PRIDE & PREJUDICE.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
Mr. Bennet made no answer.
This was invitation enough.
Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character.Her mind was less difficult to develope.She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper.When she was discontented she fancied herself nervous.The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.
Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr. Bingley.He had always intended to visit him, though to the last always assuring his wife that he should not go; and till the evening after the visit was paid, she had no knowledge of it.It was then disclosed in the following manner.Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply; but unable to contain herself, began scolding one of her daughters.
Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.
The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though when the first tumult of joy was over, she began to declare that it was what she had expected all the while.
The rest of the evening was spent in conjecturing how soon he would return Mr. Bennet's visit, and determining when they should ask him to dinner.
Not all that Mrs. Bennet, however, with the assistance of her five daughters, could ask on the subject was sufficient to draw from her husband any satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley.They attacked him in various ways; with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises; but he eluded the skill of them all; and they were at last obliged to accept the second-hand intelligence of their neighbour Lady Lucas.Her report was highly favourable.Sir William had been delighted with him.He was quite young, wonderfully handsome, extremely agreeable, and to crown the whole, he meant to be at the next assembly with a large party.Nothing could be more delightful!To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley's heart were entertained.
In a few days Mr. Bingley returned Mr. Bennet's visit, and sat about ten minutes with him in his library.He had entertained hopes of being admitted to a sight of the young ladies, of whose beauty he had heard much; but he saw only the father.The ladies were somewhat more fortunate, for they had the advantage of ascertaining from an upper window, that he wore a blue coat and rode a black horse.
An invitation to dinner was soon afterwards dispatched; and already had Mrs. Bennet planned the courses that were to do credit to her housekeeping, when an answer arrived which deferred it all.Mr. Bingley was obliged to be in town the following day, and consequently unable to accept the honour of their invitation, &c.Mrs. Bennet was quite disconcerted.She could not imagine what business he could have in town so soon after his arrival in Hertfordshire; and she began to fear that he might be always flying about from one place to another, and never settled at Netherfield as he ought to be.Lady Lucas quieted her fears a little by starting the idea of his being gone to London only to get a large party for the ball; and a report soon followed that Mr. Bingley was to bring twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him to the assembly.The girls grieved over such a number of ladies; but were comforted the day before the ball by hearing, that instead of twelve, he had brought only six with him from London, his five sisters and a cousin.And when the party entered the assembly room, it consisted of only five altogether; Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband of the eldest, and another young man.
Mr. Bingley was good looking and gentleman-like; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners.His sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion.His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year.The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.
Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal people in the room; he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield.Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves.What a contrast between him and his friend!Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party.His character was decided.He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and every body hoped that he would never come there again.Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour, was sharpened into particular resentment, by his having slighted one of her daughters.
Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit down for two dances; and during part of that time, Mr. Darcy had been standing near enough for her to overhear a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who came from the dance for a few minutes, to press his friend to join it.
Mr. Bingley followed his advice.Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him.She told the story however with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous.
The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole family.Mrs. Bennet had seen her eldest daughter much admired by the Netherfield party.Mr. Bingley had danced with her twice, and she had been distinguished by his sisters.Jane was as much gratified by this, as her mother could be, though in a quieter way.Elizabeth felt Jane's pleasure.Mary had heard herself mentioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate enough to be never without partners, which was all that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball.They returned therefore in good spirits to Longbourn, the village where they lived, and of which they were the principal inhabitants.They found Mr. Bennet still up.With a book he was regardless of time; and on the present occasion he had a good deal of curiosity as to the event of an evening which had raised such splendid expectations.He had rather hoped that all his wife's views on the stranger would be disappointed; but he soon found that he had a very different story to hear.
Here she was interrupted again.Mr. Bennet protested against any description of finery.She was therefore obliged to seek another branch of the subject, and related, with much bitterness of spirit and some exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Mr. Darcy.
When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had been cautious in her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to her sister how very much she admired him.
Elizabeth listened in silence, but was not convinced; their behaviour at the assembly had not been calculated to please in general; and with more quickness of observation and less pliancy of temper than her sister, and with a judgment too unassailed by any attention to herself, she was very little disposed to approve them.They were in fact very fine ladies; not deficient in good humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable where they chose it; but proud and conceited.They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank; and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others.They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother's fortune and their own had been acquired by trade.
Mr. Bingley inherited property to the amount of nearly an hundred thousand pounds from his father, who had intended to purchase an estate, but did not live to do it.--Mr.Bingley intended it likewise, and sometimes made choice of his county; but as he was now provided with a good house and the liberty of a manor, it was doubtful to many of those who best knew the easiness of his temper, whether he might not spend the remainder of his days at Netherfield, and leave the next generation to purchase.
His sisters were very anxious for his having an estate of his own; but though he was now established only as a tenant, Miss Bingley was by no means unwilling to preside at his table, nor was Mrs. Hurst, who had married a man of more fashion than fortune, less disposed to consider his house as her home when it suited her.Mr. Bingley had not been of age two years, when he was tempted by an accidental recommendation to look at Netherfield House.He did look at it and into it for half an hour, was pleased with the situation and the principal rooms, satisfied with what the owner said in its praise, and took it immediately.
Between him and Darcy there was a very steady friendship, in spite of a great opposition of character.--Bingleywas endeared to Darcy by the easiness, openness, ductility of his temper, though no disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own, and though with his own he never appeared dissatisfied.On the strength of Darcy's regard Bingley had the firmest reliance, and of his judgment the highest opinion.In understanding Darcy was the superior.Bingley was by no means deficient, but Darcy was clever.He was at the same time haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his manners, though well bred, were not inviting.In that respect his friend had greatly the advantage.Bingley was sure of being liked wherever he appeared, Darcy was continually giving offence.
The manner in which they spoke of the Meryton assembly was sufficiently characteristic.Bingley had never met with pleasanter people or prettier girls in his life; every body had been most kind and attentive to him, there had been no formality, no stiffness, he had soon felt acquainted with all the room; and as to Miss Bennet, he could not conceive an angel more beautiful.Darcy, on the contrary, had seen a collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion, for none of whom he had felt the smallest interest, and from none received either attention or pleasure.Miss Bennet he acknowledged to be pretty, but she smiled too much.
Mrs. Hurst and her sister allowed it to be so--but still they admired her and liked her, and pronounced her to be a sweet girl, and one whom they should not object to know more of.Miss Bennet was therefore established as a sweet girl, and their brother felt authorised by such commendation to think of her as he chose.
Within a short walk of Longbourn lived a family with whom the Bennets were particularly intimate.Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune and risen to the honour of knighthood by an address to the King, during his mayoralty.The distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly.It had given him a disgust to his business and to his residence in a small market town; and quitting them both, he had removed with his family to a house about a mile from Meryton, denominated from that period Lucas Lodge, where he could think with pleasure of his own importance, and unshackled by business, occupy himself solely in being civil to all the world.For though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to every body.By nature inoffensive, friendly and obliging, his presentation at St. James's had made him courteous.
Lady Lucas was a very good kind of woman, not too clever to be a valuable neighbour to Mrs. Bennet.--Theyhad several children.The eldest of them, a sensible, intelligent young woman, about twenty-seven, was Elizabeth's intimate friend.
That the Miss Lucases and the Miss Bennets should meet to talk over a ball was absolutely necessary; and the morning after the assembly brought the former to Longbourn to hear and to communicate.
The boy protested that she should not; she continued to declare that she would, and the argument ended only with the visit.
The ladies of Longbourn soon waited on those of Netherfield.The visit was returned in due form.Miss Bennet's pleasing manners grew on the good will of Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and though the mother was found to be intolerable and the younger sisters not worth speaking to, a wish of being better acquainted with them, was expressed towards the two eldest.By Jane this attention was received with the greatest pleasure; but Elizabeth still saw superciliousness in their treatment of every body, hardly excepting even her sister, and could not like them; though their kindness to Jane, such as it was, had a value as arising in all probability from the influence of their brother's admiration.It was generally evident whenever they met, that he did admire her; and to her it was equally evident that Jane was yielding to the preference which she had begun to entertain for him from the first, and was in a way to be very much in love; but she considered with pleasure that it was not likely to be discovered by the world in general, since Jane united with great strength of feeling, a composure of temper and a uniform cheerfulness of manner, which would guard her from the suspicions of the impertinent.She mentioned this to her friend Miss Lucas.
Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley's attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend.Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise.But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes.To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying.Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.Of this she was perfectly unaware;--to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable no where, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with.
He began to wish to know more of her, and as a step towards conversing with her himself, attended to her conversation with others.His doing so drew her notice.It was at Sir William Lucas's, where a large party were assembled.
Her performance was pleasing, though by no means capital.After a song or two, and before she could reply to the entreaties of several that she would sing again, she was eagerly succeeded at the instrument by her sister Mary, who having, in consequence of being the only plain one in the family, worked hard for knowledge and accomplishments, was always impatient for display.
Mary had neither genius nor taste; and though vanity had given her application, it had given her likewise a pedantic air and conceited manner, which would have injured a higher degree of excellence than she had reached.Elizabeth, easy and unaffected, had been listened to with much more pleasure, though not playing half so well; and Mary, at the end of a long concerto, was glad to purchase praise and gratitude by Scotch and Irish airs, at the request of her younger sisters, who with some of the Lucases and two or three officers joined eagerly in dancing at one end of the room.
Mr. Darcy stood near them in silent indignation at such a mode of passing the evening, to the exclusion of all conversation, and was too much engrossed by his own thoughts to perceive that Sir William Lucas was his neighbour, till Sir William thus began.
Mr. Darcy bowed.
Mr. Darcy with grave propriety requested to be allowed the honour of her hand; but in vain.Elizabeth was determined; nor did Sir William at all shake her purpose by his attempt at persuasion.
Elizabeth looked archly, and turned away.
Miss Bingley immediately fixed her eyes on his face, and desired he would tell her what lady had the credit of inspiring such reflections.He listened to her with perfect indifference, while she chose to entertain herself in this manner, and as his composure convinced her that all was safe, her wit flowed long.
Mr. Bennet's property consisted almost entirely in an estate of two thousand a year, which, unfortunately for his daughters, was entailed in default of heirs male, on a distant relation; and their mother's fortune, though ample for her situation in life, could but ill supply the deficiency of his.Her father had been an attorney in Meryton, and had left her four thousand pounds.
She had a sister married to a Mr. Philips, who had been a clerk to their father, and succeeded him in the business, and a brother settled in London in a respectable line of trade.
The village of Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton; a most convenient distance for the young ladies, who were usually tempted thither three or four times a week, to pay their duty to their aunt and to a milliner's shop just over the way.The two youngest of the family, Catherine and Lydia, were particularly frequent in these attentions; their minds were more vacant than their sisters', and when nothing better offered, a walk to Meryton was necessary to amuse their morning hours and furnish conversation for the evening; and however bare of news the country in general might be, they always contrived to learn some from their aunt.At present, indeed, they were well supplied both with news and happiness by the recent arrival of a militia regiment in the neighbourhood; it was to remain the whole winter, and Meryton was the head quarters.
Their visits to Mrs. Philips were now productive of the most interesting intelligence.Every day added something to their knowledge of the officers' names and connections.Their lodgings were not long a secret, and at length they began to know the officers themselves.Mr. Philips visited them all, and this opened to his nieces a source of felicity unknown before.They could talk of nothing but officers; and Mr. Bingley's large fortune, the mention of which gave animation to their mother, was worthless in their eyes when opposed to the regimentals of an ensign.
Catherine was disconcerted, and made no answer; but Lydia, with perfect indifference, continued to express her admiration of Captain Carter, and her hope of seeing him in the course of the day, as he was going the next morning to London.
Mrs. Bennet was prevented replying by the entrance of the footman with a note for Miss Bennet; it came from Netherfield, and the servant waited for an answer.She did at last extort from her father an acknowledgment that the horses were engaged.Jane was therefore obliged to go on horseback, and her mother attended her to the door with many cheerful prognostics of a bad day.Her hopes were answered; Jane had not been gone long before it rained hard.Her sisters were uneasy for her, but her mother was delighted.The rain continued the whole evening without intermission; Jane certainly could not come back.
Elizabeth, feeling really anxious, was determined to go to her, though the carriage was not to be had; and as she was no horse-woman, walking was her only alternative.She declared her resolution.
In Meryton they parted; the two youngest repaired to the lodgings of one of the officers' wives, and Elizabeth continued her walk alone, crossing field after field at a quick pace, jumping over stiles and springing over puddles with impatient activity, and finding herself at last within view of the house, with weary ancles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise.
She was shewn into the breakfast-parlour, where all but Jane were assembled, and where her appearance created a great deal of surprise.--Thatshe should have walked three miles so early in the day, in such dirty weather, and by herself, was almost incredible to Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and Elizabeth was convinced that they held her in contempt for it.She was received, however, very politely by them; and in their brother's manners there was something better than politeness; there was good humour and kindness.--Mr.Darcy said very little, and Mr. Hurst nothing at all.The former was divided between admiration of the brilliancy which exercise had given to her complexion, and doubt as to the occasion's justifying her coming so far alone.The latter was thinking only of his breakfast.
Her enquiries after her sister were not very favourably answered.Miss Bennet had slept ill, and though up, was very feverish and not well enough to leave her room.Elizabeth was glad to be taken to her immediately; and Jane, who had only been withheld by the fear of giving alarm or inconvenience, from expressing in her note how much she longed for such a visit, was delighted at her entrance.She was not equal, however, to much conversation, and when Miss Bingley left them together, could attempt little beside expressions of gratitude for the extraordinary kindness she was treated with.Elizabeth silently attended her.
When breakfast was over, they were joined by the sisters; and Elizabeth began to like them herself, when she saw how much affection and solicitude they shewed for Jane.The apothecary came, and having examined his patient, said, as might be supposed, that she had caught a violent cold, and that they must endeavour to get the better of it; advised her to return to bed, and promised her some draughts.The advice was followed readily, for the feverish symptoms increased, and her head ached acutely.Elizabeth did not quit her room for a moment, nor were the other ladies often absent; the gentlemen being out, they had in fact nothing to do elsewhere.
When the clock struck three, Elizabeth felt that she must go; and very unwillingly said so.Miss Bingley offered her the carriage, and she only wanted a little pressing to accept it, when Jane testified such concern in parting with her, that Miss Bingley was obliged to convert the offer of the chaise into an invitation to remain at Netherfield for the present.Elizabeth most thankfully consented, and a servant was dispatched to Longbourn to acquaint the family with her stay, and bring back a supply of clothes.
At five o'clock the two ladies retired to dress, and at half past six Elizabeth was summoned to dinner.To the civil enquiries which then poured in, and amongst which she had the pleasure of distinguishing the much superior solicitude of Mr. Bingley's, she could not make a very favourable answer.Jane was by no means better.The sisters, on hearing this, repeated three or four times how much they were grieved, how shocking it was to have a bad cold, and how excessively they disliked being ill themselves; and then thought no more of the matter: and their indifference towards Jane when not immediately before them, restored Elizabeth to the enjoyment of all her original dislike.
Their brother, indeed, was the only one of the party whom she could regard with any complacency.His anxiety for Jane was evident, and his attentions to herself most pleasing, and they prevented her feeling herself so much an intruder as she believed she was considered by the others.She had very little notice from any but him.Miss Bingley was engrossed by Mr. Darcy, her sister scarcely less so; and as for Mr. Hurst, by whom Elizabeth sat, he was an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards, who when he found her prefer a plain dish to a ragout, had nothing to say to her.
When dinner was over, she returned directly to Jane, and Miss Bingley began abusing her as soon as she was out of the room.Her manners were pronounced to be very bad indeed, a mixture of pride and impertinence; she had no conversation, no style, no taste, no beauty.To this speech Bingley made no answer; but his sisters gave it their hearty assent, and indulged their mirth for some time at the expense of their dear friend's vulgar relations.
With a renewal of tenderness, however, they repaired to her room on leaving the dining-parlour, and sat with her till summoned to coffee.She was still very poorly, and Elizabeth would not quit her at all, till late in the evening, when she had the comfort of seeing her asleep, and when it appeared to her rather right than pleasant that she should go down stairs herself.On entering the drawing-room she found the whole party at loo, and was immediately invited to join them; but suspecting them to be playing high she declined it, and making her sister the excuse, said she would amuse herself for the short time she could stay below with a book.Mr. Hurst looked at her with astonishment.
Elizabeth thanked him from her heart, and then walked towards a table where a few books were lying.He immediately offered to fetch her others; all that his library afforded.
Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly with those in the room.
Elizabeth was so much caught by what passed, as to leave her very little attention for her book; and soon laying it wholly aside, she drew near the card-table, and stationed herself between Mr. Bingley and his eldest sister, to observe the game.
Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley both cried out against the injustice of her implied doubt, and were both protesting that they knew many women who answered this description, when Mr. Hurst called them to order, with bitter complaints of their inattention to what was going forward.As all conversation was thereby at an end, Elizabeth soon afterwards left the room.
Miss Bingley was not so entirely satisfied with this reply as to continue the subject.
Elizabeth joined them again only to say that her sister was worse, and that she could not leave her.Bingley urged Mr. Jones's being sent for immediately; while his sisters, convinced that no country advice could be of any service, recommended an express to town for one of the most eminent physicians.This, she would not hear of; but she was not so unwilling to comply with their brother's proposal; and it was settled that Mr. Jones should be sent for early in the morning, if Miss Bennet were not decidedly better.Bingley was quite uncomfortable; his sisters declared that they were miserable.They solaced their wretchedness, however, by duets after supper, while he could find no better relief to his feelings than by giving his housekeeper directions that every possible attention might be paid to the sick lady and her sister.
Elizabeth passed the chief of the night in her sister's room, and in the morning had the pleasure of being able to send a tolerable answer to the enquiries which she very early received from Mr. Bingley by a housemaid, and some time afterwards from the two elegant ladies who waited on his sisters.In spite of this amendment, however, she requested to have a note sent to Longbourn, desiring her mother to visit Jane, and form her own judgment of her situation.The note was immediately dispatched, and its contents as quickly complied with.Mrs. Bennet, accompanied by her two youngest girls, reached Netherfield soon after the family breakfast.
Had she found Jane in any apparent danger, Mrs. Bennet would have been very miserable; but being satisfied on seeing her that her illness was not alarming, she had no wish of her recovering immediately, as her restoration to health would probably remove her from Netherfield.She would not listen therefore to her daughter's proposal of being carried home; neither did the apothecary, who arrived about the same time, think it at all advisable.After sitting a little while with Jane, on Miss Bingley's appearance and invitation, the mother and three daughters all attended her into the breakfast parlour.Bingley met them with hopes that Mrs. Bennet had not found Miss Bennet worse than she expected.
Mrs. Bennet was profuse in her acknowledgments.
Every body was surprised; and Darcy, after looking at her for a moment, turned silently away.Mrs. Bennet, who fancied she had gained a complete victory over him, continued her triumph.
Nothing but concern for Elizabeth could enable Bingley to keep his countenance.His sister was less delicate, and directed her eye towards Mr. Darcy with a very expressive smile.Elizabeth, for the sake of saying something that might turn her mother's thoughts, now asked her if Charlotte Lucas had been at Longbourn since her coming away.
Darcy only smiled; and the general pause which ensued made Elizabeth tremble lest her mother should be exposing herself again.She longed to speak, but could think of nothing to say; and after a short silence Mrs. Bennet began repeating her thanks to Mr. Bingley for his kindness to Jane, with an apology for troubling him also with Lizzy.Mr. Bingley was unaffectedly civil in his answer, and forced his younger sister to be civil also, and say what the occasion required.She performed her part indeed without much graciousness, but Mrs. Bennet was satisfied, and soon afterwards ordered her carriage.Upon this signal, the youngest of her daughters put herself forward.The two girls had been whispering to each other during the whole visit, and the result of it was, that the youngest should tax Mr. Bingley with having promised on his first coming into the country to give a ball at Netherfield.
Lydia was a stout, well-grown girl of fifteen, with a fine complexion and good-humoured countenance; a favourite with her mother, whose affection had brought her into public at an early age.She had high animal spirits, and a sort of natural self-consequence, which the attentions of the officers, to whom her uncle's good dinners and her own easy manners recommended her, had increased into assurance.She was very equal therefore to address Mr. Bingley on the subject of the ball, and abruptly reminded him of his promise; adding, that it would be the most shameful thing in the world if he did not keep it.His answer to this sudden attack was delightful to their mother's ear.
Mrs. Bennet and her daughters then departed, and Elizabeth returned instantly to Jane, leaving her own and her relations' behaviour to the remarks of the two ladies and Mr. Darcy; the latter of whom, however, could not be prevailed on to join in their censure of her, in spite of all Miss Bingley's witticisms on fine eyes.
The day passed much as the day before had done.Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley had spent some hours of the morning with the invalid, who continued, though slowly, to mend; and in the evening Elizabeth joined their party in the drawing-room.The loo table, however, did not appear.Mr. Darcy was writing, and Miss Bingley, seated near him, was watching the progress of his letter, and repeatedly calling off his attention by messages to his sister.Mr. Hurst and Mr. Bingley were at piquet, and Mrs. Hurst was observing their game.
Elizabeth took up some needlework, and was sufficiently amused in attending to what passed between Darcy and his companion.The perpetual commendations of the lady either on his hand-writing, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her praises were received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in unison with her opinion of each.
He made no answer.
He was silent.
Mr. Darcy smiled; but Elizabeth thought she could perceive that he was rather offended; and therefore checked her laugh.Miss Bingley warmly resented the indignity he had received, in an expostulation with her brother for talking such nonsense.
Mr. Darcy took her advice, and did finish his letter.
When that business was over, he applied to Miss Bingley and Elizabeth for the indulgence of some music.Miss Bingley moved with alacrity to the piano-forte, and after a polite request that Elizabeth would lead the way, which the other as politely and more earnestly negatived, she seated herself.
Mrs. Hurst sang with her sister, and while they were thus employed Elizabeth could not help observing as she turned over some music books that lay on the instrument, how frequently Mr. Darcy's eyes were fixed on her.She hardly knew how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration to so great a man; and yet that he should look at her because he disliked her, was still more strange.She could only imagine however at last, that she drew his notice because there was a something about her more wrong and reprehensible, according to his ideas of right, than in any other person present.The supposition did not pain her.She liked him too little to care for his approbation.
After playing some Italian songs, Miss Bingley varied the charm by a lively Scotch air; and soon afterwards Mr. Darcy, drawing near Elizabeth, said to her--
She smiled, but made no answer.He repeated the question, with some surprise at her silence.
Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her.He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.
Miss Bingley saw, or suspected enough to be jealous; and her great anxiety for the recovery of her dear friend Jane, received some assistance from her desire of getting rid of Elizabeth.
She often tried to provoke Darcy into disliking her guest, by talking of their supposed marriage, and planning his happiness in such an alliance.
At that moment they were met from another walk, by Mrs. Hurst and Elizabeth herself.
Then taking the disengaged arm of Mr. Darcy, she left Elizabeth to walk by herself.The path just admitted three.Mr. Darcy felt their rudeness and immediately said,--
She then ran gaily off, rejoicing as she rambled about, in the hope of being at home again in a day or two.Jane was already so much recovered as to intend leaving her room for a couple of hours that evening.
When the ladies removed after dinner, Elizabeth ran up to her sister, and seeing her well guarded from cold, attended her into the drawing-room; where she was welcomed by her two friends with many professions of pleasure; and Elizabeth had never seen them so agreeable as they were during the hour which passed before the gentlemen appeared.Their powers of conversation were considerable.They could describe an entertainment with accuracy, relate an anecdote with humour, and laugh at their acquaintance with spirit.
When tea was over, Mr. Hurst reminded his sister-in-law of the card-table--but in vain.She had obtained private intelligence that Mr. Darcy did not wish for cards; and Mr. Hurst soon found even his open petition rejected.She assured him that no one intended to play, and the silence of the whole party on the subject, seemed to justify her.Mr. Hurst had therefore nothing to do, but to stretch himself on one of the sophas and go to sleep.Darcy took up a book; Miss Bingley did the same; and Mrs. Hurst, principally occupied in playing with her bracelets and rings, joined now and then in her brother's conversation with Miss Bennet.
No one made any reply.
Miss Bingley made no answer; and soon afterwards got up and walked about the room.Her figure was elegant, and she walked well;--but Darcy, at whom it was all aimed, was still inflexibly studious.Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr. Darcy in any thing, and persevered therefore in requiring an explanation of his two motives.
Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile.
Her sister made not the smallest objection, and the piano-forte was opened, and Darcy, after a few moments recollection, was not sorry for it.He began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention.
In consequence of an agreement between the sisters, Elizabeth wrote the next morning to her mother, to beg that the carriage might be sent for them in the course of the day.But Mrs. Bennet, who had calculated on her daughters remaining at Netherfield till the following Tuesday, which would exactly finish Jane's week, could not bring herself to receive them with pleasure before.Her answer, therefore, was not propitious, at least not to Elizabeth's wishes, for she was impatient to get home.Mrs. Bennet sent them word that they could not possibly have the carriage before Tuesday; and in her postscript it was added, that if Mr. Bingley and his sister pressed them to stay longer, she could spare them very well.--Againststaying longer, however, Elizabeth was positively resolved--nor did she much expect it would be asked; and fearful, on the contrary, as being considered as intruding themselves needlessly long, she urged Jane to borrow Mr. Bingley's carriage immediately, and at length it was settled that their original design of leaving Netherfield that morning should be mentioned, and the request made.
The communication excited many professions of concern; and enough was said of wishing them to stay at least till the following day to work on Jane; and till the morrow, their going was deferred.Miss Bingley was then sorry that she had proposed the delay, for her jealousy and dislike of one sister much exceeded her affection for the other.
The master of the house heard with real sorrow that they were to go so soon, and repeatedly tried to persuade Miss Bennet that it would not be safe for her--that she was not enough recovered; but Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right.
To Mr. Darcy it was welcome intelligence--Elizabeth had been at Netherfield long enough.She attracted him more than he liked--and Miss Bingley was uncivil to her, and more teazing than usual to himself.He wisely resolved to be particularly careful that no sign of admiration should now escape him, nothing that could elevate her with the hope of influencing his felicity; sensible that if such an idea had been suggested, his behaviour during the last day must have material weight in confirming or crushing it.Steady to his purpose, he scarcely spoke ten words to her through the whole of Saturday, and though they were at one time left by themselves for half an hour, he adhered most conscientiously to his book, and would not even look at her.
On Sunday, after morning service, the separation, so agreeable to almost all, took place.Miss Bingley's civility to Elizabeth increased at last very rapidly, as well as her affection for Jane; and when they parted, after assuring the latter of the pleasure it would always give her to see her either at Longbourn or Netherfield, and embracing her most tenderly, she even shook hands with the former.--Elizabethtook leave of the whole party in the liveliest spirits.
They were not welcomed home very cordially by their mother.Mrs. Bennet wondered at their coming, and thought them very wrong to give so much trouble, and was sure Jane would have caught cold again.--Buttheir father, though very laconic in his expressions of pleasure, was really glad to see them; he had felt their importance in the family circle.The evening conversation, when they were all assembled, had lost much of its animation, and almost all its sense, by the absence of Jane and Elizabeth.
They found Mary, as usual, deep in the study of thorough bass and human nature; and had some new extracts to admire, and some new observations of thread-bare morality to listen to.Catherine and Lydia had information for them of a different sort.Much had been done, and much had been said in the regiment since the preceding Wednesday; several of the officers had dined lately with their uncle, a private had been flogged, and it had actually been hinted that Colonel Forster was going to be married.
