defended either or both, had they appeared to be in the
wrong, she could no more explain such behaviour than her sister.