This roused a general astonishment; and he had the pleasure of being eagerly questioned by his wife and five daughters at once.
Jane and Elizabeth attempted to explain to her the nature of an entail.They had often attempted it before, but it was a subject on which Mrs. Bennet was beyond the reach of reason; and she continued to rail bitterly against the cruelty of settling an estate away from a family of five daughters, in favour of a man whom nobody cared anything about.
Elizabeth was chiefly struck with his extraordinary deference for Lady Catherine, and his kind intention of christening, marrying, and burying his parishioners whenever it were required.
To Catherine and Lydia, neither the letter nor its writer were in any degree interesting.It was next to impossible that their cousin should come in a scarlet coat, and it was now some weeks since they had received pleasure from the society of a man in any other colour.As for their mother, Mr. Collins's letter had done away much of her ill-will, and she was preparing to see him with a degree of composure, which astonished her husband and daughters.
Mr. Collins was punctual to his time, and was received with great politeness by the whole family.Mr. Bennet indeed said little; but the ladies were ready enough to talk, and Mr. Collins seemed neither in need of encouragement, nor inclined to be silent himself.He was a tall, heavy looking young man of five and twenty.His air was grave and stately, and his manners were very formal.He had not been long seated before he complimented Mrs. Bennet on having so fine a family of daughters, said he had heard much of their beauty, but that, in this instance, fame had fallen short of the truth; and added, that he did not doubt her seeing them all in due time well disposed of in marriage.He was interrupted by a summons to dinner; and the girls smiled on each other.They were not the only objects of Mr. Collins's admiration.The hall, the dining-room, and all its furniture were examined and praised; and his commendation of every thing would have touched Mrs. Bennet's heart, but for the mortifying supposition of his viewing it all as his own future property.The dinner too in its turn was highly admired; and he begged to know to which of his fair cousins, the excellence of its cookery was owing.But here he was set right by Mrs. Bennet, who assured him with some asperity that they were very well able to keep a good cook, and that her daughters had nothing to do in the kitchen.He begged pardon for having displeased her.In a softened tone she declared herself not at all offended; but he continued to apologise for about a quarter of an hour.
During dinner, Mr. Bennet scarcely spoke at all; but when the servants were withdrawn, he thought it time to have some conversation with his guest, and therefore started a subject in which he expected him to shine, by observing that he seemed very fortunate in his patroness.Lady Catherine de Bourgh's attention to his wishes, and consideration for his comfort, appeared very remarkable.Mr. Bennet could not have chosen better.Mr. Collins was eloquent in her praise.The subject elevated him to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a most important aspect he protested that he had never in his life witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank--such affability and condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady Catherine.She had been graciously pleased to approve of both the discourses, which he had already had the honour of preaching before her.She had also asked him twice to dine at Rosings, and had sent for him only the Saturday before, to make up her pool of quadrille in the evening.Lady Catherine was reckoned proud by many people he knew, but he had never seen any thing but affability in her.She had always spoken to him as she would to any other gentleman; she made not the smallest objection to his joining in the society of the neighbourhood, nor to his leaving his parish occasionally for a week or two, to visit his relations.She had even condescended to advise him to marry as soon as he could, provided he chose with discretion; and had once paid him a visit in his humble parsonage; where she had perfectly approved all the alterations he had been making, and had even vouchsafed to suggest some herself,--some shelves in the closets up stairs.
Mr. Bennet's expectations were fully answered.His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance, and except in an occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.
By tea-time however the dose had been enough, and Mr. Bennet was glad to take his guest into the drawing-room again, and when tea was over, glad to invite him to read aloud to the ladies.Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but on beholding it, (for every thing announced it to be from a circulating library,) he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels.--Kittystared at him, and Lydia exclaimed.--Otherbooks were produced, and after some deliberation he chose Fordyce's Sermons.Then turning to Mr. Bennet, he offered himself as his antagonist at backgammon.Mr. Bennet accepted the challenge, observing that he acted very wisely in leaving the girls to their own trifling amusements.Mrs. Bennet and her daughters apologised most civilly for Lydia's interruption, and promised that it should not occur again, if he would resume his book; but Mr. Collins, after assuring them that he bore his young cousin no ill will, and should never resent her behaviour as any affront, seated himself at another table with Mr. Bennet, and prepared for backgammon.
Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society; the greatest part of his life having been spent under the guidance of an illiterate and miserly father; and though he belonged to one of the universities, he had merely kept the necessary terms, without forming at it any useful acquaintance.The subjection in which his father had brought him up, had given him originally great humility of manner, but it was now a good deal counteracted by the self-conceit of a weak head, living in retirement, and the consequential feelings of early and unexpected prosperity.A fortunate chance had recommended him to Lady Catherine de Bourgh when the living of Hunsford was vacant; and the respect which he felt for her high rank, and his veneration for her as his patroness, mingling with a very good opinion of himself, of his authority as a clergyman, and his rights as a rector, made him altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility.
Having now a good house and very sufficient income, he intended to marry; and in seeking a reconciliation with the Longbourn family he had a wife in view, as he meant to chuse one of the daughters, if he found them as handsome and amiable as they were represented by common report.This was his plan of amends--of atonement--for inheriting their father's estate; and he thought it an excellent one, full of eligibility and suitableness, and excessively generous and disinterested on his own part.
Mr. Collins had only to change from Jane to Elizabeth--and it was soon done--done while Mrs. Bennet was stirring the fire.Elizabeth, equally next to Jane in birth and beauty, succeeded her of course.
Mrs. Bennet treasured up the hint, and trusted that she might soon have two daughters married; and the man whom she could not bear to speak of the day before, was now high in her good graces.
Lydia's intention of walking to Meryton was not forgotten; every sister except Mary agreed to go with her; and Mr. Collins was to attend them, at the request of Mr. Bennet, who was most anxious to get rid of him, and have his library to himself; for thither Mr. Collins had followed him after breakfast, and there he would continue, nominally engaged with one of the largest folios in the collection, but really talking to Mr. Bennet, with little cessation, of his house and garden at Hunsford.Such doings discomposed Mr. Bennet exceedingly.In his library he had been always sure of leisure and tranquillity; and though prepared, as he told Elizabeth, to meet with folly and conceit in every other room in the house, he was used to be free from them there; his civility, therefore, was most prompt in inviting Mr. Collins to join his daughters in their walk; and Mr. Collins, being in fact much better fitted for a walker than a reader, was extremely well pleased to close his large book, and go.
In pompous nothings on his side, and civil assents on that of his cousins, their time passed till they entered Meryton.The attention of the younger ones was then no longer to be gained by him.Their eyes were immediately wandering up in the street in quest of the officers, and nothing less than a very smart bonnet indeed, or a really new muslin in a shop window, could recal them.
But the attention of every lady was soon caught by a young man, whom they had never seen before, of most gentleman-like appearance, walking with an officer on the other side of the way.The officer was the very Mr. Denny, concerning whose return from London Lydia came to inquire, and he bowed as they passed.All were struck with the stranger's air, all wondered who he could be, and Kitty and Lydia, determined if possible to find out, led the way across the street, under pretence of wanting something in an opposite shop, and fortunately had just gained the pavement when the two gentlemen turning back had reached the same spot.Mr. Denny addressed them directly, and entreated permission to introduce his friend, Mr. Wickham, who had returned with him the day before from town, and he was happy to say had accepted a commission in their corps.This was exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted only regimentals to make him completely charming.His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.The introduction was followed up on his side by a happy readiness of conversation--a readiness at the same time perfectly correct and unassuming; and the whole party were still standing and talking together very agreeably, when the sound of horses drew their notice, and Darcy and Bingley were seen riding down the street.On distinguishing the ladies of the group, the two gentlemen came directly towards them, and began the usual civilities.Bingley was the principal spokesman, and Miss Bennet the principal object.He was then, he said, on his way to Longbourn on purpose to inquire after her.Mr. Darcy corroborated it with a bow, and was beginning to determine not to fix his eyes on Elizabeth, when they were suddenly arrested by the sight of the stranger, and Elizabeth happening to see the countenance of both as they looked at each other, was all astonishment at the effect of the meeting.Both changed colour, one looked white, the other red.Mr. Wickham, after a few moments, touched his hat--a salutation which Mr. Darcy just deigned to return.What could be the meaning of it?--Itwas impossible to imagine; it was impossible not to long to know.
In another minute Mr. Bingley, but without seeming to have noticed what passed, took leave and rode on with his friend.
Mr. Denny and Mr. Wickham walked with the young ladies to the door of Mr. Philips's house, and then made their bows, in spite of Miss Lydia's pressing entreaties that they would come in, and even in spite of Mrs. Philips' throwing up the parlour window, and loudly seconding the invitation.
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 wrong, she could no more explain such behaviour than her sister.
Mr. Collins on his return highly gratified Mrs. Bennet by admiring Mrs. Philips's manners and politeness.He protested that except Lady Catherine and her daughter, he had never seen a more elegant woman; for she had not only received him with the utmost civility, but had even pointedly included him in her invitation for the next evening, although utterly unknown to her before.Something he supposed might be attributed to his connection with them, but yet he had never met with so much attention in the whole course of his life.
As no objection was made to the young people's engagement with their aunt, and all Mr. Collins's scruples of leaving Mr. and Mrs. Bennet for a single evening during his visit were most steadily resisted, the coach conveyed him and his five cousins at a suitable hour to Meryton; and the girls had the pleasure of hearing, as they entered the drawing-room, that Mr. Wickham had accepted their uncle's invitation, and was then in the house.
When this information was given, and they had all taken their seats, Mr. Collins was at leisure to look around him and admire, and he was so much struck with the size and furniture of the apartment, that he declared he might almost have supposed himself in the small summer breakfast parlour at Rosings; a comparison that did not at first convey much gratification; but when Mrs. Philips understood from him what Rosings was, and who was its proprietor, when she had listened to the description of only one of Lady Catherine's drawing-rooms, and found that the chimney-piece alone had cost eight hundred pounds, she felt all the force of the compliment, and would hardly have resented a comparison with the housekeeper's room.
In describing to her all the grandeur of Lady Catherine and her mansion, with occasional digressions in praise of his own humble abode, and the improvements it was receiving, he was happily employed until the gentlemen joined them; and he found in Mrs. Philips a very attentive listener, whose opinion of his consequence increased with what she heard, and who was resolving to retail it all among her neighbours as soon as she could.To the girls, who could not listen to their cousin, and who had nothing to do but to wish for an instrument, and examine their own indifferent imitations of china on the mantle-piece, the interval of waiting appeared very long.It was over at last however.The gentlemen did approach; and when Mr. Wickham walked into the room, Elizabeth felt that she had neither been seeing him before, nor thinking of him since, with the smallest degree of unreasonable admiration.The officers of the ----shire were in general a very creditable, gentleman-like set, and the best of them were of the present party; but Mr. Wickham was as far beyond them all in person, countenance, air, and walk, as they were superior to the broad-faced stuffy uncle Philips, breathing port wine, who followed them into the room.
Mr. Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every female eye was turned, and Elizabeth was the happy woman by whom he finally seated himself; and the agreeable manner in which he immediately fell into conversation, though it was only on its being a wet night, and on the probability of a rainy season, made her feel that the commonest, dullest, most thread-bare topic might be rendered interesting by the skill of the speaker.
With such rivals for the notice of the fair, as Mr. Wickham and the officers, Mr. Collins seemed likely to sink into insignificance; to the young ladies he certainly was nothing; but he had still at intervals a kind listener in Mrs. Philips, and was, by her watchfulness, most abundantly supplied with coffee and muffin.
When the card tables were placed, he had an opportunity of obliging her in return, by sitting down to whist.
Mr. Wickham did not play at whist, and with ready delight was he received at the other table between Elizabeth and Lydia.At first there seemed danger of Lydia's engrossing him entirely, for she was a most determined talker; but being likewise extremely fond of lottery tickets, she soon grew too much interested in the game, too eager in making bets and exclaiming after prizes, to have attention for any one in particular.Allowing for the common demands of the game, Mr. Wickham was therefore at leisure to talk to Elizabeth, and she was very willing to hear him, though what she chiefly wished to hear she could not hope to be told, the history of his acquaintance with Mr. Darcy.She dared not even mention that gentleman.Her curiosity however was unexpectedly relieved.Mr. Wickham began the subject himself.He inquired how far Netherfield was from Meryton; and, after receiving her answer, asked in an hesitating manner how long Mr. Darcy had been staying there.
Elizabeth could not but look surprised.
Elizabeth found the interest of the subject increase, and listened with all her heart; but the delicacy of it prevented farther inquiry.
Mr. Wickham began to speak on more general topics, Meryton, the neighbourhood, the society, appearing highly pleased with all that he had yet seen, and speaking of the latter especially, with gentle but very intelligible gallantry.
Elizabeth honoured him for such feelings, and thought him handsomer than ever as he expressed them.
The whist party soon afterwards breaking up, the players gathered round the other table, and Mr. Collins took his station between his cousin Elizabeth and Mrs. Philips.--Theusual inquiries as to his success were made by the latter.It had not been very great; he had lost every point; but when Mrs. Philips began to express her concern thereupon, he assured her with much earnest gravity that it was not of the least importance, that he considered the money as a mere trifle, and begged she would not make herself uneasy.
Mr. Wickham's attention was caught; and after observing Mr. Collins for a few moments, he asked Elizabeth in a low voice whether her relation were very intimately acquainted with the family of de Bourgh.
This information made Elizabeth smile, as she thought of poor Miss Bingley.Vain indeed must be all her attentions, vain and useless her affection for his sister and her praise of himself, if he were already self-destined to another.
Elizabeth allowed that he had given a very rational account of it, and they continued talking together with mutual satisfaction till supper put an end to cards; and gave the rest of the ladies their share of Mr. Wickham's attentions.There could be no conversation in the noise of Mrs. Philips's supper party, but his manners recommended him to every body.Whatever he said, was said well; and whatever he did, done gracefully.Elizabeth went away with her head full of him.She could think of nothing but of Mr. Wickham, and of what he had told her, all the way home; but there was not time for her even to mention his name as they went, for neither Lydia nor Mr. Collins were once silent.Lydia talked incessantly of lottery tickets, of the fish she had lost and the fish she had won, and Mr. Collins, in describing the civility of Mr. and Mrs. Philips, protesting that he did not in the least regard his losses at whist, enumerating all the dishes at supper, and repeatedly fearing that he crouded his cousins, had more to say than he could well manage before the carriage stopped at Longbourn House.
Elizabeth related to Jane the next day, what had passed between Mr. Wickham and herself.Jane listened with astonishment and concern;--she knew not how to believe that Mr. Darcy could be so unworthy of Mr. Bingley's regard; and yet, it was not in her nature to question the veracity of a young man of such amiable appearance as Wickham.--Thepossibility of his having really endured such unkindness, was enough to interest all her tender feelings; and nothing therefore remained to be done, but to think well of them both, to defend the conduct of each, and throw into the account of accident or mistake, whatever could not be otherwise explained.
But Jane could think with certainty on only one point,--that Mr. Bingley, if he had been imposed on, would have much to suffer when the affair became public.
The two young ladies were summoned from the shrubbery where this conversation passed, by the arrival of some of the very persons of whom they had been speaking; Mr. Bingley and his sisters came to give their personal invitation for the long expected ball at Netherfield, which was fixed for the following Tuesday.The two ladies were delighted to see their dear friend again, called it an age since they had met, and repeatedly asked what she had been doing with herself since their separation.To the rest of the family they paid little attention; avoiding Mrs. Bennet as much as possible, saying not much to Elizabeth, and nothing at all to the others.They were soon gone again, rising from their seats with an activity which took their brother by surprise, and hurrying off as if eager to escape from Mrs. Bennet's civilities.
The prospect of the Netherfield ball was extremely agreeable to every female of the family.Mrs. Bennet chose to consider it as given in compliment to her eldest daughter, and was particularly flattered by receiving the invitation from Mr. Bingley himself, instead of a ceremonious card.Jane pictured to herself a happy evening in the society of her two friends, and the attentions of their brother; and Elizabeth thought with pleasure of dancing a great deal with Mr. Wickham, and of seeing a confirmation of every thing in Mr. Darcy's looks and behaviour.The happiness anticipated by Catherine and Lydia, depended less on any single event, or any particular person, for though they each, like Elizabeth, meant to dance half the evening with Mr. Wickham, he was by no means the only partner who could satisfy them, and a ball was at any rate, a ball.And even Mary could assure her family that she had no disinclination for it.
Elizabeth's spirits were so high on the occasion, that though she did not often speak unnecessarily to Mr. Collins, she could not help asking him whether he intended to accept Mr. Bingley's invitation, and if he did, whether he would think it proper to join in the evening's amusement; and she was rather surprised to find that he entertained no scruple whatever on that head, and was very far from dreading a rebuke either from the Archbishop, or Lady Catherine de Bourgh, by venturing to dance.
Elizabeth felt herself completely taken in.She had fully proposed being engaged by Wickham for those very dances:--and to have Mr. Collins instead!her liveliness had been never worse timed.There was no help for it however.Mr. Wickham's happiness and her own was per force delayed a little longer, and Mr. Collins's proposal accepted with as good a grace as she could.She was not the better pleased with his gallantry, from the idea it suggested of something more.--Itnow first struck her, that she was selected from among her sisters as worthy of being the mistress of Hunsford Parsonage, and of assisting to form a quadrille table at Rosings, in the absence of more eligible visitors.The idea soon reached to conviction, as she observed his increasing civilities toward herself, and heard his frequent attempt at a compliment on her wit and vivacity; and though more astonished than gratified herself, by this effect of her charms, it was not long before her mother gave her to understand that the probability of their marriage was exceedingly agreeable to her.Elizabeth however did not chuse to take the hint, being well aware that a serious dispute must be the consequence of any reply.Mr. Collins might never make the offer, and till he did, it was useless to quarrel about him.
If there had not been a Netherfield ball to prepare for and talk of, the younger Miss Bennets would have been in a pitiable state at this time, for from the day of the invitation, to the day of the ball, there was such a succession of rain as prevented their walking to Meryton once.No aunt, no officers, no news could be sought after;--the very shoe-roses for Netherfield were got by proxy.Even Elizabeth might have found some trial of her patience in weather, which totally suspended the improvement of her acquaintance with Mr. Wickham; and nothing less than a dance on Tuesday, could have made such a Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, endurable to Kitty and Lydia.
Till Elizabeth entered the drawing-room at Netherfield and looked in vain for Mr. Wickham among the cluster of red coats there assembled, a doubt of his being present had never occurred to her.The certainty of meeting him had not been checked by any of those recollections that might not unreasonably have alarmed her.She had dressed with more than usual care, and prepared in the highest spirits for the conquest of all that remained unsubdued of his heart, trusting that it was not more than might be won in the course of the evening.This part of his intelligence, though unheard by Lydia, was caught by Elizabeth, and as it assured her that Darcy was not less answerable for Wickham's absence than if her first surmise had been just, every feeling of displeasure against the former was so sharpened by immediate disappointment, that she could hardly reply with tolerable civility to the polite inquiries which he directly afterwards approached to make.--Attention, forbearance, patience with Darcy, was injury to Wickham.She was resolved against any sort of conversation with him, and turned away with a degree of ill humour, which she could not wholly surmount even in speaking to Mr. Bingley, whose blind partiality provoked her.
But Elizabeth was not formed for ill-humour; and though every prospect of her own was destroyed for the evening, it could not dwell long on her spirits; and having told all her griefs to Charlotte Lucas, whom she had not seen for a week, she was soon able to make a voluntary transition to the oddities of her cousin, and to point him out to her particular notice.The two first dances, however, brought a return of distress; they were dances of mortification.Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn, apologising instead of attending, and often moving wrong without being aware of it, gave her all the shame and misery which a disagreeable partner for a couple of dances can give.The moment of her release from him was ecstacy.
She danced next with an officer, and had the refreshment of talking of Wickham, and of hearing that he was universally liked.When those dances were over she returned to Charlotte Lucas, and was in conversation with her, when she found herself suddenly addressed by Mr. Darcy, who took her so much by surprise in his application for her hand, that, without knowing what she did, she accepted him.He walked away again immediately, and she was left to fret over her own want of presence of mind; Charlotte tried to console her.
When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to claim her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her in a whisper not to be a simpleton and allow her fancy for Wickham to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man of ten times his consequence.Elizabeth made no answer, and took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her neighbours' looks their equal amazement in beholding it.They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the dance.He replied, and was again silent.After a pause of some minutes she addressed him a second time with
He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.
The effect was immediate.A deeper shade of hauteur overspread his features, but he said not a word, and Elizabeth, though blaming herself for her own weakness, could not go on.Darcy made no answer, and seemed desirous of changing the subject.At that moment Sir William Lucas appeared close to them, meaning to pass through the set to the other side of the room; but on perceiving Mr. Darcy he stopt with a bow of superior courtesy to compliment him on his dancing and his partner.
The latter part of this address was scarcely heard by Darcy; but Sir William's allusion to his friend seemed to strike him forcibly, and his eyes were directed with a very serious expression towards Bingley and Jane, who were dancing together.She then changed the discourse to one more gratifying to each, and on which there could be no difference of sentiment.Elizabeth listened with delight to the happy, though modest hopes which Jane entertained of Bingley's regard, and said all in her power to heighten her confidence in it.On their being joined by Mr. Bingley himself, Elizabeth withdrew to Miss Lucas; to whose inquiry after the pleasantness of her last partner she had scarcely replied, before Mr. Collins came up to them and told her with great exultation that he had just been so fortunate as to make a most important discovery.
Elizabeth tried hard to dissuade him from such a scheme; assuring him that Mr. Darcy would consider his addressing him without introduction as an impertinent freedom, rather than a compliment to his aunt; that it was not in the least necessary there should be any notice on either side, and that if it were, it must belong to Mr. Darcy, the superior in consequence, to begin the acquaintance.--Mr.As Elizabeth had no longer any interest of her own to pursue, she turned her attention almost entirely on her sister and Mr. Bingley, and the train of agreeable reflections which her observations gave birth to, made her perhaps almost as happy as Jane.She saw her in idea settled in that very house in all the felicity which a marriage of true affection could bestow; and she felt capable under such circumstances, of endeavouring even to like Bingley's two sisters.Her mother's thoughts she plainly saw were bent the same way, and she determined not to venture near her, lest she might hear too much.When they sat down to supper, therefore, she considered it a most unlucky perverseness which placed them within one of each other; and deeply was she vexed to find that her mother was talking to that one person (Lady Lucas) freely, openly, and of nothing else but of her expectation that Jane would be soon married to Mr. Bingley.--Itwas an animating subject, and Mrs. Bennet seemed incapable of fatigue while enumerating the advantages of the match.His being such a charming young man, and so rich, and living but three miles from them, were the first points of self-gratulation; and then it was such a comfort to think how fond the two sisters were of Jane, and to be certain that they must desire the connection as much as she could do.It was, moreover, such a promising thing for her younger daughters, as Jane's marrying so greatly must throw them in the way of other rich men; and lastly, it was so pleasant at her time of life to be able to consign her single daughters to the care of their sister, that she might not be obliged to go into company more than she liked.It was necessary to make this circumstance a matter of pleasure, because on such occasions it is the etiquette; but no one was less likely than Mrs. Bennet to find comfort in staying at home at any period of her life.She concluded with many good wishes that Lady Lucas might soon be equally fortunate, though evidently and triumphantly believing there was no chance of it.
In vain did Elizabeth endeavour to check the rapidity of her mother's words, or persuade her to describe her felicity in a less audible whisper; for to her inexpressible vexation, she could perceive that the chief of it was overheard by Mr. Darcy, who sat opposite to them.Her mother only scolded her for being nonsensical.
Nothing that she could say, however, had any influence.Her mother would talk of her views in the same intelligible tone.Elizabeth blushed and blushed again with shame and vexation.She could not help frequently glancing her eye at Mr. Darcy, though every glance convinced her of what she dreaded; for though he was not always looking at her mother, she was convinced that his attention was invariably fixed by her.The expression of his face changed gradually from indignant contempt to a composed and steady gravity.
At length however Mrs. Bennet had no more to say; and Lady Lucas, who had been long yawning at the repetition of delights which she saw no likelihood of sharing, was left to the comforts of cold ham and chicken.Elizabeth now began to revive.But not long was the interval of tranquillity; for when supper was over, singing was talked of, and she had the mortification of seeing Mary, after very little entreaty, preparing to oblige the company.By many significant looks and silent entreaties, did she endeavour to prevent such a proof of complaisance,--but in vain; Mary would not understand them; such an opportunity of exhibiting was delightful to her, and she began her song.Elizabeth's eyes were fixed on her with most painful sensations; and she watched her progress through the several stanzas with an impatience which was very ill rewarded at their close; for Mary, on receiving amongst the thanks of the table, the hint of a hope that she might be prevailed on to favour them again, after the pause of half a minute began another.Mary's powers were by no means fitted for such a display; her voice was weak, and her manner affected.--Elizabethwas in agonies.She looked at Jane, to see how she bore it; but Jane was very composedly talking to Bingley.She looked at his two sisters, and saw them making signs of derision at each other, and at Darcy, who continued however impenetrably grave.She looked at her father to entreat his interference, lest Mary should be singing all night.Mary, though pretending not to hear, was somewhat disconcerted; and Elizabeth sorry for her, and sorry for her father's speech, was afraid her anxiety had done no good.--Others of the party were now applied to.
To Elizabeth it appeared, that had her family made an agreement to expose themselves as much as they could during the evening, it would have been impossible for them to play their parts with more spirit, or finer success; and happy did she think it for Bingley and her sister that some of the exhibition had escaped his notice, and that his feelings were not of a sort to be much distressed by the folly which he must have witnessed.That his two sisters and Mr. Darcy, however, should have such an opportunity of ridiculing her relations was bad enough, and she could not determine whether the silent contempt of the gentleman, or the insolent smiles of the ladies, were more intolerable.
The rest of the evening brought her little amusement.She was teazed by Mr. Collins, who continued most perseveringly by her side, and though he could not prevail with her to dance with him again, put it out of her power to dance with others.In vain did she entreat him to stand up with somebody else, and offer to introduce him to any young lady in the room.He assured her that as to dancing, he was perfectly indifferent to it; that his chief object was by delicate attentions to recommend himself to her, and that he should therefore make a point of remaining close to her the whole evening.There was no arguing upon such a project.She owed her greatest relief to her friend Miss Lucas, who often joined them, and good-naturedly engaged Mr. Collins's conversation to herself.
She was at least free from the offence of Mr. Darcy's farther notice; though often standing within a very short distance of her, quite disengaged, he never came near enough to speak.She felt it to be the probable consequence of her allusions to Mr. Wickham, and rejoiced in it.
When at length they arose to take leave, Mrs. Bennet was most pressingly civil in her hope of seeing the whole family soon at Longbourn; and addressed herself particularly to Mr. Bingley, to assure him how happy he would make them, by eating a family dinner with them at any time, without the ceremony of a formal invitation.Bingley was all grateful pleasure, and he readily engaged for taking the earliest opportunity of waiting on her, after his return from London, whither he was obliged to go the next day for a short time.
Mrs. Bennet was perfectly satisfied; and quitted the house under the delightful persuasion that, allowing for the necessary preparations of settlements, new carriages and wedding clothes, she should undoubtedly see her daughter settled at Netherfield, in the course of three or four months.Of having another daughter married to Mr. Collins, she thought with equal certainty, and with considerable, though not equal, pleasure.Elizabeth was the least dear to her of all her children; and though the man and the match were quite good enough for her, the worth of each was eclipsed by Mr. Bingley and Netherfield.
The next day opened a new scene at Longbourn.Mr. Collins made his declaration in form.Having resolved to do it without loss of time, as his leave of absence extended only to the following Saturday, and having no feelings of diffidence to make it distressing to himself even at the moment, he set about it in a very orderly manner, with all the observances which he supposed a regular part of the business.Elizabeth would not oppose such an injunction--and a moment's consideration making her also sensible that it would be wisest to get it over as soon and as quietly as possible, she sat down again, and tried to conceal by incessant employment the feelings which were divided between distress and diversion.Mrs. Bennet and Kitty walked off, and as soon as they were gone Mr. Collins began.
The idea of Mr. Collins, with all his solemn composure, being run away with by his feelings, made Elizabeth so near laughing that she could not use the short pause he allowed in any attempt to stop him farther, and he continued:
It was absolutely necessary to interrupt him now.
To such perseverance in wilful self-deception Elizabeth would make no reply, and immediately and in silence withdrew; determined, if he persisted in considering her repeated refusals as flattering encouragement, to apply to her father, whose negative might be uttered in such a manner as must be decisive, and whose behaviour at least could not be mistaken for the affectation and coquetry of an elegant female.
Mr. Collins was not left long to the silent contemplation of his successful love; for Mrs. Bennet, having dawdled about in the vestibule to watch for the end of the conference, no sooner saw Elizabeth open the door and with quick step pass her towards the staircase, than she entered the breakfast-room, and congratulated both him and herself in warm terms on the happy prospect of their nearer connection.Mr. Collins received and returned these felicitations with equal pleasure, and then proceeded to relate the particulars of their interview, with the result of which he trusted he had every reason to be satisfied, since the refusal which his cousin had steadfastly given him would naturally flow from her bashful modesty and the genuine delicacy of her character.
This information, however, startled Mrs. Bennet;--she would have been glad to be equally satisfied that her daughter had meant to encourage him by protesting against his proposals, but she dared not to believe it, and could not help saying so.
Mr. Bennet raised his eyes from his book as she entered, and fixed them on her face with a calm unconcern which was not in the least altered by her communication.
Mrs. Bennet rang the bell, and Miss Elizabeth was summoned to the library.
Elizabeth could not but smile at such a conclusion of such a beginning; but Mrs. Bennet, who had persuaded herself that her husband regarded the affair as she wished, was excessively disappointed.
Not yet, however, in spite of her disappointment in her husband, did Mrs.Bennet give up the point.She talked to Elizabeth again and again; coaxed and threatened her by turns.She endeavoured to secure Jane in her interest, but Jane with all possible mildness declined interfering;--and Elizabeth sometimes with real earnestness and sometimes with playful gaiety replied to her attacks.Though her manner varied however, her determination never did.
Mr. Collins, meanwhile, was meditating in solitude on what had passed.He thought too well of himself to comprehend on what motive his cousin could refuse him; and though his pride was hurt, he suffered in no other way.His regard for her was quite imaginary; and the possibility of her deserving her mother's reproach prevented his feeling any regret.
Charlotte's reply was spared by the entrance of Jane and Elizabeth.
Her daughters listened in silence to this effusion, sensible that any attempt to reason with or sooth her would only increase the irritation.CHAPTER XXI.
The discussion of Mr. Collins's offer was now nearly at an end, and Elizabeth had only to suffer from the uncomfortable feelings necessarily attending it, and occasionally from some peevish allusion of her mother.As for the gentleman himself, his feelings were chiefly expressed, not by embarrassment or dejection, or by trying to avoid her, but by stiffness of manner and resentful silence.He scarcely ever spoke to her, and the assiduous attentions which he had been so sensible of himself, were transferred for the rest of the day to Miss Lucas, whose civility in listening to him, was a seasonable relief to them all, and especially to her friend.
The morrow produced no abatement of Mrs. Bennet's ill humour or ill health.Mr. Collins was also in the same state of angry pride.Elizabeth had hoped that his resentment might shorten his visit, but his plan did not appear in the least affected by it.He was always to have gone on Saturday, and to Saturday he still meant to stay.
After breakfast, the girls walked to Meryton to inquire if Mr. Wickham were returned, and to lament over his absence from the Netherfield ball.He joined them on their entering the town and attended them to their aunt's, where his regret and vexation, and the concern of every body was well talked over.--ToElizabeth, however, he voluntarily acknowledged that the necessity of his absence had been self imposed.
She highly approved his forbearance, and they had leisure for a full discussion of it, and for all the commendation which they civilly bestowed on each other, as Wickham and another officer walked back with them to Longbourn, and during the walk, he particularly attended to her.His accompanying them was a double advantage; she felt all the compliment it offered to herself, and it was most acceptable as an occasion of introducing him to her father and mother.
Soon after their return, a letter was delivered to Miss Bennet; it came from Netherfield, and was opened immediately.The envelope contained a sheet of elegant, little, hot pressed paper, well covered with a lady's fair, flowing hand; and Elizabeth saw her sister's countenance change as she read it, and saw her dwelling intently on some particular passages.Jane recollected herself soon, and putting the letter away, tried to join with her usual cheerfulness in the general conversation; but Elizabeth felt an anxiety on the subject which drew off her attention even from Wickham; and no sooner had he and his companion taken leave, than a glance from Jane invited her to follow her up stairs.Jane shook her head.
The idea of his returning no more Elizabeth treated with the utmost contempt.It appeared to her merely the suggestion of Caroline's interested wishes, and she could not for a moment suppose that those wishes, however openly or artfully spoken, could influence a young man so totally independent of every one.
She represented to her sister as forcibly as possible what she felt on the subject, and had soon the pleasure of seeing its happy effect.Jane's temper was not desponding, and she was gradually led to hope, though the diffidence of affection sometimes overcame the hope, that Bingley would return to Netherfield and answer every wish of her heart.
They agreed that Mrs. Bennet should only hear of the departure of the family, without being alarmed on the score of the gentleman's conduct; but even this partial communication gave her a great deal of concern, and she bewailed it as exceedingly unlucky that the ladies should happen to go away, just as they were all getting so intimate together.After lamenting it however at some length, she had the consolation of thinking that Mr. Bingley would be soon down again and soon dining at Longbourn, and the conclusion of all was the comfortable declaration that, though he had been invited only to a family dinner, she would take care to have two full courses.
In as short a time as Mr. Collins's long speeches would allow, every thing was settled between them to the satisfaction of both; and as they entered the house, he earnestly entreated her to name the day that was to make him the happiest of men; and though such a solicitation must be waved for the present, the lady felt no inclination to trifle with his happiness.The stupidity with which he was favoured by nature, must guard his courtship from any charm that could make a woman wish for its continuance; and Miss Lucas, who accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment, cared not how soon that establishment were gained.
Sir William and Lady Lucas were speedily applied to for their consent; and it was bestowed with a most joyful alacrity.Mr. Collins's present circumstances made it a most eligible match for their daughter, to whom they could give little fortune; and his prospects of future wealth were exceedingly fair.Lady Lucas began directly to calculate with more interest than the matter had ever excited before, how many years longer Mr. Bennet was likely to live; and Sir William gave it as his decided opinion, that whenever Mr. Collins should be in possession of the Longbourn estate, it would be highly expedient that both he and his wife should make their appearance at St. James's.The whole family in short were properly overjoyed on the occasion.The younger girls formed hopes of coming out a year or two sooner than they might otherwise have done; and the boys were relieved from their apprehension of Charlotte's dying an old maid.Charlotte herself was tolerably composed.She had gained her point, and had time to consider of it.Her reflections were in general satisfactory.Mr. Collins to be sure was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary.But still he would be her husband.--Withoutthinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.This preservative she had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it.The least agreeable circumstance in the business, was the surprise it must occasion to Elizabeth Bennet, whose friendship she valued beyond that of any other person.Elizabeth would wonder, and probably would blame her; and though her resolution was not to be shaken, her feelings must be hurt by such disapprobation.She resolved to give her the information herself, and therefore charged Mr. Collins when he returned to Longbourn to dinner, to drop no hint of what had passed before any of the family.A promise of secrecy was of course very dutifully given, but it could not be kept without difficulty; for the curiosity excited by his long absence, burst forth in such very direct questions on his return, as required some ingenuity to evade, and he was at the same time exercising great self-denial, for he was longing to publish his prosperous love.
As he was to begin his journey too early on the morrow to see any of the family, the ceremony of leave-taking was performed when the ladies moved for the night; and Mrs. Bennet with great politeness and cordiality said how happy they should be to see him at Longbourn again, whenever his other engagements might allow him to visit them.
With proper civilities the ladies then withdrew; all of them equally surprised to find that he meditated a quick return.Mrs. Bennet wished to understand by it that he thought of paying his addresses to one of her younger girls, and Mary might have been prevailed on to accept him.She rated his abilities much higher than any of the others; there was a solidity in his reflections which often struck her, and though by no means so clever as herself, she thought that if encouraged to read and improve himself by such an example as her's, he might become a very agreeable companion.But on the following morning, every hope of this kind was done away.Miss Lucas called soon after breakfast, and in a private conference with Elizabeth related the event of the day before.
But Elizabeth had now recollected herself, and making a strong effort for it, was able to assure her with tolerable firmness that the prospect of their relationship was highly grateful to her, and that she wished her all imaginable happiness.
Elizabeth was sitting with her mother and sisters, reflecting on what she had heard, and doubting whether she were authorised to mention it, when Sir William Lucas himself appeared, sent by his daughter to announce her engagement to the family.Nothing less than the complaisance of a courtier could have borne without anger such treatment; but Sir William's good breeding carried him through it all; and though he begged leave to be positive as to the truth of his information, he listened to all their impertinence with the most forbearing courtesy.
Elizabeth, feeling it incumbent on her to relieve him from so unpleasant a situation, now put herself forward to confirm his account, by mentioning her prior knowledge of it from Charlotte herself; and endeavoured to put a stop to the exclamations of her mother and sisters, by the earnestness of her congratulations to Sir William, in which she was readily joined by Jane, and by making a variety of remarks on the happiness that might be expected from the match, the excellent character of Mr. Collins, and the convenient distance of Hunsford from London.
Mrs. Bennet was in fact too much overpowered to say a great deal while Sir William remained; but no sooner had he left them than her feelings found a rapid vent.In the first place, she persisted in disbelieving the whole of the matter; secondly, she was very sure that Mr. Collins had been taken in; thirdly, she trusted that they would never be happy together; and fourthly, that the match might be broken off.Two inferences, however, were plainly deduced from the whole; one, that Elizabeth was the real cause of all the mischief; and the other, that she herself had been barbarously used by them all; and on these two points she principally dwelt during the rest of the day.Nothing could console and nothing appease her.--Nor did that day wear out her resentment.A week elapsed before she could see Elizabeth without scolding her, a month passed away before she could speak to Sir William or Lady Lucas without being rude, and many months were gone before she could at all forgive their daughter.
Mr. Bennet's emotions were much more tranquil on the occasion, and such as he did experience he pronounced to be of a most agreeable sort; for it gratified him, he said, to discover that Charlotte Lucas, whom he had been used to think tolerably sensible, was as foolish as his wife, and more foolish than his daughter!
Jane confessed herself a little surprised at the match; but she said less of her astonishment than of her earnest desire for their happiness; nor could Elizabeth persuade her to consider it as improbable.Kitty and Lydia were far from envying Miss Lucas, for Mr. Collins was only a clergyman; and it affected them in no other way than as a piece of news to spread at Meryton.
Lady Lucas could not be insensible of triumph on being able to retort on Mrs. Bennet the comfort of having a daughter well married; and she called at Longbourn rather oftener than usual to say how happy she was, though Mrs. Bennet's sour looks and ill-natured remarks might have been enough to drive happiness away.
Between Elizabeth and Charlotte there was a restraint which kept them mutually silent on the subject; and Elizabeth felt persuaded that no real confidence could ever subsist between them again.Her disappointment in Charlotte made her turn with fonder regard to her sister, of whose rectitude and delicacy she was sure her opinion could never be shaken, and for whose happiness she grew daily more anxious, as Bingley had now been gone a week, and nothing was heard of his return.
Jane had sent Caroline an early answer to her letter, and was counting the days till she might reasonably hope to hear again.The promised letter of thanks from Mr. Collins arrived on Tuesday, addressed to their father, and written with all the solemnity of gratitude which a twelvemonth's abode in the family might have prompted.After discharging his conscience on that head, he proceeded to inform them, with many rapturous expressions, of his happiness in having obtained the affection of their amiable neighbour, Miss Lucas, and then explained that it was merely with the view of enjoying her society that he had been so ready to close with their kind wish of seeing him again at Longbourn, whither he hoped to be able to return on Monday fortnight; for Lady Catherine, he added, so heartily approved his marriage, that she wished it to take place as soon as possible, which he trusted would be an unanswerable argument with his amiable Charlotte to name an early day for making him the happiest of men.
Mr. Collins's return into Hertfordshire was no longer a matter of pleasure to Mrs. Bennet.On the contrary she was as much disposed to complain of it as her husband.--Itwas very strange that he should come to Longbourn instead of to Lucas Lodge; it was also very inconvenient and exceedingly troublesome.--Shehated having visitors in the house while her health was so indifferent, and lovers were of all people the most disagreeable.Such were the gentle murmurs of Mrs. Bennet, and they gave way only to the greater distress of Mr. Bingley's continued absence.
Neither Jane nor Elizabeth were comfortable on this subject.Day after day passed away without bringing any other tidings of him than the report which shortly prevailed in Meryton of his coming no more to Netherfield the whole winter; a report which highly incensed Mrs. Bennet, and which she never failed to contradict as a most scandalous falsehood.
Even Elizabeth began to fear--not that Bingley was indifferent--but that his sisters would be successful in keeping him away.Unwilling as she was to admit an idea so destructive of Jane's happiness, and so dishonourable to the stability of her lover, she could not prevent its frequently recurring.The united efforts of his two unfeeling sisters and of his overpowering friend, assisted by the attractions of Miss Darcy and the amusements of London, might be too much, she feared, for the strength of his attachment.
As for Jane, her anxiety under this suspence was, of course, more painful than Elizabeth's; but whatever she felt she was desirous of concealing, and between herself and Elizabeth, therefore, the subject was never alluded to.But as no such delicacy restrained her mother, an hour seldom passed in which she did not talk of Bingley, express her impatience for his arrival, or even require Jane to confess that if he did not come back, she should think herself very ill used.It needed all Jane's steady mildness to bear these attacks with tolerable tranquillity.
Mr. Collins returned most punctually on the Monday fortnight, but his reception at Longbourn was not quite so gracious as it had been on his first introduction.He was too happy, however, to need much attention; and luckily for the others, the business of love-making relieved them from a great deal of his company.The chief of every day was spent by him at Lucas Lodge, and he sometimes returned to Longbourn only in time to make an apology for his absence before the family went to bed.
Mrs. Bennet was really in a most pitiable state.The very mention of any thing concerning the match threw her into an agony of ill humour, and wherever she went she was sure of hearing it talked of.The sight of Miss Lucas was odious to her.As her successor in that house, she regarded her with jealous abhorrence.Whenever Charlotte came to see them she concluded her to be anticipating the hour of possession; and whenever she spoke in a low voice to Mr. Collins, was convinced that they were talking of the Longbourn estate, and resolving to turn herself and her daughters out of the house, as soon as Mr. Bennet were dead.She complained bitterly of all this to her husband.
END OF VOL.I.
[Illustration: A VICARAGE HOUSE.]
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE:
In Three Volumes.
London: Printed for T. Egerton, Military Library, Whitehall.1813.
PRIDE & PREJUDICE.
Miss Bingley's letter arrived, and put an end to doubt.The very first sentence conveyed the assurance of their being all settled in London for the winter, and concluded with her brother's regret at not having had time to pay his respects to his friends in Hertfordshire before he left the country.
Hope was over, entirely over; and when Jane could attend to the rest of the letter, she found little, except the professed affection of the writer, that could give her any comfort.Miss Darcy's praise occupied the chief of it.Her many attractions were again dwelt on, and Caroline boasted joyfully of their increasing intimacy, and ventured to predict the accomplishment of the wishes which had been unfolded in her former letter.She wrote also with great pleasure of her brother's being an inmate of Mr. Darcy's house, and mentioned with raptures, some plans of the latter with regard to new furniture.
Elizabeth, to whom Jane very soon communicated the chief of all this, heard it in silent indignation.Her heart was divided between concern for her sister, and resentment against all the others.To Caroline's assertion of her brother's being partial to Miss Darcy she paid no credit.That he was really fond of Jane, she doubted no more than she had ever done; and much as she had always been disposed to like him, she could not think without anger, hardly without contempt, on that easiness of temper, that want of proper resolution which now made him the slave of his designing friends, and led him to sacrifice his own happiness to the caprice of their inclinations.Had his own happiness, however, been the only sacrifice, he might have been allowed to sport with it in what ever manner he thought best; but her sister's was involved in it, as she thought he must be sensible himself.It was a subject, in short, on which reflection would be long indulged, and must be unavailing.She could think of nothing else, and yet whether Bingley's regard had really died away, or were suppressed by his friends' interference; whether he had been aware of Jane's attachment, or whether it had escaped his observation; whichever were the case, though her opinion of him must be materially affected by the difference, her sister's situation remained the same, her peace equally wounded.
Elizabeth looked at her sister with incredulous solicitude, but said nothing.
Miss Bennet eagerly disclaimed all extraordinary merit, and threw back the praise on her sister's warm affection.
Elizabeth could not oppose such a wish; and from this time Mr. Bingley's name was scarcely ever mentioned between them.
Mrs. Bennet still continued to wonder and repine at his returning no more, and though a day seldom passed in which Elizabeth did not account for it clearly, there seemed little chance of her ever considering it with less perplexity.Her daughter endeavoured to convince her of what she did not believe herself, that his attentions to Jane had been merely the effect of a common and transient liking, which ceased when he saw her no more; but though the probability of the statement was admitted at the time, she had the same story to repeat every day.Mrs. Bennet's best comfort was, that Mr. Bingley must be down again in the summer.
Mr. Wickham's society was of material service in dispelling the gloom, which the late perverse occurrences had thrown on many of the Longbourn family.They saw him often, and to his other recommendations was now added that of general unreserve.The whole of what Elizabeth had already heard, his claims on Mr. Darcy, and all that he had suffered from him, was now openly acknowledged and publicly canvassed; and every body was pleased to think how much they had always disliked Mr. Darcy before they had known any thing of the matter.
Miss Bennet was the only creature who could suppose there might be any extenuating circumstances in the case, unknown to the society of Hertfordshire; her mild and steady candour always pleaded for allowances, and urged the possibility of mistakes--but by everybody else Mr. Darcy was condemned as the worst of men.
After a week spent in professions of love and schemes of felicity, Mr. Collins was called from his amiable Charlotte by the arrival of Saturday.The pain of separation, however, might be alleviated on his side, by preparations for the reception of his bride, as he had reason to hope, that shortly after his next return into Hertfordshire, the day would be fixed that was to make him the happiest of men.He took leave of his relations at Longbourn with as much solemnity as before; wished his fair cousins health and happiness again, and promised their father another letter of thanks.
On the following Monday, Mrs. Bennet had the pleasure of receiving her brother and his wife, who came as usual to spend the Christmas at Longbourn.Mr. Gardiner was a sensible, gentleman-like man, greatly superior to his sister, as well by nature as education.The Netherfield ladies would have had difficulty in believing that a man who lived by trade, and within view of his own warehouses, could have been so well bred and agreeable.Mrs. Gardiner, who was several years younger than Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Philips, was an amiable, intelligent, elegant woman, and a great favourite with all her Longbourn nieces.Between the two eldest and herself especially, there subsisted a very particular regard.They had frequently been staying with her in town.
The first part of Mrs. Gardiner's business on her arrival, was to distribute her presents and describe the newest fashions.When this was done, she had a less active part to play.It became her turn to listen.Mrs. Bennet had many grievances to relate, and much to complain of.They had all been very ill-used since she last saw her sister.Two of her girls had been on the point of marriage, and after all there was nothing in it.
Mrs. Gardiner, to whom the chief of this news had been given before, in the course of Jane and Elizabeth's correspondence with her, made her sister a slight answer, and in compassion to her nieces turned the conversation.
Elizabeth was exceedingly pleased with this proposal, and felt persuaded of her sister's ready acquiescence.
But in spite of the certainty in which Elizabeth affected to place this point, as well as the still more interesting one of Bingley's being withheld from seeing Jane, she felt a solicitude on the subject which convinced her, on examination, that she did not consider it entirely hopeless.It was possible, and sometimes she thought it probable, that his affection might be re-animated, and the influence of his friends successfully combated by the more natural influence of Jane's attractions.
Miss Bennet accepted her aunt's invitation with pleasure; and the Bingleys were no otherwise in her thoughts at the time, than as she hoped that, by Caroline's not living in the same house with her brother, she might occasionally spend a morning with her, without any danger of seeing him.
The Gardiners staid a week at Longbourn; and what with the Philipses, the Lucases, and the officers, there was not a day without its engagement.Mrs. Bennet had so carefully provided for the entertainment of her brother and sister, that they did not once sit down to a family dinner.When the engagement was for home, some of the officers always made part of it, of which officers Mr. Wickham was sure to be one; and on these occasions, Mrs. Gardiner, rendered suspicious by Elizabeth's warm commendation of him, narrowly observed them both.Without supposing them, from what she saw, to be very seriously in love, their preference of each other was plain enough to make her a little uneasy; and she resolved to speak to Elizabeth on the subject before she left Hertfordshire, and represent to her the imprudence of encouraging such an attachment.
To Mrs. Gardiner, Wickham had one means of affording pleasure, unconnected with his general powers.About ten or a dozen years ago, before her marriage, she had spent a considerable time in that very part of Derbyshire, to which he belonged.They had, therefore, many acquaintance in common; and, though Wickham had been little there since the death of Darcy's father, five years before, it was yet in his power to give her fresher intelligence of her former friends, than she had been in the way of procuring.
Mrs. Gardiner had seen Pemberley, and known the late Mr. Darcy by character perfectly well.Here consequently was an inexhaustible subject of discourse.In comparing her recollection of Pemberley, with the minute description which Wickham could give, and in bestowing her tribute of praise on the character of its late possessor, she was delighting both him and herself.On being made acquainted with the present Mr. Darcy's treatment of him, she tried to remember something of that gentleman's reputed disposition when quite a lad, which might agree with it, and was confident at last, that she recollected having heard Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy formerly spoken of as a very proud, ill-natured boy.
Mrs. Gardiner's caution to Elizabeth was punctually and kindly given on the first favourable opportunity of speaking to her alone; after honestly telling her what she thought, she thus went on:
Her aunt assured her that she was; and Elizabeth having thanked her for the kindness of her hints, they parted; a wonderful instance of advice being given on such a point, without being resented.
Elizabeth could not refuse, though she foresaw little pleasure in the visit.
The wedding took place; the bride and bridegroom set off for Kent from the church door, and every body had as much to say or to hear on the subject as usual.Elizabeth soon heard from her friend; and their correspondence was as regular and frequent as it had ever been; that it should be equally unreserved was impossible.Elizabeth could never address her without feeling that all the comfort of intimacy was over, and, though determined not to slacken as a correspondent, it was for the sake of what had been, rather than what was.Charlotte's first letters were received with a good deal of eagerness; there could not but be curiosity to know how she would speak of her new home, how she would like Lady Catherine, and how happy she would dare pronounce herself to be; though, when the letters were read, Elizabeth felt that Charlotte expressed herself on every point exactly as she might have foreseen.She wrote cheerfully, seemed surrounded with comforts, and mentioned nothing which she could not praise.The house, furniture, neighbourhood, and roads, were all to her taste, and Lady Catherine's behaviour was most friendly and obliging.It was Mr. Collins's picture of Hunsford and Rosings rationally softened; and Elizabeth perceived that she must wait for her own visit there, to know the rest.
Jane had already written a few lines to her sister to announce their safe arrival in London; and when she wrote again, Elizabeth hoped it would be in her power to say something of the Bingleys.
Her impatience for this second letter was as well rewarded as impatience generally is.Jane had been a week in town, without either seeing or hearing from Caroline.She accounted for it, however, by supposing that her last letter to her friend from Longbourn, had by some accident been lost.
Elizabeth shook her head over this letter.It convinced her, that accident only could discover to Mr. Bingley her sister's being in town.
Four weeks passed away, and Jane saw nothing of him.She endeavoured to persuade herself that she did not regret it; but she could no longer be blind to Miss Bingley's inattention.After waiting at home every morning for a fortnight, and inventing every evening a fresh excuse for her, the visitor did at last appear; but the shortness of her stay, and yet more, the alteration of her manner, would allow Jane to deceive herself no longer.The letter which she wrote on this occasion to her sister, will prove what she felt.
This letter gave Elizabeth some pain; but her spirits returned as she considered that Jane would no longer be duped, by the sister at least.All expectation from the brother was now absolutely over.She would not even wish for any renewal of his attentions.His character sunk on every review of it; and as a punishment for him, as well as a possible advantage to Jane, she seriously hoped he might really soon marry Mr. Darcy's sister, as, by Wickham's account, she would make him abundantly regret what he had thrown away.
Mrs. Gardiner about this time reminded Elizabeth of her promise concerning that gentleman, and required information; and Elizabeth had such to send as might rather give contentment to her aunt than to herself.His apparent partiality had subsided, his attentions were over, he was the admirer of some one else.Elizabeth was watchful enough to see it all, but she could see it and write of it without material pain.Her heart had been but slightly touched, and her vanity was satisfied with believing that she would have been his only choice, had fortune permitted it.The sudden acquisition of ten thousand pounds was the most remarkable charm of the young lady, to whom he was now rendering himself agreeable; but Elizabeth, less clear-sighted perhaps in his case than in Charlotte's, did not quarrel with him for his wish of independence.Nothing, on the contrary, could be more natural; and while able to suppose that it cost him a few struggles to relinquish her, she was ready to allow it a wise and desirable measure for both, and could very sincerely wish him happy.
With no greater events than these in the Longbourn family, and otherwise diversified by little beyond the walks to Meryton, sometimes dirty and sometimes cold, did January and February pass away.March was to take Elizabeth to Hunsford.She had not at first thought very seriously of going thither; but Charlotte, she soon found, was depending on the plan, and she gradually learned to consider it herself with greater pleasure as well as greater certainty.Absence had increased her desire of seeing Charlotte again, and weakened her disgust of Mr. Collins.There was novelty in the scheme, and as, with such a mother and such uncompanionable sisters, home could not be faultless, a little change was not unwelcome for its own sake.The journey would moreover give her a peep at Jane; and, in short, as the time drew near, she would have been very sorry for any delay.Every thing, however, went on smoothly, and was finally settled according to Charlotte's first sketch.She was to accompany Sir William and his second daughter.The improvement of spending a night in London was added in time, and the plan became perfect as plan could be.
The only pain was in leaving her father, who would certainly miss her, and who, when it came to the point, so little liked her going, that he told her to write to him, and almost promised to answer her letter.
The farewell between herself and Mr. Wickham was perfectly friendly; on his side even more.His present pursuit could not make him forget that Elizabeth had been the first to excite and to deserve his attention, the first to listen and to pity, the first to be admired; and in his manner of bidding her adieu, wishing her every enjoyment, reminding her of what she was to expect in Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and trusting their opinion of her--their opinion of every body--would always coincide, there was a solicitude, an interest which she felt must ever attach her to him with a most sincere regard; and she parted from him convinced, that whether married or single, he must always be her model of the amiable and pleasing.
Her fellow-travellers the next day, were not of a kind to make her think him less agreeable.Sir William Lucas, and his daughter Maria, a good humoured girl, but as empty-headed as himself, had nothing to say that could be worth hearing, and were listened to with about as much delight as the rattle of the chaise.Elizabeth loved absurdities, but she had known Sir William's too long.He could tell her nothing new of the wonders of his presentation and knighthood; and his civilities were worn out like his information.
It was a journey of only twenty-four miles, and they began it so early as to be in Gracechurch-street by noon.As they drove to Mr. Gardiner's door, Jane was at a drawing-room window watching their arrival; when they entered the passage she was there to welcome them, and Elizabeth, looking earnestly in her face, was pleased to see it healthful and lovely as ever.On the stairs were a troop of little boys and girls, whose eagerness for their cousin's appearance would not allow them to wait in the drawing-room, and whose shyness, as they had not seen her for a twelvemonth, prevented their coming lower.All was joy and kindness.The day passed most pleasantly away; the morning in bustle and shopping, and the evening at one of the theatres.
Elizabeth then contrived to sit by her aunt.Their first subject was her sister; and she was more grieved than astonished to hear, in reply to her minute enquiries, that though Jane always struggled to support her spirits, there were periods of dejection.It was reasonable, however, to hope, that they would not continue long.Mrs. Gardiner gave her the particulars also of Miss Bingley's visit in Gracechurch-street, and repeated conversations occurring at different times between Jane and herself, which proved that the former had, from her heart, given up the acquaintance.
Mrs. Gardiner then rallied her niece on Wickham's desertion, and complimented her on bearing it so well.
Before they were separated by the conclusion of the play, she had the unexpected happiness of an invitation to accompany her uncle and aunt in a tour of pleasure which they proposed taking in the summer.
Every object in the next day's journey was new and interesting to Elizabeth; and her spirits were in a state for enjoyment; for she had seen her sister looking so well as to banish all fear for her health, and the prospect of her northern tour was a constant source of delight.
When they left the high road for the lane to Hunsford, every eye was in search of the Parsonage, and every turning expected to bring it in view.The paling of Rosings Park was their boundary on one side.Elizabeth smiled at the recollection of all that she had heard of its inhabitants.
At length the Parsonage was discernible.The garden sloping to the road, the house standing in it, the green pales and the laurel hedge, every thing declared they were arriving.Mr. Collins and Charlotte appeared at the door, and the carriage stopped at the small gate, which led by a short gravel walk to the house, amidst the nods and smiles of the whole party.In a moment they were all out of the chaise, rejoicing at the sight of each other.Mrs. Collins welcomed her friend with the liveliest pleasure, and Elizabeth was more and more satisfied with coming, when she found herself so affectionately received.She saw instantly that her cousin's manners were not altered by his marriage; his formal civility was just what it had been, and he detained her some minutes at the gate to hear and satisfy his enquiries after all her family.They were then, with no other delay than his pointing out the neatness of the entrance, taken into the house; and as soon as they were in the parlour, he welcomed them a second time with ostentatious formality to his humble abode, and punctually repeated all his wife's offers of refreshment.
Elizabeth was prepared to see him in his glory; and she could not help fancying that in displaying the good proportion of the room, its aspect and its furniture, he addressed himself particularly to her, as if wishing to make her feel what she had lost in refusing him.But though every thing seemed neat and comfortable, she was not able to gratify him by any sigh of repentance; and rather looked with wonder at her friend that she could have so cheerful an air, with such a companion.When Mr. Collins said any thing of which his wife might reasonably be ashamed, which certainly was not unseldom, she involuntarily turned her eye on Charlotte.Once or twice she could discern a faint blush; but in general Charlotte wisely did not hear.After sitting long enough to admire every article of furniture in the room, from the sideboard to the fender, to give an account of their journey and of all that had happened in London, Mr. Collins invited them to take a stroll in the garden, which was large and well laid out, and to the cultivation of which he attended himself.To work in his garden was one of his most respectable pleasures; and Elizabeth admired the command of countenance with which Charlotte talked of the healthfulness of the exercise, and owned she encouraged it as much as possible.Here, leading the way through every walk and cross walk, and scarcely allowing them an interval to utter the praises he asked for, every view was pointed out with a minuteness which left beauty entirely behind.He could number the fields in every direction, and could tell how many trees there were in the most distant clump.But of all the views which his garden, or which the country, or the kingdom could boast, none were to be compared with the prospect of Rosings, afforded by an opening in the trees that bordered the park nearly opposite the front of his house.It was a handsome modern building, well situated on rising ground.
From his garden, Mr. Collins would have led them round his two meadows, but the ladies not having shoes to encounter the remains of a white frost, turned back; and while Sir William accompanied him, Charlotte took her sister and friend over the house, extremely well pleased, probably, to have the opportunity of shewing it without her husband's help.It was rather small, but well built and convenient; and every thing was fitted up and arranged with a neatness and consistency of which Elizabeth gave Charlotte all the credit.When Mr. Collins could be forgotten, there was really a great air of comfort throughout, and by Charlotte's evident enjoyment of it, Elizabeth supposed he must be often forgotten.
She had already learnt that Lady Catherine was still in the country.The evening was spent chiefly in talking over Hertfordshire news, and telling again what had been already written; and when it closed, Elizabeth in the solitude of her chamber had to meditate upon Charlotte's degree of contentment, to understand her address in guiding, and composure in bearing with her husband, and to acknowledge that it was all done very well.She had also to anticipate how her visit would pass, the quiet tenor of their usual employments, the vexatious interruptions of Mr. Collins, and the gaieties of their intercourse with Rosings.A lively imagination soon settled it all.
About the middle of the next day, as she was in her room getting ready for a walk, a sudden noise below seemed to speak the whole house in confusion; and after listening a moment, she heard somebody running up stairs in a violent hurry, and calling loudly after her.Elizabeth asked questions in vain; Maria would tell her nothing more, and down they ran into the dining-room, which fronted the lane, in quest of this wonder; it was two ladies stopping in a low phaeton at the garden gate.
Mr. Collins and Charlotte were both standing at the gate in conversation with the ladies; and Sir William, to Elizabeth's high diversion, was stationed in the doorway, in earnest contemplation of the greatness before him, and constantly bowing whenever Miss De Bourgh looked that way.
At length there was nothing more to be said; the ladies drove on, and the others returned into the house.Mr. Collins no sooner saw the two girls than he began to congratulate them on their good fortune, which Charlotte explained by letting them know that the whole party was asked to dine at Rosings the next day.
Mr. Collins's triumph in consequence of this invitation was complete.The power of displaying the grandeur of his patroness to his wondering visitors, and of letting them see her civility towards himself and his wife, was exactly what he had wished for; and that an opportunity of doing it should be given so soon, was such an instance of Lady Catherine's condescension as he knew not how to admire enough.
Scarcely any thing was talked of the whole day or next morning, but their visit to Rosings.Mr. Collins was carefully instructing them in what they were to expect, that the sight of such rooms, so many servants, and so splendid a dinner might not wholly overpower them.
While they were dressing, he came two or three times to their different doors, to recommend their being quick, as Lady Catherine very much objected to be kept waiting for her dinner.--Suchformidable accounts of her Ladyship, and her manner of living, quite frightened Maria Lucas, who had been little used to company, and she looked forward to her introduction at Rosings, with as much apprehension, as her father had done to his presentation at St. James's.
As the weather was fine, they had a pleasant walk of about half a mile across the park.--Every park has its beauty and its prospects; and Elizabeth saw much to be pleased with, though she could not be in such raptures as Mr. Collins expected the scene to inspire, and was but slightly affected by his enumeration of the windows in front of the house, and his relation of what the glazing altogether had originally cost Sir Lewis De Bourgh.
When they ascended the steps to the hall, Maria's alarm was every moment increasing, and even Sir William did not look perfectly calm.--Elizabeth'scourage did not fail her.She had heard nothing of Lady Catherine that spoke her awful from any extraordinary talents or miraculous virtue, and the mere stateliness of money and rank, she thought she could witness without trepidation.
From the entrance hall, of which Mr. Collins pointed out, with a rapturous air, the fine proportion and finished ornaments, they followed the servants through an anti-chamber, to the room where Lady Catherine, her daughter, and Mrs. Jenkinson were sitting.--HerLadyship, with great condescension, arose to receive them; and as Mrs. Collins had settled it with her husband that the office of introduction should be her's, it was performed in a proper manner, without any of those apologies and thanks which he would have thought necessary.
In spite of having been at St. James's, Sir William was so completely awed, by the grandeur surrounding him, that he had but just courage enough to make a very low bow, and take his seat without saying a word; and his daughter, frightened almost out of her senses, sat on the edge of her chair, not knowing which way to look.Elizabeth found herself quite equal to the scene, and could observe the three ladies before her composedly.--LadyCatherine was a tall, large woman, with strongly-marked features, which might once have been handsome.Her air was not conciliating, nor was her manner of receiving them, such as to make her visitors forget their inferior rank.She was not rendered formidable by silence; but whatever she said, was spoken in so authoritative a tone, as marked her self-importance, and brought Mr. Wickham immediately to Elizabeth's mind; and from the observation of the day altogether, she believed Lady Catherine to be exactly what he had represented.
When, after examining the mother, in whose countenance and deportment she soon found some resemblance of Mr. Darcy, she turned her eyes on the daughter, she could almost have joined in Maria's astonishment, at her being so thin, and so small.There was neither in figure nor face, any likeness between the ladies.Miss De Bourgh was pale and sickly; her features, though not plain, were insignificant; and she spoke very little, except in a low voice, to Mrs. Jenkinson, in whose appearance there was nothing remarkable, and who was entirely engaged in listening to what she said, and placing a screen in the proper direction before her eyes.
After sitting a few minutes, they were all sent to one of the windows, to admire the view, Mr. Collins attending them to point out its beauties, and Lady Catherine kindly informing them that it was much better worth looking at in the summer.
The dinner was exceedingly handsome, and there were all the servants, and all the articles of plate which Mr. Collins had promised; and, as he had likewise foretold, he took his seat at the bottom of the table, by her ladyship's desire, and looked as if he felt that life could furnish nothing greater.--Hecarved, and ate, and praised with delighted alacrity; and every dish was commended, first by him, and then by Sir William, who was now enough recovered to echo whatever his son in law said, in a manner which Elizabeth wondered Lady Catherine could bear.But Lady Catherine seemed gratified by their excessive admiration, and gave most gracious smiles, especially when any dish on the table proved a novelty to them.The party did not supply much conversation.Elizabeth was ready to speak whenever there was an opening, but she was seated between Charlotte and Miss De Bourgh--the former of whom was engaged in listening to Lady Catherine, and the latter said not a word to her all dinner time.Mrs. Jenkinson was chiefly employed in watching how little Miss De Bourgh ate, pressing her to try some other dish, and fearing she were indisposed.Maria thought speaking out of the question, and the gentlemen did nothing but eat and admire.
When the ladies returned to the drawing-room, there was little to be done but to hear Lady Catherine talk, which she did without any intermission till coffee came in, delivering her opinion on every subject in so decisive a manner as proved that she was not used to have her judgment controverted.She enquired into Charlotte's domestic concerns familiarly and minutely, and gave her a great deal of advice, as to the management of them all; told her how every thing ought to be regulated in so small a family as her's, and instructed her as to the care of her cows and her poultry.Elizabeth found that nothing was beneath this great Lady's attention, which could furnish her with an occasion of dictating to others.In the intervals of her discourse with Mrs. Collins, she addressed a variety of questions to Maria and Elizabeth, but especially to the latter, of whose connections she knew the least, and who she observed to Mrs. Collins, was a very genteel, pretty kind of girl.She asked her at different times, how many sisters she had, whether they were older or younger than herself, whether any of them were likely to be married, whether they were handsome, where they had been educated, what carriage her father kept, and what had been her mother's maiden name?--Elizabeth felt all the impertinence of her questions, but answered them very composedly.--LadyElizabeth could hardly help smiling, as she assured her that had not been the case.
Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer; and Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with so much dignified impertinence.
When the gentlemen had joined them, and tea was over, the card tables were placed.Lady Catherine, Sir William, and Mr. and Mrs. Collins sat down to quadrille; and as Miss De Bourgh chose to play at cassino, the two girls had the honour of assisting Mrs. Jenkinson to make up her party.Their table was superlatively stupid.Scarcely a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the game, except when Mrs. Jenkinson expressed her fears of Miss De Bourgh's being too hot or too cold, or having too much or too little light.A great deal more passed at the other table.Lady Catherine was generally speaking--stating the mistakes of the three others, or relating some anecdote of herself.Mr. Collins was employed in agreeing to every thing her Ladyship said, thanking her for every fish he won, and apologising if he thought he won too many.Sir William did not say much.He was storing his memory with anecdotes and noble names.
When Lady Catherine and her daughter had played as long as they chose, the tables were broke up, the carriage was offered to Mrs. Collins, gratefully accepted, and immediately ordered.The party then gathered round the fire to hear Lady Catherine determine what weather they were to have on the morrow.From these instructions they were summoned by the arrival of the coach, and with many speeches of thankfulness on Mr. Collins's side, and as many bows on Sir William's, they departed.As soon as they had driven from the door, Elizabeth was called on by her cousin, to give her opinion of all that she had seen at Rosings, which, for Charlotte's sake, she made more favourable than it really was.But her commendation, though costing her some trouble, could by no means satisfy Mr. Collins, and he was very soon obliged to take her Ladyship's praise into his own hands.
Sir William staid only a week at Hunsford; but his visit was long enough to convince him of his daughter's being most comfortably settled, and of her possessing such a husband and such a neighbour as were not often met with.While Sir William was with them, Mr. Collins devoted his mornings to driving him out in his gig, and shewing him the country; but when he went away, the whole family returned to their usual employments, and Elizabeth was thankful to find that they did not see more of her cousin by the alteration, for the chief of the time between breakfast and dinner was now passed by him either at work in the garden, or in reading and writing, and looking out of window in his own book room, which fronted the road.The room in which the ladies sat was backwards.Elizabeth at first had rather wondered that Charlotte should not prefer the dining-parlour for common use; it was a better sized room, and had a pleasanter aspect; but she soon saw that her friend had an excellent reason for what she did, for Mr. Collins would undoubtedly have been much less in his own apartment, had they sat in one equally lively; and she gave Charlotte credit for the arrangement.
From the drawing-room they could distinguish nothing in the lane, and were indebted to Mr. Collins for the knowledge of what carriages went along, and how often especially Miss De Bourgh drove by in her phaeton, which he never failed coming to inform them of, though it happened almost every day.She not unfrequently stopped at the Parsonage, and had a few minutes' conversation with Charlotte, but was scarcely ever prevailed on to get out.
Very few days passed in which Mr. Collins did not walk to Rosings, and not many in which his wife did not think it necessary to go likewise; and till Elizabeth recollected that there might be other family livings to be disposed of, she could not understand the sacrifice of so many hours.Now and then, they were honoured with a call from her Ladyship, and nothing escaped her observation that was passing in the room 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 not in the commission of the peace for the county, 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 settle their differences, silence their complaints, and scold them into harmony and plenty.
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.Their other engagements were few; as the style of living of the neighbourhood in general, was beyond the Collinses' reach.This however was no evil to Elizabeth, and upon the whole she spent her time comfortably enough; there were half hours of pleasant 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, and where she frequently went while the others were calling on Lady Catherine, 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 acquaintance 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, Lord ---- and to the great surprise of all the party, when Mr. Collins returned the gentlemen accompanied him.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 towards 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 any body.At length, however, his civility was so far awakened as to enquire of Elizabeth after the health of her family.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 he looked a little confused 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.
Colonel Fitzwilliam's manners were very much admired at the parsonage, and the ladies all felt that he must add considerably to the pleasure of their engagements at Rosings.It was some days, however, before they received any invitation thither, for while there were visitors in the house, they could not be necessary; and it was not till Easter-day, almost a week after the gentlemen's arrival, that they were honoured by such an attention, and then they were merely asked on leaving church to come there in the evening.For the last week they had seen very little of either Lady Catherine or her daughter.Colonel Fitzwilliam had called at the parsonage more than once during the time, but Mr. Darcy they had only seen at church.
The invitation was accepted of course, and at a proper hour they joined the party in Lady Catherine's drawing-room.Her ladyship received them civilly, but it was plain that their company was by no means so acceptable as when she could get nobody else; and she was, in fact, almost engrossed by her nephews, speaking to them, especially to Darcy, much more than to any other person in the room.
Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed really glad to see them; any thing was a welcome relief to him at Rosings; and Mrs. Collins's pretty friend had moreover caught his fancy very much.He now seated himself by her, and talked so agreeably of Kent and Hertfordshire, of travelling and staying at home, of new books and music, that Elizabeth had never been half so well entertained in that room before; and they conversed with so much spirit and flow, as to draw the attention of Lady Catherine herself, as well as of Mr. Darcy.Mr. Darcy spoke with affectionate praise of his sister's proficiency.
Mr. Darcy looked a little ashamed of his aunt's ill breeding, and made no answer.
When coffee was over, Colonel Fitzwilliam reminded Elizabeth of having promised to play to him; and she sat down directly to the instrument.He drew a chair near her.Lady Catherine listened to half a song, and then talked, as before, to her other nephew; till the latter walked away from her, and moving with his usual deliberation towards the piano-forte, stationed himself so as to command a full view of the fair performer's countenance.
Here they were interrupted by Lady Catherine, who called out to know what they were talking of.Elizabeth immediately began playing again.Elizabeth looked at Darcy to see how cordially he assented to his cousin's praise; but neither at that moment nor at any other could she discern any symptom of love; and from the whole of his behaviour to Miss De Bourgh she derived this comfort for Miss Bingley, that he might have been just as likely to marry her, had she been his relation.
Lady Catherine continued her remarks on Elizabeth's performance, mixing with them many instructions on execution and taste.Elizabeth received them with all the forbearance of civility; and at the request of the gentlemen remained at the instrument till her Ladyship's carriage was ready to take them all home.
Elizabeth was sitting by herself the next morning, and writing to Jane, while Mrs. Collins and Maria were gone on business into the village, when she was startled by a ring at the door, the certain signal of a visitor.As she had heard no carriage, she thought it not unlikely to be Lady Catherine, and under that apprehension was putting away her half-finished letter that she might escape all impertinent questions, when the door opened, and to her very great surprise, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Darcy only, entered the room.
He seemed astonished too on finding her alone, and apologised for his intrusion, by letting her know that he had understood all the ladies to be within.
They then sat down, and when her enquiries after Rosings were made, seemed in danger of sinking into total silence.Elizabeth made no answer.She was afraid of talking longer of his friend; and, having nothing else to say, was now determined to leave the trouble of finding a subject to him.
Elizabeth looked surprised.A short dialogue on the subject of the country ensued, on either side calm and concise--and soon put an end to by the entrance of Charlotte and her sister, just returned from their walk.The tête-à-tête surprised them.Mr. Darcy related the mistake which had occasioned his intruding on Miss Bennet, and after sitting a few minutes longer without saying much to any body, went away.
But when Elizabeth told of his silence, it did not seem very likely, even to Charlotte's wishes, to be the case; and after various conjectures, they could at last only suppose his visit to proceed from the difficulty of finding any thing to do, which was the more probable from the time of year.All field sports were over.Within doors there was Lady Catherine, books, and a billiard table, but gentlemen cannot be always within doors; and in the nearness of the Parsonage, or the pleasantness of the walk to it, or of the people who lived in it, the two cousins found a temptation from this period of walking thither almost every day.They called at various times of the morning, sometimes separately, sometimes together, and now and then accompanied by their aunt.It was plain to them all that Colonel Fitzwilliam came because he had pleasure in their society, a persuasion which of course recommended him still more; and Elizabeth was reminded by her own satisfaction in being with him, as well as by his evident admiration of her, of her former favourite George Wickham; and though, in comparing them, she saw there was less captivating softness in Colonel Fitzwilliam's manners, she believed he might have the best informed mind.
But why Mr. Darcy came so often to the Parsonage, it was more difficult to understand.It could not be for society, as he frequently sat there ten minutes together without opening his lips; and when he did speak, it seemed the effect of necessity rather than of choice--a sacrifice to propriety, not a pleasure to himself.He seldom appeared really animated.Mrs. Collins knew not what to make of him.Colonel Fitzwilliam's occasionally laughing at his stupidity, proved that he was generally different, which her own knowledge of him could not have told her; and as she would have liked to believe this change the effect of love, and the object of that love, her friend Eliza, she sat herself seriously to work to find it out.--Shewatched him whenever they were at Rosings, and whenever he came to Hunsford; but without much success.He certainly looked at her friend a great deal, but the expression of that look was disputable.It was an earnest, steadfast gaze, but she often doubted whether there were much admiration in it, and sometimes it seemed nothing but absence of mind.
She had once or twice suggested to Elizabeth the possibility of his being partial to her, but Elizabeth always laughed at the idea; and Mrs. Collins did not think it right to press the subject, from the danger of raising expectations which might only end in disappointment; for in her opinion it admitted not of a doubt, that all her friend's dislike would vanish, if she could suppose him to be in her power.
In her kind schemes for Elizabeth, she sometimes planned her marrying Colonel Fitzwilliam.He was beyond comparison the pleasantest man; he certainly admired her, and his situation in life was most eligible; but, to counterbalance these advantages, Mr. Darcy had considerable patronage in the church, and his cousin could have none at all.
More than once did Elizabeth in her ramble within the Park, unexpectedly meet Mr. Darcy.--Shefelt all the perverseness of the mischance that should bring him where no one else was brought; and to prevent its ever happening again, took care to inform him at first, that it was a favourite haunt of hers.--How it could occur a second time therefore was very odd!--Yet it did, and even a third.It seemed like wilful ill-nature, or a voluntary penance, for on these occasions it was not merely a few formal enquiries and an awkward pause and then away, but he actually thought it necessary to turn back and walk with her.He never said a great deal, nor did she give herself the trouble of talking or of listening much; but it struck her in the course of their third rencontre that he was asking some odd unconnected questions--about her pleasure in being at Hunsford, her love of solitary walks, and her opinion of Mr. and Mrs. Collins's happiness; and that in speaking of Rosings and her not perfectly understanding the house, he seemed to expect that whenever she came into Kent again she would be staying there too.His words seemed to imply it.Could he have Colonel Fitzwilliam in his thoughts?She supposed, if he meant any thing, he must mean an allusion to what might arise in that quarter.It distressed her a little, and she was quite glad to find herself at the gate in the pales opposite the Parsonage.
She was engaged one day as she walked, in re-perusing Jane's last letter, and dwelling on some passages which proved that Jane had not written in spirits, when, instead of being again surprised by Mr. Darcy, she saw on looking up that Colonel Fitzwilliam was meeting her.And accordingly she did turn, and they walked towards the Parsonage together.
He answered her in the same style, and the subject dropped.
As she spoke, she observed him looking at her earnestly, and the manner in which he immediately asked her why she supposed Miss Darcy likely to give them any uneasiness, convinced her that she had somehow or other got pretty near the truth.Elizabeth made no answer, and walked on, her heart swelling with indignation.After watching her a little, Fitzwilliam asked her why she was so thoughtful.
This was spoken jestingly, but it appeared to her so just a picture of Mr. Darcy, that she would not trust herself with an answer; and, therefore, abruptly changing the conversation, talked on indifferent matters till they reached the parsonage.There, shut into her own room, as soon as their visitor left them, she could think without interruption of all that she had heard.It was not to be supposed that any other people could be meant than those with whom she was connected.There could not exist in the world two men, over whom Mr. Darcy could have such boundless influence.That he had been concerned in the measures taken to separate Mr. Bingley and Jane, she had never doubted; but she had always attributed to Miss Bingley the principal design and arrangement of them.If his own vanity, however, did not mislead him, he was the cause, his pride and caprice were the cause of all that Jane had suffered, and still continued to suffer.He had ruined for a while every hope of happiness for the most affectionate, generous heart in the world; and no one could say how lasting an evil he might have inflicted.
The agitation and tears which the subject occasioned, brought on a headache; and it grew so much worse towards the evening that, added to her unwillingness to see Mr. Darcy, it determined her not to attend her cousins to Rosings, where they were engaged to drink tea.Mrs. Collins, seeing that she was really unwell, did not press her to go, and as much as possible prevented her husband from pressing her, but Mr. Collins could not conceal his apprehension of Lady Catherine's being rather displeased by her staying at home.
When they were gone, Elizabeth, as if intending to exasperate herself as much as possible against Mr. Darcy, chose for her employment the examination of all the letters which Jane had written to her since her being in Kent.They contained no actual complaint, nor was there any revival of past occurrences, or any communication of present suffering.But in all, and in almost every line of each, there was a want of that cheerfulness which had been used to characterize her style, and which, proceeding from the serenity of a mind at ease with itself, and kindly disposed towards every one, had been scarcely ever clouded.Elizabeth noticed every sentence conveying the idea of uneasiness, with an attention which it had hardly received on the first perusal.Mr. Darcy's shameful boast of what misery he had been able to inflict, gave her a keener sense of her sister's sufferings.It was some consolation to think that his visit to Rosings was to end on the day after the next, and a still greater, that in less than a fortnight she should herself be with Jane again, and enabled to contribute to the recovery of her spirits, by all that affection could do.
She could not think of Darcy's leaving Kent, without remembering that his cousin was to go with him; but Colonel Fitzwilliam had made it clear that he had no intentions at all, and agreeable as he was, she did not mean to be unhappy about him.
While settling this point, she was suddenly roused by the sound of the door bell, and her spirits were a little fluttered by the idea of its being Colonel Fitzwilliam himself, who had once before called late in the evening, and might now come to enquire particularly after her.But this idea was soon banished, and her spirits were very differently affected, when, to her utter amazement, she saw Mr. Darcy walk into the room.In an hurried manner he immediately began an enquiry after her health, imputing his visit to a wish of hearing that she were better.She answered him with cold civility.He sat down for a few moments, and then getting up walked about the room.Elizabeth was surprised, but said not a word.Elizabeth's astonishment was beyond expression.She stared, coloured, doubted, and was silent.This he considered sufficient encouragement, and the avowal of all that he felt and had long felt for her, immediately followed.He spoke well, but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride.His sense of her inferiority--of its being a degradation--of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.
In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man's affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger.She tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience, when he should have done.He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand.As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer.He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security.
Mr. Darcy, who was leaning against the mantle-piece with his eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise.His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature.He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would not open his lips, till he believed himself to have attained it.The pause was to Elizabeth's feelings dreadful.As she pronounced these words, Mr. Darcy changed colour; but the emotion was short, and he listened without attempting to interrupt her while she continued.
She paused, and saw with no slight indignation that he was listening with an air which proved him wholly unmoved by any feeling of remorse.He even looked at her with a smile of affected incredulity.
Elizabeth disdained the appearance of noticing this civil reflection, but its meaning did not escape, nor was it likely to conciliate her.
Again his astonishment was obvious; and he looked at her with an expression of mingled incredulity and mortification.She went on.
And with these words he hastily left the room, and Elizabeth heard him the next moment open the front door and quit the house.
The tumult of her mind was now painfully great.She knew not how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried for half an hour.Her astonishment, as she reflected on what had passed, was increased by every review of it.That she should receive an offer of marriage from Mr. Darcy!that he should have been in love with her for so many months!so much in love as to wish to marry her in spite of all the objections which had made him prevent his friend's marrying her sister, and which must appear at least with equal force in his own case, was almost incredible! it was gratifying to have inspired unconsciously so strong an affection.But his pride, his abominable pride, his shameless avowal of what he had done with respect to Jane, his unpardonable assurance in acknowledging, though he could not justify it, and the unfeeling manner in which he had mentioned Mr. Wickham, his cruelty towards whom he had not attempted to deny, soon overcame the pity which the consideration of his attachment had for a moment excited.
She continued in very agitating reflections till the sound of Lady Catherine's carriage made her feel how unequal she was to encounter Charlotte's observation, and hurried her away to her room.
Elizabeth awoke the next morning to the same thoughts and meditations which had at length closed her eyes.She could not yet recover from the surprise of what had happened; it was impossible to think of any thing else, and totally indisposed for employment, she resolved soon after breakfast to indulge herself in air and exercise.She was proceeding directly to her favourite walk, when the recollection of Mr. Darcy's sometimes coming there stopped her, and instead of entering the park, she turned up the lane, which led her farther from the turnpike road.The park paling was still the boundary on one side, and she soon passed one of the gates into the ground.
With no expectation of pleasure, but with the strongest curiosity, Elizabeth opened the letter, and to her still increasing wonder, perceived an envelope containing two sheets of letter paper, written quite through, in a very close hand.--Theenvelope itself was likewise full.--Pursuingher way along the lane, she then began it.It was dated from Rosings, at eight o'clock in the morning, and was as follows:--
If Elizabeth, when Mr. Darcy gave her the letter, did not expect it to contain a renewal of his offers, she had formed no expectation at all of its contents.But such as they were, it may be well supposed how eagerly she went through them, and what a contrariety of emotion they excited.Her feelings as she read were scarcely to be defined.With amazement did she first understand that he believed any apology to be in his power; and steadfastly was she persuaded that he could have no explanation to give, which a just sense of shame would not conceal.With a strong prejudice against every thing he might say, she began his account of what had happened at Netherfield.She read, with an eagerness which hardly left her power of comprehension, and from impatience of knowing what the next sentence might bring, was incapable of attending to the sense of the one before her eyes.His belief of her sister's insensibility, she instantly resolved to be false, and his account of the real, the worst objections to the match, made her too angry to have any wish of doing him justice.He expressed no regret for what he had done which satisfied her; his style was not penitent, but haughty.It was all pride and insolence.
In this perturbed state of mind, with thoughts that could rest on nothing, she walked on; but it would not do; in half a minute the letter was unfolded again, and collecting herself as well as she could, she again began the mortifying perusal of all that related to Wickham, and commanded herself so far as to examine the meaning of every sentence.The account of his connection with the Pemberley family, was exactly what he had related himself; and the kindness of the late Mr. Darcy, though she had not before known its extent, agreed equally well with his own words.So far each recital confirmed the other: but when she came to the will, the difference was great.What Wickham had said of the living was fresh in her memory, and as she recalled his very words, it was impossible not to feel that there was gross duplicity on one side or the other; and, for a few moments, she flattered herself that her wishes did not err.But when she read, and re-read with the closest attention, the particulars immediately following of Wickham's resigning all pretensions to the living, of his receiving in lieu, so considerable a sum as three thousand pounds, again was she forced to hesitate.She put down the letter, weighed every circumstance with what she meant to be impartiality--deliberated on the probability of each statement--but with little success.On both sides it was only assertion.Again she read on.But every line proved more clearly that the affair, which she had believed it impossible that any contrivance could so represent, as to render Mr. Darcy's conduct in it less than infamous, was capable of a turn which must make him entirely blameless throughout the whole.
The extravagance and general profligacy which he scrupled not to lay to Mr. Wickham's charge, exceedingly shocked her; the more so, as she could bring no proof of its injustice.She had never heard of him before his entrance into the ----shire Militia, in which he had engaged at the persuasion of the young man, who, on meeting him accidentally in town, had there renewed a slight acquaintance.Of his former way of life, nothing had been known in Hertfordshire but what he told himself.As to his real character, had information been in her power, she had never felt a wish of enquiring.His countenance, voice, and manner, had established him at once in the possession of every virtue.She tried to recollect some instance of goodness, some distinguished trait of integrity or benevolence, that might rescue him from the attacks of Mr. Darcy; or at least, by the predominance of virtue, atone for those casual errors, under which she would endeavour to class, what Mr. Darcy had described as the idleness and vice of many years continuance.But no such recollection befriended her.She could see him instantly before her, in every charm of air and address; but she could remember no more substantial good than the general approbation of the neighbourhood, and the regard which his social powers had gained him in the mess.After pausing on this point a considerable while, she once more continued to read.But, alas! the story which followed of his designs on Miss Darcy, received some confirmation from what had passed between Colonel Fitzwilliam and herself only the morning before; and at last she was referred for the truth of every particular to Colonel Fitzwilliam himself--from whom she had previously received the information of his near concern in all his cousin's affairs, and whose character she had no reason to question.At one time she had almost resolved on applying to him, but the idea was checked by the awkwardness of the application, and at length wholly banished by the conviction that Mr. Darcy would never have hazarded such a proposal, if he had not been well assured of his cousin's corroboration.
She perfectly remembered every thing that had passed in conversation between Wickham and herself, in their first evening at Mr. Philips's.Many of his expressions were still fresh in her memory.She was now struck with the impropriety of such communications to a stranger, and wondered it had escaped her before.She saw the indelicacy of putting himself forward as he had done, and the inconsistency of his professions with his conduct.She remembered that he had boasted of having no fear of seeing Mr. Darcy--that Mr. Darcy might leave the country, but that he should stand his ground; yet he had avoided the Netherfield ball the very next week.She remembered also, that till the Netherfield family had quitted the country, he had told his story to no one but herself; but that after their removal, it had been every where discussed; that he had then no reserves, no scruples in sinking Mr. Darcy's character, though he had assured her that respect for the father, would always prevent his exposing the son.
How differently did every thing now appear in which he was concerned!His attentions to Miss King were now the consequence of views solely and hatefully mercenary; and the mediocrity of her fortune proved no longer the moderation of his wishes, but his eagerness to grasp at any thing.His behaviour to herself could now have had no tolerable motive; he had either been deceived with regard to her fortune, or had been gratifying his vanity by encouraging the preference which she believed she had most incautiously shewn.Every lingering struggle in his favour grew fainter and fainter; and in farther justification of Mr. Darcy, she could not but allow that Mr. Bingley, when questioned by Jane, had long ago asserted his blamelessness in the affair; that proud and repulsive as were his manners, she had never, in the whole course of their acquaintance, an acquaintance which had latterly brought them much together, and given her a sort of intimacy with his ways, seen any thing that betrayed him to be unprincipled or unjust--any thing that spoke him of irreligious or immoral habits.That among his own connections he was esteemed and valued--that even Wickham had allowed him merit as a brother, and that she had often heard him speak so affectionately of his sister as to prove him capable of some amiable feeling.That had his actions been what Wickham represented them, so gross a violation of every thing right could hardly have been concealed from the world; and that friendship between a person capable of it, and such an amiable man as Mr. Bingley, was incomprehensible.
She grew absolutely ashamed of herself.--Ofneither Darcy nor Wickham could she think, without feeling that she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd.
From herself to Jane--from Jane to Bingley, her thoughts were in a line which soon brought to her recollection that Mr. Darcy's explanation there, had appeared very insufficient; and she read it again.Widely different was the effect of a second perusal.--Howcould she deny that credit to his assertions, in one instance, which she had been obliged to give in the other?--He declared himself to have been totally unsuspicious of her sister's attachment;--and she could not help remembering what Charlotte's opinion had always been.--Neither could she deny the justice of his description of Jane.--She felt that Jane's feelings, though fervent, were little displayed, and that there was a constant complacency in her air and manner, not often united with great sensibility.
When she came to that part of the letter in which her family were mentioned, in terms of such mortifying, yet merited reproach, her sense of shame was severe.The justice of the charge struck her too forcibly for denial, and the circumstances to which he particularly alluded, as having passed at the Netherfield ball, and as confirming all his first disapprobation, could not have made a stronger impression on his mind than on hers.
The compliment to herself and her sister, was not unfelt.It soothed, but it could not console her for the contempt which had been thus self-attracted by the rest of her family;--and as she considered that Jane's disappointment had in fact been the work of her nearest relations, and reflected how materially the credit of both must be hurt by such impropriety of conduct, she felt depressed beyond any thing she had ever known before.
After wandering along the lane for two hours, giving way to every variety of thought; re-considering events, determining probabilities, and reconciling herself as well as she could, to a change so sudden and so important, fatigue, and a recollection of her long absence, made her at length return home; and she entered the house with the wish of appearing cheerful as usual, and the resolution of repressing such reflections as must make her unfit for conversation.
She was immediately told, that the two gentlemen from Rosings had each called during her absence; Mr. Darcy, only for a few minutes to take leave, but that Colonel Fitzwilliam had been sitting with them at least an hour, hoping for her return, and almost resolving to walk after her till she could be found.--Elizabethcould but just affect concern in missing him; she really rejoiced at it.Colonel Fitzwilliam was no longer an object.She could think only of her letter.
The two gentlemen left Rosings the next morning; and Mr. Collins having been in waiting near the lodges, to make them his parting obeisance, was able to bring home the pleasing intelligence, of their appearing in very good health, and in as tolerable spirits as could be expected, after the melancholy scene so lately gone through at Rosings.To Rosings he then hastened to console Lady Catherine, and her daughter; and on his return, brought back, with great satisfaction, a message from her Ladyship, importing that she felt herself so dull as to make her very desirous of having them all to dine with her.
Mr. Collins had a compliment, and an allusion to throw in here, which were kindly smiled on by the mother and daughter.
Lady Catherine seemed resigned.
Lady Catherine had many other questions to ask respecting their journey, and as she did not answer them all herself, attention was necessary, which Elizabeth believed to be lucky for her; or, with a mind so occupied, she might have forgotten where she was.Reflection must be reserved for solitary hours; whenever she was alone, she gave way to it as the greatest relief; and not a day went by without a solitary walk, in which she might indulge in all the delight of unpleasant recollections.
Mr. Darcy's letter, she was in a fair way of soon knowing by heart.She studied every sentence: and her feelings towards its writer were at times widely different.When she remembered the style of his address, she was still full of indignation; but when she considered how unjustly she had condemned and upbraided him, her anger was turned against herself; and his disappointed feelings became the object of compassion.His attachment excited gratitude, his general character respect; but she could not approve him; nor could she for a moment repent her refusal, or feel the slightest inclination ever to see him again.In her own past behaviour, there was a constant source of vexation and regret; and in the unhappy defects of her family a subject of yet heavier chagrin.They were hopeless of remedy.Her father, contented with laughing at them, would never exert himself to restrain the wild giddiness of his youngest daughters; and her mother, with manners so far from right herself, was entirely insensible of the evil.Elizabeth had frequently united with Jane in an endeavour to check the imprudence of Catherine and Lydia; but while they were supported by their mother's indulgence, what chance could there be of improvement?Catherine, weak-spirited, irritable, and completely under Lydia's guidance, had been always affronted by their advice; and Lydia, self-willed and careless, would scarcely give them a hearing.They were ignorant, idle, and vain.While there was an officer in Meryton, they would flirt with him; and while Meryton was within a walk of Longbourn, they would be going there for ever.
Anxiety on Jane's behalf, was another prevailing concern, and Mr. Darcy's explanation, by restoring Bingley to all her former good opinion, heightened the sense of what Jane had lost.His affection was proved to have been sincere, and his conduct cleared of all blame, unless any could attach to the implicitness of his confidence in his friend.How grievous then was the thought that, of a situation so desirable in every respect, so replete with advantage, so promising for happiness, Jane had been deprived, by the folly and indecorum of her own family!
When to these recollections was added the developement of Wickham's character, it may be easily believed that the happy spirits which had seldom been depressed before, were now so much affected as to make it almost impossible for her to appear tolerably cheerful.
Their engagements at Rosings were as frequent during the last week of her stay, as they had been at first.The very last evening was spent there; and her Ladyship again enquired minutely into the particulars of their journey, gave them directions as to the best method of packing, and was so urgent on the necessity of placing gowns in the only right way, that Maria thought herself obliged, on her return, to undo all the work of the morning, and pack her trunk afresh.
When they parted, Lady Catherine, with great condescension, wished them a good journey, and invited them to come to Hunsford again next year; and Miss De Bourgh exerted herself so far as to curtsey and hold out her hand to both.
On Saturday morning Elizabeth and Mr. Collins met for breakfast a few minutes before the others appeared; and he took the opportunity of paying the parting civilities which he deemed indispensably necessary.
Elizabeth was eager with her thanks and assurances of happiness.She had spent six weeks with great enjoyment; and the pleasure of being with Charlotte, and the kind attentions she had received, must make her feel the obliged.Words were insufficient for the elevation of his feelings; and he was obliged to walk about the room, while Elizabeth tried to unite civility and truth in a few short sentences.
Elizabeth could safely say that it was a great happiness where that was the case, and with equal sincerity could add that she firmly believed and rejoiced in his domestic comforts.She was not sorry, however, to have the recital of them interrupted by the entrance of the lady from whom they sprung.Poor Charlotte!--it was melancholy to leave her to such society!--Butshe had chosen it with her eyes open; and though evidently regretting that her visitors were to go, she did not seem to ask for compassion.Her home and her housekeeping, her parish and her poultry, and all their dependent concerns, had not yet lost their charms.
At length the chaise arrived, the trunks were fastened on, the parcels placed within, and it was pronounced to be ready.After an affectionate parting between the friends, Elizabeth was attended to the carriage by Mr. Collins, and as they walked down the garden, he was commissioning her with his best respects to all her family, not forgetting his thanks for the kindness he had received at Longbourn in the winter, and his compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, though unknown.He then handed her in, Maria followed, and the door was on the point of being closed, when he suddenly reminded them, with some consternation, that they had hitherto forgotten to leave any message for the ladies of Rosings.
Elizabeth made no objection;--the door was then allowed to be shut, and the carriage drove off.
Their journey was performed without much conversation, or any alarm; and within four hours of their leaving Hunsford, they reached Mr. Gardiner's house, where they were to remain a few days.
Jane looked well, and Elizabeth had little opportunity of studying her spirits, amidst the various engagements which the kindness of her aunt had reserved for them.But Jane was to go home with her, and at Longbourn there would be leisure enough for observation.
It was not without an effort meanwhile that she could wait even for Longbourn, before she told her sister of Mr. Darcy's proposals.To know that she had the power of revealing what would so exceedingly astonish Jane, and must, at the same time, so highly gratify whatever of her own vanity she had not yet been able to reason away, was such a temptation to openness as nothing could have conquered, but the state of indecision in which she remained, as to the extent of what she should communicate; and her fear, if she once entered on the subject, of being hurried into repeating something of Bingley, which might only grieve her sister farther.
It was the second week in May, in which the three young ladies set out together from Gracechurch-street, for the town of ---- in Hertfordshire; and, as they drew near the appointed inn where Mr. Bennet's carriage was to meet them, they quickly perceived, in token of the coachman's punctuality, both Kitty and Lydia looking out of a dining-room up stairs.These two girls had been above an hour in the place, happily employed in visiting an opposite milliner, watching the sentinel on guard, and dressing a sallad and cucumber.
Jane and Elizabeth looked at each other, and the waiter was told that he need not stay.Elizabeth was shocked to think that, however incapable of such coarseness of expression herself, the coarseness of the sentiment was little other than her own breast had formerly harboured and fancied liberal!
As soon as all had ate, and the elder ones paid, the carriage was ordered; and after some contrivance, the whole party, with all their boxes, workbags, and parcels, and the unwelcome addition of Kitty's and Lydia's purchases, were seated in it.
With such kind of histories of their parties and good jokes, did Lydia, assisted by Kitty's hints and additions, endeavour to amuse her companions all the way to Longbourn.Elizabeth listened as little as she could, but there was no escaping the frequent mention of Wickham's name.
Their reception at home was most kind.Their party in the dining-room was large, for almost all the Lucases came to meet Maria and hear the news: and various were the subjects which occupied them; lady Lucas was enquiring of Maria across the table, after the welfare and poultry of her eldest daughter; Mrs. Bennet was doubly engaged, on one hand collecting an account of the present fashions from Jane, who sat some way below her, and on the other, retailing them all to the younger Miss Lucases; and Lydia, in a voice rather louder than any other person's, was enumerating the various pleasures of the morning to any body who would hear her.
But of this answer Lydia heard not a word.She seldom listened to any body for more than half a minute, and never attended to Mary at all.
In the afternoon Lydia was urgent with the rest of the girls to walk to Meryton and see how every body went on; but Elizabeth steadily opposed the scheme.It should not be said, that the Miss Bennets could not be at home half a day before they were in pursuit of the officers.There was another reason too for her opposition.She dreaded seeing Wickham again, and was resolved to avoid it as long as possible.The comfort to her, of the regiment's approaching removal, was indeed beyond expression.In a fortnight they were to go, and once gone, she hoped there could be nothing more to plague her on his account.
She had not been many hours at home, before she found that the Brighton scheme, of which Lydia had given them a hint at the inn, was under frequent discussion between her parents.Elizabeth saw directly that her father had not the smallest intention of yielding; but his answers were at the same time so vague and equivocal, that her mother, though often disheartened, had never yet despaired of succeeding at last.
Elizabeth's impatience to acquaint Jane with what had happened could no longer be overcome; and at length resolving to suppress every particular in which her sister was concerned, and preparing her to be surprised, she related to her the next morning the chief of the scene between Mr. Darcy and herself.
Miss Bennet's astonishment was soon lessened by the strong sisterly partiality which made any admiration of Elizabeth appear perfectly natural; and all surprise was shortly lost in other feelings.She was sorry that Mr. Darcy should have delivered his sentiments in a manner so little suited to recommend them; but still more was she grieved for the unhappiness which her sister's refusal must have given him.
She then spoke of the letter, repeating the whole of its contents as far as they concerned George Wickham.What a stroke was this for poor Jane! who would willingly have gone through the world without believing that so much wickedness existed in the whole race of mankind, as was here collected in one individual.Nor was Darcy's vindication, though grateful to her feelings, capable of consoling her for such discovery.Most earnestly did she labour to prove the probability of error, and seek to clear one, without involving the other.
It was some time, however, before a smile could be extorted from Jane.
She was now, on being settled at home, at leisure to observe the real state of her sister's spirits.Jane was not happy.She still cherished a very tender affection for Bingley.Having never even fancied herself in love before, her regard had all the warmth of first attachment, and from her age and disposition, greater steadiness than first attachments often boast; and so fervently did she value his remembrance, and prefer him to every other man, that all her good sense, and all her attention to the feelings of her friends, were requisite to check the indulgence of those regrets, which must have been injurious to her own health and their tranquillity.
But as Elizabeth could not receive comfort from any such expectation, she made no answer.
The first week of their return was soon gone.The second began.It was the last of the regiment's stay in Meryton, and all the young ladies in the neighbourhood were drooping apace.The dejection was almost universal.The elder Miss Bennets alone were still able to eat, drink, and sleep, and pursue the usual course of their employments.Very frequently were they reproached for this insensibility by Kitty and Lydia, whose own misery was extreme, and who could not comprehend such hard-heartedness in any of the family.
Their affectionate mother shared all their grief; she remembered what she had herself endured on a similar occasion, five and twenty years ago.
Such were the kind of lamentations resounding perpetually through Longbourn-house.Elizabeth tried to be diverted by them; but all sense of pleasure was lost in shame.She felt anew the justice of Mr. Darcy's objections; and never had she before been so much disposed to pardon his interference in the views of his friend.
But the gloom of Lydia's prospect was shortly cleared away; for she received an invitation from Mrs. Forster, the wife of the Colonel of the regiment, to accompany her to Brighton.This invaluable friend was a very young woman, and very lately married.A resemblance in good humour and good spirits had recommended her and Lydia to each other, and out of their three months' acquaintance they had been intimate two.
The rapture of Lydia on this occasion, her adoration of Mrs. Forster, the delight of Mrs. Bennet, and the mortification of Kitty, are scarcely to be described.Wholly inattentive to her sister's feelings, Lydia flew about the house in restless ecstacy, calling for every one's congratulations, and laughing and talking with more violence than ever; whilst the luckless Kitty continued in the parlour repining at her fate in terms as unreasonable as her accent was peevish.
In vain did Elizabeth attempt to make her reasonable, and Jane to make her resigned.As for Elizabeth herself, this invitation was so far from exciting in her the same feelings as in her mother and Lydia, that she considered it as the death-warrant of all possibility of common sense for the latter; and detestable as such a step must make her were it known, she could not help secretly advising her father not to let her go.She represented to him all the improprieties of Lydia's general behaviour, the little advantage she could derive from the friendship of such a woman as Mrs. Forster, and the probability of her being yet more imprudent with such a companion at Brighton, where the temptations must be greater than at home.With this answer Elizabeth was forced to be content; but her own opinion continued the same, and she left him disappointed and sorry.It was not in her nature, however, to increase her vexations, by dwelling on them.She was confident of having performed her duty, and to fret over unavoidable evils, or augment them by anxiety, was no part of her disposition.
Had Lydia and her mother known the substance of her conference with her father, their indignation would hardly have found expression in their united volubility.In Lydia's imagination, a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly happiness.She saw with the creative eye of fancy, the streets of that gay bathing place covered with officers.She saw herself the object of attention, to tens and to scores of them at present unknown.She saw all the glories of the camp; its tents stretched forth in beauteous uniformity of lines, crowded with the young and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet; and to complete the view, she saw herself seated beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with at least six officers at once.
Had she known that her sister sought to tear her from such prospects and such realities as these, what would have been her sensations?They could have been understood only by her mother, who might have felt nearly the same.Lydia's going to Brighton was all that consoled her for the melancholy conviction of her husband's never intending to go there himself.
But they were entirely ignorant of what had passed; and their raptures continued with little intermission to the very day of Lydia's leaving home.
Elizabeth was now to see Mr. Wickham for the last time.Having been frequently in company with him since her return, agitation was pretty well over; the agitations of former partiality entirely so.She had even learnt to detect, in the very gentleness which had first delighted her, an affectation and a sameness to disgust and weary.In his present behaviour to herself, moreover, she had a fresh source of displeasure, for the inclination he soon testified of renewing those attentions which had marked the early part of their acquaintance, could only serve, after what had since passed, to provoke her.She lost all concern for him in finding herself thus selected as the object of such idle and frivolous gallantry; and while she steadily repressed it, could not but feel the reproof contained in his believing, that however long, and for whatever cause, his attentions had been withdrawn, her vanity would be gratified and her preference secured at any time by their renewal.
On the very last day of the regiment's remaining in Meryton, he dined with others of the officers at Longbourn; and so little was Elizabeth disposed to part from him in good humour, that on his making some enquiry as to the manner in which her time had passed at Hunsford, she mentioned Colonel Fitzwilliam's and Mr. Darcy's having both spent three weeks at Rosings, and asked him if he were acquainted with the former.
While she spoke, Wickham looked as if scarcely knowing whether to rejoice over her words, or to distrust their meaning.Elizabeth could not repress a smile at this, but she answered only by a slight inclination of the head.She saw that he wanted to engage her on the old subject of his grievances, and she was in no humour to indulge him.The rest of the evening passed with the appearance, on his side, of usual cheerfulness, but with no farther attempt to distinguish Elizabeth; and they parted at last with mutual civility, and possibly a mutual desire of never meeting again.
When the party broke up, Lydia returned with Mrs. Forster to Meryton, from whence they were to set out early the next morning.The separation between her and her family was rather noisy than pathetic.Kitty was the only one who shed tears; but she did weep from vexation and envy.Mrs. Bennet was diffuse in her good wishes for the felicity of her daughter, and impressive in her injunctions that she would not miss the opportunity of enjoying herself as much as possible; advice, which there was every reason to believe would be attended to; and in the clamorous happiness of Lydia herself in bidding farewell, the more gentle adieus of her sisters were uttered without being heard.
Had Elizabeth's opinion been all drawn from her own family, she could not have formed a very pleasing picture of conjugal felicity or domestic comfort.Her father captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour, which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind, had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her.Respect, esteem, and confidence, had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown.But Mr. Bennet was not of a disposition to seek comfort for the disappointment which his own imprudence had brought on, in any of those pleasures which too often console the unfortunate for their folly or their vice.He was fond of the country and of books; and from these tastes had arisen his principal enjoyments.To his wife he was very little otherwise indebted, than as her ignorance and folly had contributed to his amusement.This is not the sort of happiness which a man would in general wish to owe to his wife; but where other powers of entertainment are wanting, the true philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given.
Elizabeth, however, had never been blind to the impropriety of her father's behaviour as a husband.She had always seen it with pain; but respecting his abilities, and grateful for his affectionate treatment of herself, she endeavoured to forget what she could not overlook, and to banish from her thoughts that continual breach of conjugal obligation and decorum which, in exposing his wife to the contempt of her own children, was so highly reprehensible.But she had never felt so strongly as now, the disadvantages which must attend the children of so unsuitable a marriage, nor ever been so fully aware of the evils arising from so ill-judged a direction of talents; talents which rightly used, might at least have preserved the respectability of his daughters, even if incapable of enlarging the mind of his wife.
When Elizabeth had rejoiced over Wickham's departure, she found little other cause for satisfaction in the loss of the regiment.Their parties abroad were less varied than before; and at home she had a mother and sister whose constant repinings at the dulness of every thing around them, threw a real gloom over their domestic circle; and, though Kitty might in time regain her natural degree of sense, since the disturbers of her brain were removed, her other sister, from whose disposition greater evil might be apprehended, was likely to be hardened in all her folly and assurance, by a situation of such double danger as a watering place and a camp.Upon the whole, therefore, she found, what has been sometimes found before, that an event to which she had looked forward with impatient desire, did not in taking place, bring all the satisfaction she had promised herself.It was consequently necessary to name some other period for the commencement of actual felicity; to have some other point on which her wishes and hopes might be fixed, and by again enjoying the pleasure of anticipation, console herself for the present, and prepare for another disappointment.Her tour to the Lakes was now the object of her happiest thoughts; it was her best consolation for all the uncomfortable hours, which the discontentedness of her mother and Kitty made inevitable; and could she have included Jane in the scheme, every part of it would have been perfect.
When Lydia went away, she promised to write very often and very minutely to her mother and Kitty; but her letters were always long expected, and always very short.Those to her mother, contained little else, than that they were just returned from the library, where such and such officers had attended them, and where she had seen such beautiful ornaments as made her quite wild; that she had a new gown, or a new parasol, which she would have described more fully, but was obliged to leave off in a violent hurry, as Mrs. Forster called her, and they were going to the camp;--and from her correspondence with her sister, there was still less to be learnt--for her letters to Kitty, though rather longer, were much too full of lines under the words to be made public.
After the first fortnight or three weeks of her absence, health, good humour and cheerfulness began to re-appear at Longbourn.Everything wore a happier aspect.The families who had been in town for the winter came back again, and summer finery and summer engagements arose.Mrs. Bennet was restored to her usual querulous serenity, and by the middle of June Kitty was so much recovered as to be able to enter Meryton without tears; an event of such happy promise as to make Elizabeth hope, that by the following Christmas, she might be so tolerably reasonable as not to mention an officer above once a day, unless by some cruel and malicious arrangement at the war-office, another regiment should be quartered in Meryton.
The time fixed for the beginning of their Northern tour was now fast approaching; and a fortnight only was wanting of it, when a letter arrived from Mrs. Gardiner, which at once delayed its commencement and curtailed its extent.Mr. Gardiner would be prevented by business from setting out till a fortnight later in July, and must be in London again within a month; and as that left too short a period for them to go so far, and see so much as they had proposed, or at least to see it with the leisure and comfort they had built on, they were obliged to give up the Lakes, and substitute a more contracted tour; and, according to the present plan, were to go no farther northward than Derbyshire.In that county, there was enough to be seen, to occupy the chief of their three weeks; and to Mrs. Gardiner it had a peculiarly strong attraction.The town where she had formerly passed some years of her life, and where they were now to spend a few days, was probably as great an object of her curiosity, as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak.
Elizabeth was excessively disappointed; she had set her heart on seeing the Lakes; and still thought there might have been time enough.But it was her business to be satisfied--and certainly her temper to be happy; and all was soon right again.
The period of expectation was now doubled.Four weeks were to pass away before her uncle and aunt's arrival.But they did pass away, and Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, with their four children, did at length appear at Longbourn.The children, two girls of six and eight years old, and two younger boys, were to be left under the particular care of their cousin Jane, who was the general favourite, and whose steady sense and sweetness of temper exactly adapted her for attending to them in every way--teaching them, playing with them, and loving them.
The Gardiners staid only one night at Longbourn, and set off the next morning with Elizabeth in pursuit of novelty and amusement.One enjoyment was certain--that of suitableness as companions; a suitableness which comprehended health and temper to bear inconveniences--cheerfulness to enhance every pleasure--and affection and intelligence, which might supply it among themselves if there were disappointments abroad.
It is not the object of this work to give a description of Derbyshire, nor of any of the remarkable places through which their route thither lay; Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenelworth, Birmingham, &c.are sufficiently known.A small part of Derbyshire is all the present concern.To the little town of Lambton, the scene of Mrs. Gardiner's former residence, and where she had lately learned that some acquaintance still remained, they bent their steps, after having seen all the principal wonders of the country; and within five miles of Lambton, Elizabeth found from her aunt, that Pemberley was situated.It was not in their direct road, nor more than a mile or two out of it.In talking over their route the evening before, Mrs. Gardiner expressed an inclination to see the place again.Mr. Gardiner declared his willingness, and Elizabeth was applied to for her approbation.
Elizabeth was distressed.She felt that she had no business at Pemberley, and was obliged to assume a disinclination for seeing it.She must own that she was tired of great houses; after going over so many, she really had no pleasure in fine carpets or satin curtains.
Elizabeth said no more--but her mind could not acquiesce.The possibility of meeting Mr. Darcy, while viewing the place, instantly occurred.It would be dreadful!She blushed at the very idea; and thought it would be better to speak openly to her aunt, than to run such a risk.But against this, there were objections; and she finally resolved that it could be the last resource, if her private enquiries as to the absence of the family, were unfavourably answered.
Accordingly, when she retired at night, she asked the chambermaid whether Pemberley were not a very fine place, what was the name of its proprietor, and with no little alarm, whether the family were down for the summer.A most welcome negative followed the last question--and her alarms being now removed, she was at leisure to feel a great deal of curiosity to see the house herself; and when the subject was revived the next morning, and she was again applied to, could readily answer, and with a proper air of indifference, that she had not really any dislike to the scheme.
To Pemberley, therefore, they were to go.
END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE:
In Three Volumes.
London: Printed for T. Egerton, Military Library, Whitehall.1813.
PRIDE & PREJUDICE.
Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation; and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.
The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground.They entered it in one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood, stretching over a wide extent.
Elizabeth's mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view.They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound.It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills;--and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance.Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned.Elizabeth was delighted.She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt, that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!
They descended the hill, crossed the bridge, and drove to the door; and, while examining the nearer aspect of the house, all her apprehensions of meeting its owner returned.She dreaded lest the chambermaid had been mistaken.On applying to see the place, they were admitted into the hall; and Elizabeth, as they waited for the housekeeper, had leisure to wonder at her being where she was.
The housekeeper came; a respectable-looking, elderly woman, much less fine, and more civil, than she had any notion of finding her.They followed her into the dining-parlour.It was a large, well-proportioned room, handsomely fitted up.Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect.The hill, crowned with wood, from which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object.Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene, the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it, with delight.As they passed into other rooms, these objects were taking different positions; but from every window there were beauties to be seen.The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furniture suitable to the fortune of their proprietor; but Elizabeth saw, with admiration of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less of splendor, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings.
This was a lucky recollection--it saved her from something like regret.
Mrs. Gardiner looked at her niece with a smile, but Elizabeth could not return it.
Mrs. Reynolds's respect for Elizabeth seemed to increase on this intimation of her knowing her master.
This accounted to Elizabeth for Mr. Wickham's being among them.
Mrs. Reynolds then directed their attention to one of Miss Darcy, drawn when she was only eight years old.
Mr. Gardiner, whose manners were easy and pleasant, encouraged her communicativeness by his questions and remarks; Mrs. Reynolds, either from pride or attachment, had evidently great pleasure in talking of her master and his sister.
This was praise, of all others most extraordinary, most opposite to her ideas.That he was not a good-tempered man, had been her firmest opinion.Elizabeth listened, wondered, doubted, and was impatient for more.Mrs. Reynolds could interest her on no other point.She related the subject of the pictures, the dimensions of the rooms, and the price of the furniture, in vain.Mr. Gardiner, highly amused by the kind of family prejudice, to which he attributed her excessive commendation of her master, soon led again to the subject; and she dwelt with energy on his many merits, as they proceeded together up the great staircase.
On reaching the spacious lobby above, they were shewn into a very pretty sitting-room, lately fitted up with greater elegance and lightness than the apartments below; and were informed that it was but just done, to give pleasure to Miss Darcy, who had taken a liking to the room, when last at Pemberley.
The picture gallery, and two or three of the principal bed-rooms, were all that remained to be shewn.In the former were many good paintings; but Elizabeth knew nothing of the art; and from such as had been already visible below, she had willingly turned to look at some drawings of Miss Darcy's, in crayons, whose subjects were usually more interesting, and also more intelligible.
In the gallery there were many family portraits, but they could have little to fix the attention of a stranger.Elizabeth walked on in quest of the only face whose features would be known to her.At last it arrested her--and she beheld a striking resemblance of Mr. Darcy, with such a smile over the face, as she remembered to have sometimes seen, when he looked at her.She stood several minutes before the picture in earnest contemplation, and returned to it again before they quitted the gallery.Mrs. Reynolds informed them, that it had been taken in his father's life time.
There was certainly at this moment, in Elizabeth's mind, a more gentle sensation towards the original, than she had ever felt in the height of their acquaintance.The commendation bestowed on him by Mrs. Reynolds was of no trifling nature.What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant?As a brother, a landlord, a master, she considered how many people's happiness were in his guardianship!--Howmuch of pleasure or pain it was in his power to bestow!--How much of good or evil must be done by him!Every idea that had been brought forward by the housekeeper was favourable to his character, and as she stood before the canvas, on which he was represented, and fixed his eyes upon herself, she thought of his regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before; she remembered its warmth, and softened its impropriety of expression.
When all of the house that was open to general inspection had been seen, they returned down stairs, and taking leave of the housekeeper, were consigned over to the gardener, who met them at the hall door.
As they walked across the lawn towards the river, Elizabeth turned back to look again; her uncle and aunt stopped also, and while the former was conjecturing as to the date of the building, the owner of it himself suddenly came forward from the road, which led behind it to the stables.
They were within twenty yards of each other, and so abrupt was his appearance, that it was impossible to avoid his sight.Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of each were overspread with the deepest blush.He absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immoveable from surprise; but shortly recovering himself, advanced towards the party, and spoke to Elizabeth, if not in terms of perfect composure, at least of perfect civility.
She had instinctively turned away; but, stopping on his approach, received his compliments with an embarrassment impossible to be overcome.Had his first appearance, or his resemblance to the picture they had just been examining, been insufficient to assure the other two that they now saw Mr. Darcy, the gardener's expression of surprise, on beholding his master, must immediately have told it.They stood a little aloof while he was talking to their niece, who, astonished and confused, scarcely dared lift her eyes to his face, and knew not what answer she returned to his civil enquiries after her family.Amazed at the alteration in his manner since they last parted, every sentence that he uttered was increasing her embarrassment; and every idea of the impropriety of her being found there, recurring to her mind, the few minutes in which they continued together, were some of the most uncomfortable of her life.Nor did he seem much more at ease; when he spoke, his accent had none of its usual sedateness; and he repeated his enquiries as to the time of her having left Longbourn, and of her stay in Derbyshire, so often, and in so hurried a way, as plainly spoke the distraction of his thoughts.
At length, every idea seemed to fail him; and, after standing a few moments without saying a word, he suddenly recollected himself, and took leave.
The others then joined her, and expressed their admiration of his figure; but Elizabeth heard not a word, and, wholly engrossed by her own feelings, followed them in silence.She was overpowered by shame and vexation.Her coming there was the most unfortunate, the most ill-judged thing in the world!How strange must it appear to him!In what a disgraceful light might it not strike so vain a man!It might seem as if she had purposely thrown herself in his way again!Oh! why did she come?or, why did he thus come a day before he was expected?Had they been only ten minutes sooner, they should have been beyond the reach of his discrimination, for it was plain that he was that moment arrived, that moment alighted from his horse or his carriage.She blushed again and again over the perverseness of the meeting.And his behaviour, so strikingly altered,--what could it mean?That he should even speak to her was amazing!--but to speak with such civility, to enquire after her family!Never in her life had she seen his manners so little dignified, never had he spoken with such gentleness as on this unexpected meeting.What a contrast did it offer to his last address in Rosing's Park, when he put his letter into her hand!She knew not what to think, nor how to account for it.
They had now entered a beautiful walk by the side of the water, and every step was bringing forward a nobler fall of ground, or a finer reach of the woods to which they were approaching; but it was some time before Elizabeth was sensible of any of it; and, though she answered mechanically to the repeated appeals of her uncle and aunt, and seemed to direct her eyes to such objects as they pointed out, she distinguished no part of the scene.Her thoughts were all fixed on that one spot of Pemberley House, whichever it might be, where Mr. Darcy then was.She longed to know what at that moment was passing in his mind; in what manner he thought of her, and whether, in defiance of every thing, she was still dear to him.Perhaps he had been civil, only because he felt himself at ease; yet there had been that in his voice, which was not like ease.Whether he had felt more of pain or of pleasure in seeing her, she could not tell, but he certainly had not seen her with composure.
At length, however, the remarks of her companions on her absence of mind roused her, and she felt the necessity of appearing more like herself.
The introduction, however, was immediately made; and as she named their relationship to herself, she stole a sly look at him, to see how he bore it; and was not without the expectation of his decamping as fast as he could from such disgraceful companions.That he was surprised by the connexion was evident; he sustained it however with fortitude, and so far from going away, turned back with them, and entered into conversation with Mr. Gardiner.Elizabeth could not but be pleased, could not but triumph.It was consoling, that he should know she had some relations for whom there was no need to blush.She listened most attentively to all that passed between them, and gloried in every expression, every sentence of her uncle, which marked his intelligence, his taste, or his good manners.
Elizabeth answered only by a slight bow.Her thoughts were instantly driven back to the time when Mr. Bingley's name had been last mentioned between them; and if she might judge from his complexion, his mind was not very differently engaged.
The surprise of such an application was great indeed; it was too great for her to know in what manner she acceded to it.She immediately felt that whatever desire Miss Darcy might have of being acquainted with her, must be the work of her brother, and without looking farther, it was satisfactory; it was gratifying to know that his resentment had not made him think really ill of her.
They now walked on in silence; each of them deep in thought.Elizabeth was not comfortable; that was impossible; but she was flattered and pleased.His wish of introducing his sister to her, was a compliment of the highest kind.They soon outstripped the others, and when they had reached the carriage, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were half a quarter of a mile behind.
He then asked her to walk into the house--but she declared herself not tired, and they stood together on the lawn.At such a time, much might have been said, and silence was very awkward.She wanted to talk, but there seemed an embargo on every subject.At last she recollected that she had been travelling, and they talked of Matlock and Dove Dale with great perseverance.Yet time and her aunt moved slowly--and her patience and her ideas were nearly worn out before the tête-à-tête was over.On Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner's coming up, they were all pressed to go into the house and take some refreshment; but this was declined, and they parted on each side with the utmost politeness.Mr. Darcy handed the ladies into the carriage, and when it drove off, Elizabeth saw him walking slowly towards the house.
Elizabeth excused herself as well as she could; said that she had liked him better when they met in Kent than before, and that she had never seen him so pleasant as this morning.
Elizabeth felt that they had entirely mistaken his character, but said nothing.
Elizabeth here felt herself called on to say something in vindication of his behaviour to Wickham; and therefore gave them to understand, in as guarded a manner as she could, that by what she had heard from his relations in Kent, his actions were capable of a very different construction; and that his character was by no means so faulty, nor Wickham's so amiable, as they had been considered in Hertfordshire.In confirmation of this, she related the particulars of all the pecuniary transactions in which they had been connected, without actually naming her authority, but stating it to be such as might be relied on.
Mrs. Gardiner was surprised and concerned; but as they were now approaching the scene of her former pleasures, every idea gave way to the charm of recollection; and she was too much engaged in pointing out to her husband all the interesting spots in its environs, to think of any thing else.Fatigued as she had been by the morning's walk, they had no sooner dined than she set off again in quest of her former acquaintance, and the evening was spent in the satisfactions of an intercourse renewed after many years discontinuance.
The occurrences of the day were too full of interest to leave Elizabeth much attention for any of these new friends; and she could do nothing but think, and think with wonder, of Mr. Darcy's civility, and above all, of his wishing her to be acquainted with his sister.
Elizabeth had settled it that Mr. Darcy would bring his sister to visit her, the very day after her reaching Pemberley; and was consequently resolved not to be out of sight of the inn the whole of that morning.But her conclusion was false; for on the very morning after their own arrival at Lambton, these visitors came.They had been walking about the place with some of their new friends, and were just returned to the inn to dress themselves for dining with the same family, when the sound of a carriage drew them to a window, and they saw a gentleman and lady in a curricle, driving up the street.Elizabeth immediately recognising the livery, guessed what it meant, and imparted no small degree of surprise to her relations, by acquainting them with the honour which she expected.Her uncle and aunt were all amazement; and the embarrassment of her manner as she spoke, joined to the circumstance itself, and many of the circumstances of the preceding day, opened to them a new idea on the business.Nothing had ever suggested it before, but they now felt that there was no other way of accounting for such attentions from such a quarter, than by supposing a partiality for their niece.While these newly-born notions were passing in their heads, the perturbation of Elizabeth's feelings was every moment increasing.She was quite amazed at her own discomposure; but amongst other causes of disquiet, she dreaded lest the partiality of the brother should have said too much in her favour; and more than commonly anxious to please, she naturally suspected that every power of pleasing would fail her.
She retreated from the window, fearful of being seen; and as she walked up and down the room, endeavouring to compose herself, saw such looks of enquiring surprise in her uncle and aunt, as made every thing worse.
Miss Darcy and her brother appeared, and this formidable introduction took place.With astonishment did Elizabeth see, that her new acquaintance was at least as much embarrassed as herself.Since her being at Lambton, she had heard that Miss Darcy was exceedingly proud; but the observation of a very few minutes convinced her, that she was only exceedingly shy.She found it difficult to obtain even a word from her beyond a monosyllable.
Miss Darcy was tall, and on a larger scale than Elizabeth; and, though little more than sixteen, her figure was formed, and her appearance womanly and graceful.She was less handsome than her brother, but there was sense and good humour in her face, and her manners were perfectly unassuming and gentle.Elizabeth, who had expected to find in her as acute and unembarrassed an observer as ever Mr. Darcy had been, was much relieved by discerning such different feelings.
They had not been long together, before Darcy told her that Bingley was also coming to wait on her; and she had barely time to express her satisfaction, and prepare for such a visitor, when Bingley's quick step was heard on the stairs, and in a moment he entered the room.All Elizabeth's anger against him had been long done away; but, had she still felt any, it could hardly have stood its ground against the unaffected cordiality with which he expressed himself, on seeing her again.He enquired in a friendly, though general way, after her family, and looked and spoke with the same good-humoured ease that he had ever done.
To Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner he was scarcely a less interesting personage than to herself.They had long wished to see him.The whole party before them, indeed, excited a lively attention.The suspicions which had just arisen of Mr. Darcy and their niece, directed their observation towards each with an earnest, though guarded, enquiry; and they soon drew from those enquiries the full conviction that one of them at least knew what it was to love.Of the lady's sensations they remained a little in doubt; but that the gentleman was overflowing with admiration was evident enough.
Elizabeth, on her side, had much to do.She wanted to ascertain the feelings of each of her visitors, she wanted to compose her own, and to make herself agreeable to all; and in the latter object, where she feared most to fail, she was most sure of success, for those to whom she endeavoured to give pleasure were prepossessed in her favour.Bingley was ready, Georgiana was eager, and Darcy determined, to be pleased.
Elizabeth was pleased to find his memory so exact; and he afterwards took occasion to ask her, when unattended to by any of the rest, whether all her sisters were at Longbourn.There was not much in the question, nor in the preceding remark, but there was a look and a manner which gave them meaning.
It was not often that she could turn her eyes on Mr. Darcy himself; but, whenever she did catch a glimpse, she saw an expression of general complaisance, and in all that he said, she heard an accent so far removed from hauteur or disdain of his companions, as convinced her that the improvement of manners which she had yesterday witnessed, however temporary its existence might prove, had at least outlived one day.When she saw him thus seeking the acquaintance, and courting the good opinion of people, with whom any intercourse a few months ago would have been a disgrace; when she saw him thus civil, not only to herself, but to the very relations whom he had openly disdained, and recollected their last lively scene in Hunsford Parsonage, the difference, the change was so great, and struck so forcibly on her mind, that she could hardly restrain her astonishment from being visible.Never, even in the company of his dear friends at Netherfield, or his dignified relations at Rosings, had she seen him so desirous to please, so free from self-consequence, or unbending reserve as now, when no importance could result from the success of his endeavours, and when even the acquaintance of those to whom his attentions were addressed, would draw down the ridicule and censure of the ladies both of Netherfield and Rosings.
Their visitors staid with them above half an hour, and when they arose to depart, Mr. Darcy called on his sister to join him in expressing their wish of seeing Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, and Miss Bennet, to dinner at Pemberley, before they left the country.Miss Darcy, though with a diffidence which marked her little in the habit of giving invitations, readily obeyed.Mrs. Gardiner looked at her niece, desirous of knowing how she, whom the invitation most concerned, felt disposed as to its acceptance, but Elizabeth had turned away her head.Presuming, however, that this studied avoidance spoke rather a momentary embarrassment, than any dislike of the proposal, and seeing in her husband, who was fond of society, a perfect willingness to accept it, she ventured to engage for her attendance, and the day after the next was fixed on.
Bingley expressed great pleasure in the certainty of seeing Elizabeth again, having still a great deal to say to her, and many enquiries to make after all their Hertfordshire friends.Elizabeth, construing all this into a wish of hearing her speak of her sister, was pleased; and on this account, as well as some others, found herself, when their visitors left them, capable of considering the last half hour with some satisfaction, though while it was passing, the enjoyment of it had been little.Eager to be alone, and fearful of enquiries or hints from her uncle and aunt, she staid with them only long enough to hear their favourable opinion of Bingley, and then hurried away to dress.
But she had no reason to fear Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner's curiosity; it was not their wish to force her communication.It was evident that she was much better acquainted with Mr. Darcy than they had before any idea of; it was evident that he was very much in love with her.They saw much to interest, but nothing to justify enquiry.
Of Mr. Darcy it was now a matter of anxiety to think well; and, as far as their acquaintance reached, there was no fault to find.They could not be untouched by his politeness, and had they drawn his character from their own feelings, and his servant's report, without any reference to any other account, the circle in Hertfordshire to which he was known, would not have recognised it for Mr. Darcy.There was now an interest, however, in believing the housekeeper; and they soon became sensible, that the authority of a servant who had known him since he was four years old, and whose own manners indicated respectability, was not to be hastily rejected.Neither had any thing occurred in the intelligence of their Lambton friends, that could materially lessen its weight.They had nothing to accuse him of but pride; pride he probably had, and if not, it would certainly be imputed by the inhabitants of a small market-town, where the family did not visit.It was acknowledged, however, that he was a liberal man, and did much good among the poor.
With respect to Wickham, the travellers soon found that he was not held there in much estimation; for though the chief of his concerns, with the son of his patron, were imperfectly understood, it was yet a well known fact that, on his quitting Derbyshire, he had left many debts behind him, which Mr. Darcy afterwards discharged.
As for Elizabeth, her thoughts were at Pemberley this evening more than the last; and the evening, though as it passed it seemed long, was not long enough to determine her feelings towards one in that mansion; and she lay awake two whole hours, endeavouring to make them out.She certainly did not hate him.No; hatred had vanished long ago, and she had almost as long been ashamed of ever feeling a dislike against him, that could be so called.The respect created by the conviction of his valuable qualities, though at first unwillingly admitted, had for some time ceased to be repugnant to her feelings; and it was now heightened into somewhat of a friendlier nature, by the testimony so highly in his favour, and bringing forward his disposition in so amiable a light, which yesterday had produced.But above all, above respect and esteem, there was a motive within her of good will which could not be overlooked.It was gratitude.--Gratitude,not merely for having once loved her, but for loving her still well enough, to forgive all the petulance and acrimony of her manner in rejecting him, and all the unjust accusations accompanying her rejection.He who, she had been persuaded, would avoid her as his greatest enemy, seemed, on this accidental meeting, most eager to preserve the acquaintance, and without any indelicate display of regard, or any peculiarity of manner, where their two selves only were concerned, was soliciting the good opinion of her friends, and bent on making her known to his sister.Such a change in a man of so much pride, excited not only astonishment but gratitude--for to love, ardent love, it must be attributed; and as such its impression on her was of a sort to be encouraged, as by no means unpleasing, though it could not be exactly defined.She respected, she esteemed, she was grateful to him, she felt a real interest in his welfare; and she only wanted to know how far she wished that welfare to depend upon herself, and how far it would be for the happiness of both that she should employ the power, which her fancy told her she still possessed, of bringing on the renewal of his addresses.
It had been settled in the evening, between the aunt and niece, that such a striking civility as Miss Darcy's, in coming to them on the very day of her arrival at Pemberley, for she had reached it only to a late breakfast, ought to be imitated, though it could not be equalled, by some exertion of politeness on their side; and, consequently, that it would be highly expedient to wait on her at Pemberley the following morning.They were, therefore, to go.--Elizabeth was pleased, though, when she asked herself the reason, she had very little to say in reply.
Mr. Gardiner left them soon after breakfast.The fishing scheme had been renewed the day before, and a positive engagement made of his meeting some of the gentlemen at Pemberley by noon.
Convinced as Elizabeth now was that Miss Bingley's dislike of her had originated in jealousy, she could not help feeling how very unwelcome her appearance at Pemberley must be to her, and was curious to know with how much civility on that lady's side, the acquaintance would now be renewed.
On reaching the house, they were shewn through the hall into the saloon, whose northern aspect rendered it delightful for summer.Its windows opening to the ground, admitted a most refreshing view of the high woody hills behind the house, and of the beautiful oaks and Spanish chesnuts which were scattered over the intermediate lawn.
In this room they were received by Miss Darcy, who was sitting there with Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, and the lady with whom she lived in London.Georgiana's reception of them was very civil; but attended with all that embarrassment which, though proceeding from shyness and the fear of doing wrong, would easily give to those who felt themselves inferior, the belief of her being proud and reserved.Mrs. Gardiner and her niece, however, did her justice, and pitied her.
By Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, they were noticed only by a curtsey; and on their being seated, a pause, awkward as such pauses must always be, succeeded for a few moments.It was first broken by Mrs. Annesley, a genteel, agreeable-looking woman, whose endeavour to introduce some kind of discourse, proved her to be more truly well bred than either of the others; and between her and Mrs. Gardiner, with occasional help from Elizabeth, the conversation was carried on.Miss Darcy looked as if she wished for courage enough to join in it; and sometimes did venture a short sentence, when there was least danger of its being heard.
Elizabeth soon saw that she was herself closely watched by Miss Bingley, and that she could not speak a word, especially to Miss Darcy, without calling her attention.This observation would not have prevented her from trying to talk to the latter, had they not been seated at an inconvenient distance; but she was not sorry to be spared the necessity of saying much.Her own thoughts were employing her.She expected every moment that some of the gentlemen would enter the room.She wished, she feared that the master of the house might be amongst them; and whether she wished or feared it most, she could scarcely determine.After sitting in this manner a quarter of an hour, without hearing Miss Bingley's voice, Elizabeth was roused by receiving from her a cold enquiry after the health of her family.She answered with equal indifference and brevity, and the other said no more.
The next variation which their visit afforded was produced by the entrance of servants with cold meat, cake, and a variety of all the finest fruits in season; but this did not take place till after many a significant look and smile from Mrs. Annesley to Miss Darcy had been given, to remind her of her post.There was now employment for the whole party; for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches, soon collected them round the table.
While thus engaged, Elizabeth had a fair opportunity of deciding whether she most feared or wished for the appearance of Mr. Darcy, by the feelings which prevailed on his entering the room; and then, though but a moment before she had believed her wishes to predominate, she began to regret that he came.
He had been some time with Mr. Gardiner, who, with two or three other gentlemen from the house, was engaged by the river, and had left him only on learning that the ladies of the family intended a visit to Georgiana that morning.No sooner did he appear, than Elizabeth wisely resolved to be perfectly easy and unembarrassed;--a resolution the more necessary to be made, but perhaps not the more easily kept, because she saw that the suspicions of the whole party were awakened against them, and that there was scarcely an eye which did not watch his behaviour when he first came into the room.In no countenance was attentive curiosity so strongly marked as in Miss Bingley's, in spite of the smiles which overspread her face whenever she spoke to one of its objects; for jealousy had not yet made her desperate, and her attentions to Mr. Darcy were by no means over.Miss Darcy, on her brother's entrance, exerted herself much more to talk; and Elizabeth saw that he was anxious for his sister and herself to get acquainted, and forwarded, as much as possible, every attempt at conversation on either side.In Darcy's presence she dared not mention Wickham's name; but Elizabeth instantly comprehended that he was uppermost in her thoughts; and the various recollections connected with him gave her a moment's distress; but, exerting herself vigorously to repel the ill-natured attack, she presently answered the question in a tolerably disengaged tone.While she spoke, an involuntary glance shewed her Darcy with an heightened complexion, earnestly looking at her, and his sister overcome with confusion, and unable to lift up her eyes.Had Miss Bingley known what pain she was then giving her beloved friend, she undoubtedly would have refrained from the hint; but she had merely intended to discompose Elizabeth, by bringing forward the idea of a man to whom she believed her partial, to make her betray a sensibility which might injure her in Darcy's opinion, and perhaps to remind the latter of all the follies and absurdities, by which some part of her family were connected with that corps.Not a syllable had ever reached her of Miss Darcy's meditated elopement.To no creature had it been revealed, where secresy was possible, except to Elizabeth; and from all Bingley's connections her brother was particularly anxious to conceal it, from that very wish which Elizabeth had long ago attributed to him, of their becoming hereafter her own.He had certainly formed such a plan, and without meaning that it should affect his endeavour to separate him from Miss Bennet, it is probable that it might add something to his lively concern for the welfare of his friend.
Elizabeth's collected behaviour, however, soon quieted his emotion; and as Miss Bingley, vexed and disappointed, dared not approach nearer to Wickham, Georgiana also recovered in time, though not enough to be able to speak any more.Her brother, whose eye she feared to meet, scarcely recollected her interest in the affair, and the very circumstance which had been designed to turn his thoughts from Elizabeth, seemed to have fixed them on her more, and more cheerfully.
Their visit did not continue long after the question and answer above-mentioned; and while Mr. Darcy was attending them to their carriage, Miss Bingley was venting her feelings in criticisms on Elizabeth's person, behaviour, and dress.But Georgiana would not join her.Her brother's recommendation was enough to ensure her favour: his judgment could not err, and he had spoken in such terms of Elizabeth, as to leave Georgiana without the power of finding her otherwise than lovely and amiable.When Darcy returned to the saloon, Miss Bingley could not help repeating to him some part of what she had been saying to his sister.
However little Mr. Darcy might have liked such an address, he contented himself with coolly replying, that he perceived no other alteration than her being rather tanned,--no miraculous consequence of travelling in the summer.
Persuaded as Miss Bingley was that Darcy admired Elizabeth, this was not the best method of recommending herself; but angry people are not always wise; and in seeing him at last look somewhat nettled, she had all the success she expected.He then went away, and Miss Bingley was left to all the satisfaction of having forced him to say what gave no one any pain but herself.
Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth talked of all that had occurred, during their visit, as they returned, except what had particularly interested them both.The looks and behaviour of every body they had seen were discussed, except of the person who had mostly engaged their attention.They talked of his sister, his friends, his house, his fruit, of every thing but himself; yet Elizabeth was longing to know what Mrs. Gardiner thought of him, and Mrs. Gardiner would have been highly gratified by her niece's beginning the subject.
Elizabeth had been a good deal disappointed in not finding a letter from Jane, on their first arrival at Lambton; and this disappointment had been renewed on each of the mornings that had now been spent there; but on the third, her repining was over, and her sister justified by the receipt of two letters from her at once, on one of which was marked that it had been missent elsewhere.Elizabeth was not surprised at it, as Jane had written the direction remarkably ill.
They had just been preparing to walk as the letters came in; and her uncle and aunt, leaving her to enjoy them in quiet, set off by themselves.The one missent must be first attended to; it had been written five days ago.The beginning contained an account of all their little parties and engagements, with such news as the country afforded; but the latter half, which was dated a day later, and written in evident agitation, gave more important intelligence.It was to this effect:
Without allowing herself time for consideration, and scarcely knowing what she felt, Elizabeth on finishing this letter, instantly seized the other, and opening it with the utmost impatience, read as follows: it had been written a day later than the conclusion of the first.
Elizabeth hesitated, but her knees trembled under her, and she felt how little would be gained by her attempting to pursue them.Calling back the servant, therefore, she commissioned him, though in so breathless an accent as made her almost unintelligible, to fetch his master and mistress home, instantly.
Darcy shook his head in silent acquiesence.
Darcy made no answer.He seemed scarcely to hear her, and was walking up and down the room in earnest meditation; his brow contracted, his air gloomy.Elizabeth soon observed, and instantly understood it.Her power was sinking; every thing must sink under such a proof of family weakness, such an assurance of the deepest disgrace.She could neither wonder nor condemn, but the belief of his self-conquest brought nothing consolatory to her bosom, afforded no palliation of her distress.It was, on the contrary, exactly calculated to make her understand her own wishes; and never had she so honestly felt that she could have loved him, as now, when all love must be vain.
He readily assured her of his secrecy--again expressed his sorrow for her distress, wished it a happier conclusion than there was at present reason to hope, and leaving his compliments for her relations, with only one serious, parting, look, went away.
As he quitted the room, Elizabeth felt how improbable it was that they should ever see each other again on such terms of cordiality as had marked their several meetings in Derbyshire; and as she threw a retrospective glance over the whole of their acquaintance, so full of contradictions and varieties, sighed at the perverseness of those feelings which would now have promoted its continuance, and would formerly have rejoiced in its termination.
If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection, Elizabeth's change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty.But if otherwise, if the regard springing from such sources is unreasonable or unnatural, in comparison of what is so often described as arising on a first interview with its object, and even before two words have been exchanged, nothing can be said in her defence, except that she had given somewhat of a trial to the latter method, in her partiality for Wickham, and that its ill-success might perhaps authorise her to seek the other less interesting mode of attachment.Be that as it may, she saw him go with regret; and in this early example of what Lydia's infamy must produce, found additional anguish as she reflected on that wretched business.Never, since reading Jane's second letter, had she entertained a hope of Wickham's meaning to marry her.No one but Jane, she thought, could flatter herself with such an expectation.Surprise was the least of her feelings on this developement.While the contents of the first letter remained on her mind, she was all surprise--all astonishment that Wickham should marry a girl, whom it was impossible he could marry for money; and how Lydia could ever have attached him, had appeared incomprehensible.But now it was all too natural.For such an attachment as this, she might have sufficient charms; and though she did not suppose Lydia to be deliberately engaging in an elopement, without the intention of marriage, she had no difficulty in believing that neither her virtue nor her understanding would preserve her from falling an easy prey.
She had never perceived, while the regiment was in Hertfordshire, that Lydia had any partiality for him, but she was convinced that Lydia had wanted only encouragement to attach herself to any body.Sometimes one officer, sometimes another had been her favourite, as their attentions raised them in her opinion.Her affections had been continually fluctuating, but never without an object.The mischief of neglect and mistaken indulgence towards such a girl.--Oh!how acutely did she now feel it.
But wishes were vain; or at best could serve only to amuse her in the hurry and confusion of the following hour.Had Elizabeth been at leisure to be idle, she would have remained certain that all employment was impossible to one so wretched as herself; but she had her share of business as well as her aunt, and amongst the rest there were notes to be written to all their friends in Lambton, with false excuses for their sudden departure.An hour, however, saw the whole completed; and Mr. Gardiner meanwhile having settled his account at the inn, nothing remained to be done but to go; and Elizabeth, after all the misery of the morning, found herself, in a shorter space of time than she could have supposed, seated in the carriage, and on the road to Longbourn.
It may be easily believed, that however little of novelty could be added to their fears, hopes, and conjectures, on this interesting subject, by its repeated discussion, no other could detain them from it long, during the whole of the journey.From Elizabeth's thoughts it was never absent.Fixed there by the keenest of all anguish, self reproach, she could find no interval of ease or forgetfulness.
They travelled as expeditiously as possible; and sleeping one night on the road, reached Longbourn by dinner-time the next day.It was a comfort to Elizabeth to consider that Jane could not have been wearied by long expectations.
The little Gardiners, attracted by the sight of a chaise, were standing on the steps of the house, as they entered the paddock; and when the carriage drove up to the door, the joyful surprise that lighted up their faces, and displayed itself over their whole bodies, in a variety of capers and frisks, was the first pleasing earnest of their welcome.
Elizabeth jumped out; and, after giving each of them an hasty kiss, hurried into the vestibule, where Jane, who came running down stairs from her mother's apartment, immediately met her.
Elizabeth, as she affectionately embraced her, whilst tears filled the eyes of both, lost not a moment in asking whether any thing had been heard of the fugitives.
Her sister, however, assured her, of her being perfectly well; and their conversation, which had been passing while Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were engaged with their children, was now put an end to, by the approach of the whole party.Jane ran to her uncle and aunt, and welcomed and thanked them both, with alternate smiles and tears.
When they were all in the drawing-room, the questions which Elizabeth had already asked, were of course repeated by the others, and they soon found that Jane had no intelligence to give.The sanguine hope of good, however, which the benevolence of her heart suggested, had not yet deserted her; she still expected that it would all end well, and that every morning would bring some letter, either from Lydia or her father, to explain their proceedings, and perhaps announce the marriage.
Mrs. Bennet, to whose apartment they all repaired, after a few minutes conversation together, received them exactly as might be expected; with tears and lamentations of regret, invectives against the villanous conduct of Wickham, and complaints of her own sufferings and ill usage; blaming every body but the person to whose ill judging indulgence the errors of her daughter must be principally owing.
They all exclaimed against such terrific ideas; and Mr. Gardiner, after general assurances of his affection for her and all her family, told her that he meant to be in London the very next day, and would assist Mr. Bennet in every endeavour for recovering Lydia.
But Mr. Gardiner, though he assured her again of his earnest endeavours in the cause, could not avoid recommending moderation to her, as well in her hopes as her fears; and, after talking with her in this manner till dinner was on table, they left her to vent all her feelings on the housekeeper, who attended, in the absence of her daughters.
Though her brother and sister were persuaded that there was no real occasion for such a seclusion from the family, they did not attempt to oppose it, for they knew that she had not prudence enough to hold her tongue before the servants, while they waited at table, and judged it better that one only of the household, and the one whom they could most trust, should comprehend all her fears and solicitude on the subject.
In the dining-room they were soon joined by Mary and Kitty, who had been too busily engaged in their separate apartments, to make their appearance before.One came from her books, and the other from her toilette.The faces of both, however, were tolerably calm; and no change was visible in either, except that the loss of her favourite sister, or the anger which she had herself incurred in the business, had given something more of fretfulness than usual, to the accents of Kitty.Elizabeth lifted up her eyes in amazement, but was too much oppressed to make any reply.Mary, however, continued to console herself with such kind of moral extractions from the evil before them.
Jane then took it from her pocket-book, and gave it to Elizabeth.These were the contents:
She then proceeded to enquire into the measures which her father had intended to pursue, while in town, for the recovery of his daughter.
The whole party were in hopes of a letter from Mr. Bennet the next morning, but the post came in without bringing a single line from him.His family knew him to be on all common occasions, a most negligent and dilatory correspondent, but at such a time, they had hoped for exertion.They were forced to conclude, that he had no pleasing intelligence to send, but even of that they would have been glad to be certain.Mr. Gardiner had waited only for the letters before he set off.
When he was gone, they were certain at least of receiving constant information of what was going on, and their uncle promised, at parting, to prevail on Mr. Bennet to return to Longbourn, as soon as he could, to the great consolation of his sister, who considered it as the only security for her husband's not being killed in a duel.
Mrs. Gardiner and the children were to remain in Hertfordshire a few days longer, as the former thought her presence might be serviceable to her nieces.She shared in their attendance on Mrs. Bennet, and was a great comfort to them, in their hours of freedom.Their other aunt also visited them frequently, and always, as she said, with the design of cheering and heartening them up, though as she never came without reporting some fresh instance of Wickham's extravagance or irregularity, she seldom went away without leaving them more dispirited than she found them.
All Meryton seemed striving to blacken the man, who, but three months before, had been almost an angel of light.He was declared to be in debt to every tradesman in the place, and his intrigues, all honoured with the title of seduction, had been extended into every tradesman's family.Every body declared that he was the wickedest young man in the world; and every body began to find out, that they had always distrusted the appearance of his goodness.Elizabeth, though she did not credit above half of what was said, believed enough to make her former assurance of her sister's ruin still more certain; and even Jane, who believed still less of it, became almost hopeless, more especially as the time was now come, when if they had gone to Scotland, which she had never before entirely despaired of, they must in all probability have gained some news of them.
Mr. Gardiner left Longbourn on Sunday; on Tuesday, his wife received a letter from him; it told them, that on his arrival, he had immediately found out his brother, and persuaded him to come to Gracechurch street.That Mr. Bennet had been to Epsom and Clapham, before his arrival, but without gaining any satisfactory information; and that he was now determined to enquire at all the principal hotels in town, as Mr. Bennet thought it possible they might have gone to one of them, on their first coming to London, before they procured lodgings.Mr. Gardiner himself did not expect any success from this measure, but as his brother was eager in it, he meant to assist him in pursuing it.He added, that Mr. Bennet seemed wholly disinclined at present, to leave London, and promised to write again very soon.There was also a postscript to this effect.
Elizabeth was at no loss to understand from whence this deference for her authority proceeded; but it was not in her power to give any information of so satisfactory a nature, as the compliment deserved.
She had never heard of his having had any relations, except a father and mother, both of whom had been dead many years.It was possible, however, that some of his companions in the ----shire, might be able to give more information; and, though she was not very sanguine in expecting it, the application was a something to look forward to.
Every day at Longbourn was now a day of anxiety; but the most anxious part of each was when the post was expected.The arrival of letters was the first grand object of every morning's impatience.Through letters, whatever of good or bad was to be told, would be communicated, and every succeeding day was expected to bring some news of importance.
But before they heard again from Mr. Gardiner, a letter arrived for their father, from a different quarter, from Mr. Collins; which, as Jane had received directions to open all that came for him in his absence, she accordingly read; and Elizabeth, who knew what curiosities his letters always were, looked over her, and read it likewise.It was as follows:
Mr. Gardiner added in his letter, that they might expect to see their father at home on the following day, which was Saturday.Rendered spiritless by the ill-success of all their endeavours, he had yielded to his brother-in-law's intreaty that he would return to his family, and leave it to him to do, whatever occasion might suggest to be advisable for continuing their pursuit.When Mrs. Bennet was told of this, she did not express so much satisfaction as her children expected, considering what her anxiety for his life had been before.
As Mrs. Gardiner began to wish to be at home, it was settled that she and her children should go to London, at the same time that Mr. Bennet came from it.The coach, therefore, took them the first stage of their journey, and brought its master back to Longbourn.
Mrs. Gardiner went away in all the perplexity about Elizabeth and her Derbyshire friend, that had attended her from that part of the world.His name had never been voluntarily mentioned before them by her niece; and the kind of half-expectation which Mrs. Gardiner had formed, of their being followed by a letter from him, had ended in nothing.Elizabeth had received none since her return, that could come from Pemberley.
The present unhappy state of the family, rendered any other excuse for the lowness of her spirits unnecessary; nothing, therefore, could be fairly conjectured from that, though Elizabeth, who was by this time tolerably well acquainted with her own feelings, was perfectly aware, that, had she known nothing of Darcy, she could have borne the dread of Lydia's infamy somewhat better.It would have spared her, she thought, one sleepless night out of two.
When Mr. Bennet arrived, he had all the appearance of his usual philosophic composure.He said as little as he had ever been in the habit of saying; made no mention of the business that had taken him away, and it was some time before his daughters had courage to speak of it.
They were interrupted by Miss Bennet, who came to fetch her mother's tea.
Kitty, who took all these threats in a serious light, began to cry.
Away ran the girls, too eager to get in to have time for speech.Upon this information, they instantly passed through the hall once more, and ran across the lawn after their father, who was deliberately pursuing his way towards a small wood on one side of the paddock.
Elizabeth impatiently caught it from his hand.Jane now came up.
Most earnestly did she then intreat him to lose no more time before he wrote.
And so saying, he turned back with them, and walked towards the house.
Mr. Bennet made no answer, and each of them, deep in thought, continued silent till they reached the house.Their father then went to the library to write, and the girls walked into the breakfast-room.
It now occurred to the girls that their mother was in all likelihood perfectly ignorant of what had happened.They went to the library, therefore, and asked their father, whether he would not wish them to make it known to her.Elizabeth took the letter from his writing table, and they went up stairs together.Mary and Kitty were both with Mrs. Bennet: one communication would, therefore, do for all.After a slight preparation for good news, the letter was read aloud.Mrs. Bennet could hardly contain herself.As soon as Jane had read Mr. Gardiner's hope of Lydia's being soon married, her joy burst forth, and every following sentence added to its exuberance.She was now in an irritation as violent from delight, as she had ever been fidgetty from alarm and vexation.To know that her daughter would be married was enough.She was disturbed by no fear for her felicity, nor humbled by any remembrance of her misconduct.
Her eldest daughter endeavoured to give some relief to the violence of these transports, by leading her thoughts to the obligations which Mr. Gardiner's behaviour laid them all under.
She was then proceeding to all the particulars of calico, muslin, and cambric, and would shortly have dictated some very plentiful orders, had not Jane, though with some difficulty, persuaded her to wait, till her father was at leisure to be consulted.One day's delay she observed, would be of small importance; and her mother was too happy, to be quite so obstinate as usual.Other schemes too came into her head.
Mrs. Hill began instantly to express her joy.Elizabeth received her congratulations amongst the rest, and then, sick of this folly, took refuge in her own room, that she might think with freedom.
Poor Lydia's situation must, at best, be bad enough; but that it was no worse, she had need to be thankful.She felt it so; and though, in looking forward, neither rational happiness nor worldly prosperity, could be justly expected for her sister; in looking back to what they had feared, only two hours ago, she felt all the advantages of what they had gained.
Mr. Bennet had very often wished, before this period of his life, that, instead of spending his whole income, he had laid by an annual sum, for the better provision of his children, and of his wife, if she survived him.He now wished it more than ever.Had he done his duty in that respect, Lydia need not have been indebted to her uncle, for whatever of honour or credit could now be purchased for her.The satisfaction of prevailing on one of the most worthless young men in Great Britain to be her husband, might then have rested in its proper place.
He was seriously concerned, that a cause of so little advantage to any one, should be forwarded at the sole expence of his brother-in-law, and he was determined, if possible, to find out the extent of his assistance, and to discharge the obligation as soon as he could.
When first Mr. Bennet had married, economy was held to be perfectly useless; for, of course, they were to have a son.This son was to join in cutting off the entail, as soon as he should be of age, and the widow and younger children would by that means be provided for.Five daughters successively entered the world, but yet the son was to come; and Mrs. Bennet, for many years after Lydia's birth, had been certain that he would.This event had at last been despaired of, but it was then too late to be saving.Mrs. Bennet had no turn for economy, and her husband's love of independence had alone prevented their exceeding their income.
Five thousand pounds was settled by marriage articles on Mrs. Bennet and the children.But in what proportions it should be divided amongst the latter, depended on the will of the parents.This was one point, with regard to Lydia at least, which was now to be settled, and Mr. Bennet could have no hesitation in acceding to the proposal before him.In terms of grateful acknowledgment for the kindness of his brother, though expressed most concisely, he then delivered on paper his perfect approbation of all that was done, and his willingness to fulfil the engagements that had been made for him.He had never before supposed that, could Wickham be prevailed on to marry his daughter, it would be done with so little inconvenience to himself, as by the present arrangement.He would scarcely be ten pounds a-year the loser, by the hundred that was to be paid them; for, what with her board and pocket allowance, and the continual presents in money, which passed to her, through her mother's hands, Lydia's expences had been very little within that sum.
That it would be done with such trifling exertion on his side, too, was another very welcome surprise; for his chief wish at present, was to have as little trouble in the business as possible.When the first transports of rage which had produced his activity in seeking her were over, he naturally returned to all his former indolence.His letter was soon dispatched; for though dilatory in undertaking business, he was quick in its execution.He begged to know farther particulars of what he was indebted to his brother; but was too angry with Lydia, to send any message to her.
The good news quickly spread through the house; and with proportionate speed through the neighbourhood.It was borne in the latter with decent philosophy.To be sure it would have been more for the advantage of conversation, had Miss Lydia Bennet come upon the town; or, as the happiest alternative, been secluded from the world, in some distant farm house.But there was much to be talked of, in marrying her; and the good-natured wishes for her well-doing, which had proceeded before, from all the spiteful old ladies in Meryton, lost but little of their spirit in this change of circumstances, because with such an husband, her misery was considered certain.
It was a fortnight since Mrs. Bennet had been down stairs, but on this happy day, she again took her seat at the head of her table, and in spirits oppressively high.No sentiment of shame gave a damp to her triumph.The marriage of a daughter, which had been the first object of her wishes, since Jane was sixteen, was now on the point of accomplishment, and her thoughts and her words ran wholly on those attendants of elegant nuptials, fine muslins, new carriages, and servants.She was busily searching through the neighbourhood for a proper situation for her daughter, and, without knowing or considering what their income might be, rejected many as deficient in size and importance.
A long dispute followed this declaration; but Mr. Bennet was firm: it soon led to another; and Mrs. Bennet found, with amazement and horror, that her husband would not advance a guinea to buy clothes for his daughter.He protested that she should receive from him no mark of affection whatever, on the occasion.Mrs. Bennet could hardly comprehend it.That his anger could be carried to such a point of inconceivable resentment, as to refuse his daughter a privilege, without which her marriage would scarcely seem valid, exceeded all that she could believe possible.She was more alive to the disgrace, which the want of new clothes must reflect on her daughter's nuptials, than to any sense of shame at her eloping and living with Wickham, a fortnight before they took place.
Elizabeth was now most heartily sorry that she had, from the distress of the moment, been led to make Mr. Darcy acquainted with their fears for her sister; for since her marriage would so shortly give the proper termination to the elopement, they might hope to conceal its unfavourable beginning, from all those who were not immediately on the spot.
She had no fear of its spreading farther, through his means.There were few people on whose secrecy she would have more confidently depended; but at the same time, there was no one, whose knowledge of a sister's frailty would have mortified her so much.Not, however, from any fear of disadvantage from it, individually to herself; for at any rate, there seemed a gulf impassable between them.Had Lydia's marriage been concluded on the most honourable terms, it was not to be supposed that Mr. Darcy would connect himself with a family, where to every other objection would now be added, an alliance and relationship of the nearest kind with the man whom he so justly scorned.
From such a connection she could not wonder that he should shrink.The wish of procuring her regard, which she had assured herself of his feeling in Derbyshire, could not in rational expectation survive such a blow as this.She was humbled, she was grieved; she repented, though she hardly knew of what.She became jealous of his esteem, when she could no longer hope to be benefited by it.She wanted to hear of him, when there seemed the least chance of gaining intelligence.She was convinced that she could have been happy with him; when it was no longer likely they should meet.
What a triumph for him, as she often thought, could he know that the proposals which she had proudly spurned only four months ago, would now have been gladly and gratefully received!He was as generous, she doubted not, as the most generous of his sex.But while he was mortal, there must be a triumph.
She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man, who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her.His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes.It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved, and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance.
But no such happy marriage could now teach the admiring multitude what connubial felicity really was.An union of a different tendency, and precluding the possibility of the other, was soon to be formed in their family.
How Wickham and Lydia were to be supported in tolerable independence, she could not imagine.But how little of permanent happiness could belong to a couple who were only brought together because their passions were stronger than their virtue, she could easily conjecture.
Mr. Gardiner soon wrote again to his brother.To Mr. Bennet's acknowledgments he briefly replied, with assurances of his eagerness to promote the welfare of any of his family; and concluded with intreaties that the subject might never be mentioned to him again.The principal purport of his letter was to inform them, that Mr. Wickham had resolved on quitting the Militia.
Mr. Bennet and his daughters saw all the advantages of Wickham's removal from the ----shire, as clearly as Mr. Gardiner could do.But Mrs. Bennet, was not so well pleased with it.Lydia's being settled in the North, just when she had expected most pleasure and pride in her company, for she had by no means given up her plan of their residing in Hertfordshire, was a severe disappointment; and besides, it was such a pity that Lydia should be taken from a regiment where she was acquainted with every body, and had so many favourites.
His daughter's request, for such it might be considered, of being admitted into her family again, before she set off for the North, received at first an absolute negative.But Jane and Elizabeth, who agreed in wishing, for the sake of their sister's feelings and consequence, that she should be noticed on her marriage by her parents, urged him so earnestly, yet so rationally and so mildly, to receive her and her husband at Longbourn, as soon as they were married, that he was prevailed on to think as they thought, and act as they wished.And their mother had the satisfaction of knowing, that she should be able to shew her married daughter in the neighbourhood, before she was banished to the North.When Mr. Bennet wrote again to his brother, therefore, he sent his permission for them to come; and it was settled, that as soon as the ceremony was over, they should proceed to Longbourn.Elizabeth was surprised, however, that Wickham should consent to such a scheme, and, had she consulted only her own inclination, any meeting with him would have been the last object of her wishes.
Their sister's wedding day arrived; and Jane and Elizabeth felt for her probably more than she felt for herself.The carriage was sent to meet them at ----, and they were to return in it, by dinner-time.Their arrival was dreaded by the elder Miss Bennets; and Jane more especially, who gave Lydia the feelings which would have attended herself, had she been the culprit, was wretched in the thought of what her sister must endure.
They came.The family were assembled in the breakfast room, to receive them.Smiles decked the face of Mrs. Bennet, as the carriage drove up to the door; her husband looked impenetrably grave; her daughters, alarmed, anxious, uneasy.
Lydia's voice was heard in the vestibule; the door was thrown open, and she ran into the room.Her mother stepped forwards, embraced her, and welcomed her with rapture; gave her hand with an affectionate smile to Wickham, who followed his lady, and wished them both joy, with an alacrity which shewed no doubt of their happiness.
Their reception from Mr. Bennet, to whom they then turned, was not quite so cordial.His countenance rather gained in austerity; and he scarcely opened his lips.The easy assurance of the young couple, indeed, was enough to provoke him.Elizabeth was disgusted, and even Miss Bennet was shocked.Lydia was Lydia still; untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless.She turned from sister to sister, demanding their congratulations, and when at length they all sat down, looked eagerly round the room, took notice of some little alteration in it, and observed, with a laugh, that it was a great while since she had been there.
Wickham was not at all more distressed than herself, but his manners were always so pleasing, that had his character and his marriage been exactly what they ought, his smiles and his easy address, while he claimed their relationship, would have delighted them all.Elizabeth had not before believed him quite equal to such assurance; but she sat down, resolving within herself, to draw no limits in future to the impudence of an impudent man.She blushed, and Jane blushed; but the cheeks of the two who caused their confusion, suffered no variation of colour.
There was no want of discourse.The bride and her mother could neither of them talk fast enough; and Wickham, who happened to sit near Elizabeth, began enquiring after his acquaintance in that neighbourhood, with a good humoured ease, which she felt very unable to equal in her replies.They seemed each of them to have the happiest memories in the world.Nothing of the past was recollected with pain; and Lydia led voluntarily to subjects, which her sisters would not have alluded to for the world.
Their visitors were not to remain above ten days with them.Mr. Wickham had received his commission before he left London, and he was to join his regiment at the end of a fortnight.
No one but Mrs. Bennet, regretted that their stay would be so short; and she made the most of the time, by visiting about with her daughter, and having very frequent parties at home.These parties were acceptable to all; to avoid a family circle was even more desirable to such as did think, than such as did not.
Wickham's affection for Lydia, was just what Elizabeth had expected to find it; not equal to Lydia's for him.She had scarcely needed her present observation to be satisfied, from the reason of things, that their elopement had been brought on by the strength of her love, rather than by his; and she would have wondered why, without violently caring for her, he chose to elope with her at all, had she not felt certain that his flight was rendered necessary by distress of circumstances; and if that were the case, he was not the young man to resist an opportunity of having a companion.
Lydia was exceedingly fond of him.He was her dear Wickham on every occasion; no one was to be put in competition with him.He did every thing best in the world; and she was sure he would kill more birds on the first of September, than any body else in the country.
On such encouragement to ask, Elizabeth was forced to put it out of her power, by running away.
But to live in ignorance on such a point was impossible; or at least it was impossible not to try for information.Mr. Darcy had been at her sister's wedding.It was exactly a scene, and exactly among people, where he had apparently least to do, and least temptation to go.Conjectures as to the meaning of it, rapid and wild, hurried into her brain; but she was satisfied with none.Those that best pleased her, as placing his conduct in the noblest light, seemed most improbable.She could not bear such suspense; and hastily seizing a sheet of paper, wrote a short letter to her aunt, to request an explanation of what Lydia had dropt, if it were compatible with the secrecy which had been intended.
Jane's delicate sense of honour would not allow her to speak to Elizabeth privately of what Lydia had let fall; Elizabeth was glad of it;--till it appeared whether her inquiries would receive any satisfaction, she had rather be without a confidante.
Elizabeth had the satisfaction of receiving an answer to her letter, as soon as she possibly could.She was no sooner in possession of it, than hurrying into the little copse, where she was least likely to be interrupted, she sat down on one of the benches, and prepared to be happy; for the length of the letter convinced her that it did not contain a denial.
The contents of this letter threw Elizabeth into a flutter of spirits, in which it was difficult to determine whether pleasure or pain bore the greatest share.The vague and unsettled suspicions which uncertainty had produced of what Mr. Darcy might have been doing to forward her sister's match, which she had feared to encourage, as an exertion of goodness too great to be probable, and at the same time dreaded to be just, from the pain of obligation, were proved beyond their greatest extent to be true!He had followed them purposely to town, he had taken on himself all the trouble and mortification attendant on such a research; in which supplication had been necessary to a woman whom he must abominate and despise, and where he was reduced to meet, frequently meet, reason with, persuade, and finally bribe, the man whom he always most wished to avoid, and whose very name it was punishment to him to pronounce.He had done all this for a girl whom he could neither regard nor esteem.Her heart did whisper, that he had done it for her.But it was a hope shortly checked by other considerations, and she soon felt that even her vanity was insufficient, when required to depend on his affection for her, for a woman who had already refused him, as able to overcome a sentiment so natural as abhorrence against relationship with Wickham.Brother-in-law of Wickham!Every kind of pride must revolt from the connection.He had to be sure done much.She was ashamed to think how much.But he had given a reason for his interference, which asked no extraordinary stretch of belief.It was reasonable that he should feel he had been wrong; he had liberality, and he had the means of exercising it; and though she would not place herself as his principal inducement, she could, perhaps, believe, that remaining partiality for her, might assist his endeavours in a cause where her peace of mind must be materially concerned.It was painful, exceedingly painful, to know that they were under obligations to a person who could never receive a return.They owed the restoration of Lydia, her character, every thing to him.Oh! how heartily did she grieve over every ungracious sensation she had ever encouraged, every saucy speech she had ever directed towards him.For herself she was humbled; but she was proud of him.Proud that in a cause of compassion and honour, he had been able to get the better of himself.She read over her aunt's commendation of him again and again.It was hardly enough; but it pleased her.She was even sensible of some pleasure, though mixed with regret, on finding how steadfastly both she and her uncle had been persuaded that affection and confidence subsisted between Mr. Darcy and herself.
She was roused from her seat, and her reflections, by some one's approach; and before she could strike into another path, she was overtaken by Wickham.
She replied in the affirmative.
She held out her hand; he kissed it with affectionate gallantry, though he hardly knew how to look, and they entered the house.
Mr. Wickham was so perfectly satisfied with this conversation, that he never again distressed himself, or provoked his dear sister Elizabeth, by introducing the subject of it; and she was pleased to find that she had said enough to keep him quiet.
The day of his and Lydia's departure soon came, and Mrs. Bennet was forced to submit to a separation, which, as her husband by no means entered into her scheme of their all going to Newcastle, was likely to continue at least a twelvemonth.
Mr. Wickham's adieus were much more affectionate than his wife's.He smiled, looked handsome, and said many pretty things.
The loss of her daughter made Mrs. Bennet very dull for several days.
But the spiritless condition which this event threw her into, was shortly relieved, and her mind opened again to the agitation of hope, by an article of news, which then began to be in circulation.The housekeeper at Netherfield had received orders to prepare for the arrival of her master, who was coming down in a day or two, to shoot there for several weeks.Mrs. Bennet was quite in the fidgets.She looked at Jane, and smiled, and shook her head by turns.
Miss Bennet had not been able to hear of his coming, without changing colour.Elizabeth did not know what to make of it.Had she not seen him in Derbyshire, she might have supposed him capable of coming there, with no other view than what was acknowledged; but she still thought him partial to Jane, and she wavered as to the greater probability of his coming there with his friend's permission, or being bold enough to come without it.
In spite of what her sister declared, and really believed to be her feelings, in the expectation of his arrival, Elizabeth could easily perceive that her spirits were affected by it.They were more disturbed, more unequal, than she had often seen them.
The subject which had been so warmly canvassed between their parents, about a twelvemonth ago, was now brought forward again.
His wife represented to him how absolutely necessary such an attention would be from all the neighbouring gentlemen, on his returning to Netherfield.
Consoled by this resolution, she was the better able to bear her husband's incivility; though it was very mortifying to know that her neighbours might all see Mr. Bingley in consequence of it, before they did.Mr. Bingley arrived.Mrs. Bennet, through the assistance of servants, contrived to have the earliest tidings of it, that the period of anxiety and fretfulness on her side, might be as long as it could.She counted the days that must intervene before their invitation could be sent; hopeless of seeing him before.But on the third morning after his arrival in Hertfordshire, she saw him from her dressing-room window, enter the paddock, and ride towards the house.
Her daughters were eagerly called to partake of her joy.Jane resolutely kept her place at the table; but Elizabeth, to satisfy her mother, went to the window--she looked,--she saw Mr. Darcy with him, and sat down again by her sister.
Jane looked at Elizabeth with surprise and concern.She knew but little of their meeting in Derbyshire, and therefore felt for the awkwardness which must attend her sister, in seeing him almost for the first time after receiving his explanatory letter.Both sisters were uncomfortable enough.Each felt for the other, and of course for themselves; and their mother talked on, of her dislike of Mr. Darcy, and her resolution to be civil to him only as Mr. Bingley's friend, without being heard by either of them.But Elizabeth had sources of uneasiness which could not be suspected by Jane, to whom she had never yet had courage to shew Mrs. Gardiner's letter, or to relate her own change of sentiment towards him.To Jane, he could be only a man whose proposals she had refused, and whose merit she had undervalued; but to her own more extensive information, he was the person, to whom the whole family were indebted for the first of benefits, and whom she regarded herself with an interest, if not quite so tender, at least as reasonable and just, as what Jane felt for Bingley.Her astonishment at his coming--at his coming to Netherfield, to Longbourn, and voluntarily seeking her again, was almost equal to what she had known on first witnessing his altered behaviour in Derbyshire.
The colour which had been driven from her face, returned for half a minute with an additional glow, and a smile of delight added lustre to her eyes, as she thought for that space of time, that his affection and wishes must still be unshaken.But she would not be secure.
She sat intently at work, striving to be composed, and without daring to lift up her eyes, till anxious curiosity carried them to the face of her sister, as the servant was approaching the door.Jane looked a little paler than usual, but more sedate than Elizabeth had expected.On the gentlemen's appearing, her colour increased; yet she received them with tolerable ease, and with a propriety of behaviour equally free from any symptom of resentment, or any unnecessary complaisance.
Elizabeth said as little to either as civility would allow, and sat down again to her work, with an eagerness which it did not often command.She had ventured only one glance at Darcy.He looked serious as usual; and she thought, more as he had been used to look in Hertfordshire, than as she had seen him at Pemberley.But, perhaps he could not in her mother's presence be what he was before her uncle and aunt.It was a painful, but not an improbable, conjecture.
Bingley, she had likewise seen for an instant, and in that short period saw him looking both pleased and embarrassed.He was received by Mrs. Bennet with a degree of civility, which made her two daughters ashamed, especially when contrasted with the cold and ceremonious politeness of her curtsey and address to his friend.
Elizabeth particularly, who knew that her mother owed to the latter the preservation of her favourite daughter from irremediable infamy, was hurt and distressed to a most painful degree by a distinction so ill applied.
Darcy, after enquiring of her how Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner did, a question which she could not answer without confusion, said scarcely any thing.He was not seated by her; perhaps that was the reason of his silence; but it had not been so in Derbyshire.There he had talked to her friends, when he could not to herself.But now several minutes elapsed, without bringing the sound of his voice; and when occasionally, unable to resist the impulse of curiosity, she raised her eyes to his face, she as often found him looking at Jane, as at herself, and frequently on no object but the ground.More thoughtfulness, and less anxiety to please than when they last met, were plainly expressed.She was disappointed, and angry with herself for being so.
She was in no humour for conversation with any one but himself; and to him she had hardly courage to speak.
She enquired after his sister, but could do no more.
He readily agreed to it.
Bingley replied that he did, and made his congratulations.Elizabeth dared not lift up her eyes.How Mr. Darcy looked, therefore, she could not tell.
Elizabeth, who knew this to be levelled at Mr. Darcy, was in such misery of shame, that she could hardly keep her seat.It drew from her, however, the exertion of speaking, which nothing else had so effectually done before; and she asked Bingley, whether he meant to make any stay in the country at present.A few weeks, he believed.
Elizabeth's misery increased, at such unnecessary, such officious attention!Were the same fair prospect to arise at present, as had flattered them a year ago, every thing, she was persuaded, would be hastening to the same vexatious conclusion.At that instant she felt, that years of happiness could not make Jane or herself amends, for moments of such painful confusion.
Yet the misery, for which years of happiness were to offer no compensation, received soon afterwards material relief, from observing how much the beauty of her sister re-kindled the admiration of her former lover.When first he came in, he had spoken to her but little; but every five minutes seemed to be giving her more of his attention.He found her as handsome as she had been last year; as good natured, and as unaffected, though not quite so chatty.Jane was anxious that no difference should be perceived in her at all, and was really persuaded that she talked as much as ever.But her mind was so busily engaged, that she did not always know when she was silent.
When the gentlemen rose to go away, Mrs. Bennet was mindful of her intended civility, and they were invited and engaged to dine at Longbourn in a few days time.
Bingley looked a little silly at this reflection, and said something of his concern, at having been prevented by business.They then went away.
Mrs. Bennet had been strongly inclined to ask them to stay and dine there, that day; but, though she always kept a very good table, she did not think any thing less than two courses, could be good enough for a man, on whom she had such anxious designs, or satisfy the appetite and pride of one who had ten thousand a-year.
As soon as they were gone, Elizabeth walked out to recover her spirits; or in other words, to dwell without interruption on those subjects that must deaden them more.Mr. Darcy's behaviour astonished and vexed her.
She could settle it in no way that gave her pleasure.
Her resolution was for a short time involuntarily kept by the approach of her sister, who joined her with a cheerful look, which shewed her better satisfied with their visitors, than Elizabeth.
They did not see the gentlemen again till Tuesday; and Mrs. Bennet, in the meanwhile, was giving way to all the happy schemes, which the good humour, and common politeness of Bingley, in half an hour's visit, had revived.
On Tuesday there was a large party assembled at Longbourn; and the two, who were most anxiously expected, to the credit of their punctuality as sportsmen, were in very good time.When they repaired to the dining-room, Elizabeth eagerly watched to see whether Bingley would take the place, which, in all their former parties, had belonged to him, by her sister.Her prudent mother, occupied by the same ideas, forbore to invite him to sit by herself.On entering the room, he seemed to hesitate; but Jane happened to look round, and happened to smile: it was decided.He placed himself by her.
Elizabeth, with a triumphant sensation, looked towards his friend.He bore it with noble indifference, and she would have imagined that Bingley had received his sanction to be happy, had she not seen his eyes likewise turned towards Mr. Darcy, with an expression of half-laughing alarm.
His behaviour to her sister was such, during dinner time, as shewed an admiration of her, which, though more guarded than formerly, persuaded Elizabeth, that if left wholly to himself, Jane's happiness, and his own, would be speedily secured.Though she dared not depend upon the consequence, she yet received pleasure from observing his behaviour.It gave her all the animation that her spirits could boast; for she was in no cheerful humour.Mr. Darcy was almost as far from her, as the table could divide them.He was on one side of her mother.She knew how little such a situation would give pleasure to either, or make either appear to advantage.She was not near enough to hear any of their discourse, but she could see how seldom they spoke to each other, and how formal and cold was their manner, whenever they did.Her mother's ungraciousness, made the sense of what they owed him more painful to Elizabeth's mind; and she would, at times, have given any thing to be privileged to tell him, that his kindness was neither unknown nor unfelt by the whole of the family.
She was in hopes that the evening would afford some opportunity of bringing them together; that the whole of the visit would not pass away without enabling them to enter into something more of conversation, than the mere ceremonious salutation attending his entrance.Anxious and uneasy, the period which passed in the drawing-room, before the gentlemen came, was wearisome and dull to a degree, that almost made her uncivil.She looked forward to their entrance, as the point on which all her chance of pleasure for the evening must depend.
The gentlemen came; and she thought he looked as if he would have answered her hopes; but, alas! the ladies had crowded round the table, where Miss Bennet was making tea, and Elizabeth pouring out the coffee, in so close a confederacy, that there was not a single vacancy near her, which would admit of a chair.Darcy had walked away to another part of the room.She followed him with her eyes, envied every one to whom he spoke, had scarcely patience enough to help anybody to coffee; and then was enraged against herself for being so silly!
She could think of nothing more to say; but if he wished to converse with her, he might have better success.He stood by her, however, for some minutes, in silence; and, at last, on the young lady's whispering to Elizabeth again, he walked away.
When the tea-things were removed, and the card tables placed, the ladies all rose, and Elizabeth was then hoping to be soon joined by him, when all her views were overthrown, by seeing him fall a victim to her mother's rapacity for whist players, and in a few moments after seated with the rest of the party.She now lost every expectation of pleasure.They were confined for the evening at different tables, and she had nothing to hope, but that his eyes were so often turned towards her side of the room, as to make him play as unsuccessfully as herself.
Mrs. Bennet had designed to keep the two Netherfield gentlemen to supper; but their carriage was unluckily ordered before any of the others, and she had no opportunity of detaining them.
Mrs. Bennet, in short, was in very great spirits; she had seen enough of Bingley's behaviour to Jane, to be convinced that she would get him at last; and her expectations of advantage to her family, when in a happy humour, were so far beyond reason, that she was quite disappointed at not seeing him there again the next day, to make his proposals.
A few days after this visit, Mr. Bingley called again, and alone.His friend had left him that morning for London, but was to return home in ten days time.He sat with them above an hour, and was in remarkably good spirits.Mrs. Bennet invited him to dine with them; but, with many expressions of concern, he confessed himself engaged elsewhere.
He should be particularly happy at any time, &c.&c.; and if she would give him leave, would take an early opportunity of waiting on them.
Yes, he had no engagement at all for to-morrow; and her invitation was accepted with alacrity.
He came, and in such very good time, that the ladies were none of them dressed.But when her mother was gone, Jane would not be prevailed on to go down without one of her sisters.
Elizabeth was forced to go.
Elizabeth made no attempt to reason with her mother, but remained quietly in the hall, till she and Kitty were out of sight, then returned into the drawing-room.
Mrs. Bennet's schemes for this day were ineffectual.Bingley was every thing that was charming, except the professed lover of her daughter.His ease and cheerfulness rendered him a most agreeable addition to their evening party; and he bore with the ill-judged officiousness of the mother, and heard all her silly remarks with a forbearance and command of countenance, particularly grateful to the daughter.
He scarcely needed an invitation to stay supper; and before he went away, an engagement was formed, chiefly through his own and Mrs. Bennet's means, for his coming next morning to shoot with her husband.
After this day, Jane said no more of her indifference.Not a word passed between the sisters concerning Bingley; but Elizabeth went to bed in the happy belief that all must speedily be concluded, unless Mr. Darcy returned within the stated time.Seriously, however, she felt tolerably persuaded that all this must have taken place with that gentleman's concurrence.
Bingley was punctual to his appointment; and he and Mr. Bennet spent the morning together, as had been agreed on.The latter was much more agreeable than his companion expected.There was nothing of presumption or folly in Bingley, that could provoke his ridicule, or disgust him into silence; and he was more communicative, and less eccentric than the other had ever seen him.Bingley of course returned with him to dinner; and in the evening Mrs. Bennet's invention was again at work to get every body away from him and her daughter.Elizabeth, who had a letter to write, went into the breakfast room for that purpose soon after tea; for as the others were all going to sit down to cards, she could not be wanted to counteract her mother's schemes.
But on returning to the drawing-room, when her letter was finished, she saw, to her infinite surprise, there was reason to fear that her mother had been too ingenious for her.On opening the door, she perceived her sister and Bingley standing together over the hearth, as if engaged in earnest conversation; and had this led to no suspicion, the faces of both as they hastily turned round, and moved away from each other, would have told it all.Their situation was awkward enough; but her's she thought was still worse.Not a syllable was uttered by either; and Elizabeth was on the point of going away again, when Bingley, who as well as the other had sat down, suddenly rose, and whispering a few words to her sister, ran out of the room.
Jane could have no reserves from Elizabeth, where confidence would give pleasure; and instantly embracing her, acknowledged, with the liveliest emotion, that she was the happiest creature in the world.
Elizabeth's congratulations were given with a sincerity, a warmth, a delight, which words could but poorly express.Every sentence of kindness was a fresh source of happiness to Jane.But she would not allow herself to stay with her sister, or say half that remained to be said, for the present.
She then hastened away to her mother, who had purposely broken up the card party, and was sitting up stairs with Kitty.
Elizabeth, who was left by herself, now smiled at the rapidity and ease with which an affair was finally settled, that had given them so many previous months of suspense and vexation.
In a few minutes she was joined by Bingley, whose conference with her father had been short and to the purpose.
He then shut the door, and coming up to her, claimed the good wishes and affection of a sister.Elizabeth honestly and heartily expressed her delight in the prospect of their relationship.They shook hands with great cordiality; and then till her sister came down, she had to listen to all he had to say, of his own happiness, and of Jane's perfections; and in spite of his being a lover, Elizabeth really believed all his expectations of felicity, to be rationally founded, because they had for basis the excellent understanding, and super-excellent disposition of Jane, and a general similarity of feeling and taste between her and himself.
It was an evening of no common delight to them all; the satisfaction of Miss Bennet's mind gave a glow of such sweet animation to her face, as made her look handsomer than ever.Kitty simpered and smiled, and hoped her turn was coming soon.Mrs. Bennet could not give her consent, or speak her approbation in terms warm enough to satisfy her feelings, though she talked to Bingley of nothing else, for half an hour; and when Mr. Bennet joined them at supper, his voice and manner plainly shewed how really happy he was.
Jane went to him instantly, kissed him, and thanked him for his goodness.
Wickham, Lydia, were all forgotten.Jane was beyond competition her favourite child.At that moment, she cared for no other.Her younger sisters soon began to make interest with her for objects of happiness which she might in future be able to dispense.
Mary petitioned for the use of the library at Netherfield; and Kitty begged very hard for a few balls there every winter.
Bingley, from this time, was of course a daily visitor at Longbourn; coming frequently before breakfast, and always remaining till after supper; unless when some barbarous neighbour, who could not be enough detested, had given him an invitation to dinner, which he thought himself obliged to accept.
Elizabeth had now but little time for conversation with her sister; for while he was present, Jane had no attention to bestow on any one else; but she found herself considerably useful to both of them, in those hours of separation that must sometimes occur.In the absence of Jane, he always attached himself to Elizabeth, for the pleasure of talking of her; and when Bingley was gone, Jane constantly sought the same means of relief.
This naturally introduced a panegyric from Jane on his diffidence, and the little value he put on his own good qualities.
Elizabeth was pleased to find, that he had not betrayed the interference of his friend, for, though Jane had the most generous and forgiving heart in the world, she knew it was a circumstance which must prejudice her against him.
The situation of affairs in the Longbourn family could not be long a secret.Mrs. Bennet was privileged to whisper it to Mrs. Philips, and she ventured, without any permission, to do the same by all her neighbours in Meryton.
The Bennets were speedily pronounced to be the luckiest family in the world, though only a few weeks before, when Lydia had first run away, they had been generally proved to be marked out for misfortune.
One morning, about a week after Bingley's engagement with Jane had been formed, as he and the females of the family were sitting together in the dining-room, their attention was suddenly drawn to the window, by the sound of a carriage; and they perceived a chaise and four driving up the lawn.It was too early in the morning for visitors, and besides, the equipage did not answer to that of any of their neighbours.The horses were post; and neither the carriage, nor the livery of the servant who preceded it, were familiar to them.As it was certain, however, that somebody was coming, Bingley instantly prevailed on Miss Bennet to avoid the confinement of such an intrusion, and walk away with him into the shrubbery.They both set off, and the conjectures of the remaining three continued, though with little satisfaction, till the door was thrown open, and their visitor entered.It was lady Catherine de Bourgh.
They were of course all intending to be surprised; but their astonishment was beyond their expectation; and on the part of Mrs. Bennet and Kitty, though she was perfectly unknown to them, even inferior to what Elizabeth felt.
She entered the room with an air more than usually ungracious, made no other reply to Elizabeth's salutation, than a slight inclination of the head, and sat down without saying a word.Elizabeth had mentioned her name to her mother, on her ladyship's entrance, though no request of introduction had been made.
Mrs. Bennet all amazement, though flattered by having a guest of such high importance, received her with the utmost politeness.Elizabeth replied very concisely that she was.
Elizabeth now expected that she would produce a letter for her from Charlotte, as it seemed the only probable motive for her calling.But no letter appeared, and she was completely puzzled.
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.
As soon as they entered the copse, Lady Catherine began in the following manner:--
Elizabeth looked with unaffected astonishment.
Lady Catherine seemed pleased.
And she rose as she spoke.Lady Catherine rose also, and they turned back.Her ladyship was highly incensed.
Elizabeth made no answer; and without attempting to persuade her ladyship to return into the house, walked quietly into it herself.She heard the carriage drive away as she proceeded up stairs.Her mother impatiently met her at the door of the dressing-room, to ask why Lady Catherine would not come in again and rest herself.
Elizabeth was forced to give into a little falsehood here; for to acknowledge the substance of their conversation was impossible.
The discomposure of spirits, which this extraordinary visit threw Elizabeth into, could not be easily overcome; nor could she for many hours, learn to think of it less than incessantly.Lady Catherine it appeared, had actually taken the trouble of this journey from Rosings, for the sole purpose of breaking off her supposed engagement with Mr. Darcy.It was a rational scheme to be sure!but from what the report of their engagement could originate, Elizabeth was at a loss to imagine; till she recollected that his being the intimate friend of Bingley, and her being the sister of Jane, was enough, at a time when the expectation of one wedding, made every body eager for another, to supply the idea.She had not herself forgotten to feel that the marriage of her sister must bring them more frequently together.And her neighbours at Lucas lodge, therefore, (for through their communication with the Collinses, the report she concluded had reached lady Catherine) had only set that down, as almost certain and immediate, which she had looked forward to as possible, at some future time.
In revolving lady Catherine's expressions, however, she could not help feeling some uneasiness as to the possible consequence of her persisting in this interference.From what she had said of her resolution to prevent their marriage, it occurred to Elizabeth that she must meditate an application to her nephew; and how he might take a similar representation of the evils attached to a connection with her, she dared not pronounce.She knew not the exact degree of his affection for his aunt, or his dependence on her judgment, but it was natural to suppose that he thought much higher of her ladyship than she could do; and it was certain, that in enumerating the miseries of a marriage with one, whose immediate connections were so unequal to his own, his aunt would address him on his weakest side.With his notions of dignity, he would probably feel that the arguments, which to Elizabeth had appeared weak and ridiculous, contained much good sense and solid reasoning.
If he had been wavering before, as to what he should do, which had often seemed likely, the advice and intreaty of so near a relation might settle every doubt, and determine him at once to be as happy, as dignity unblemished could make him.In that case he would return no more.Lady Catherine might see him in her way through town; and his engagement to Bingley of coming again to Netherfield must give way.
The surprise of the rest of the family, on hearing who their visitor had been, was very great; but they obligingly satisfied it, with the same kind of supposition, which had appeased Mrs. Bennet's curiosity; and Elizabeth was spared from much teazing on the subject.
The next morning, as she was going down stairs, she was met by her father, who came out of his library with a letter in his hand.
She followed him thither; and her curiosity to know what he had to tell her, was heightened by the supposition of its being in some manner connected with the letter he held.It suddenly struck her that it might be from lady Catherine; and she anticipated with dismay all the consequent explanations.
She followed her father to the fire place, and they both sat down.Elizabeth tried to join in her father's pleasantry, but could only force one most reluctant smile.Never had his wit been directed in a manner so little agreeable to her.
To this question his daughter replied only with a laugh; and as it had been asked without the least suspicion, she was not distressed by his repeating it.Elizabeth had never been more at a loss to make her feelings appear what they were not.It was necessary to laugh, when she would rather have cried.Her father had most cruelly mortified her, by what he said of Mr. Darcy's indifference, and she could do nothing but wonder at such a want of penetration, or fear that perhaps, instead of his seeing too little, she might have fancied too much.
Instead of receiving any such letter of excuse from his friend, as Elizabeth half expected Mr. Bingley to do, he was able to bring Darcy with him to Longbourn before many days had passed after Lady Catherine's visit.The gentlemen arrived early; and, before Mrs. Bennet had time to tell him of their having seen his aunt, of which her daughter sat in momentary dread, Bingley, who wanted to be alone with Jane, proposed their all walking out.It was agreed to.Mrs. Bennet was not in the habit of walking, Mary could never spare time, but the remaining five set off together.Bingley and Jane, however, soon allowed the others to outstrip them.They lagged behind, while Elizabeth, Kitty, and Darcy, were to entertain each other.Very little was said by either; Kitty was too much afraid of him to talk; Elizabeth was secretly forming a desperate resolution; and perhaps he might be doing the same.
They walked towards the Lucases, because Kitty wished to call upon Maria; and as Elizabeth saw no occasion for making it a general concern, when Kitty left them, she went boldly on with him alone.Elizabeth feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand, that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure, his present assurances.The happiness which this reply produced, was such as he had probably never felt before; and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do.Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eye, she might have seen how well the expression of heart-felt delight, diffused over his face, became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings, which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.
They walked on, without knowing in what direction.There was too much to be thought; and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects.She soon learnt that they were indebted for their present good understanding to the efforts of his aunt, who did call on him in her return through London, and there relate her journey to Longbourn, its motive, and the substance of her conversation with Elizabeth; dwelling emphatically on every expression of the latter, which, in her ladyship's apprehension, peculiarly denoted her perverseness and assurance, in the belief that such a relation must assist her endeavours to obtain that promise from her nephew, which she had refused to give.But, unluckily for her ladyship, its effect had been exactly contrariwise.
She explained what its effect on her had been, and how gradually all her former prejudices had been removed.
He then told her of Georgiana's delight in her acquaintance, and of her disappointment at its sudden interruption; which naturally leading to the cause of that interruption, she soon learnt that his resolution of following her from Derbyshire in quest of her sister, had been formed before he quitted the inn, and that his gravity and thoughtfulness there, had arisen from no other struggles than what such a purpose must comprehend.
She expressed her gratitude again, but it was too painful a subject to each, to be dwelt on farther.
After walking several miles in a leisurely manner, and too busy to know any thing about it, they found at last, on examining their watches, that it was time to be at home.
Elizabeth could not help smiling at his easy manner of directing his friend.
Elizabeth longed to observe that Mr. Bingley had been a most delightful friend; so easily guided that his worth was invaluable; but she checked herself.She remembered that he had yet to learn to be laught at, and it was rather too early to begin.In anticipating the happiness of Bingley, which of course was to be inferior only to his own, he continued the conversation till they reached the house.In the hall they parted.
The evening passed quietly, unmarked by any thing extraordinary.The acknowledged lovers talked and laughed, the unacknowledged were silent.Darcy was not of a disposition in which happiness overflows in mirth; and Elizabeth, agitated and confused, rather knew that she was happy, than felt herself to be so; for, besides the immediate embarrassment, there were other evils before her.She anticipated what would be felt in the family when her situation became known; she was aware that no one liked him but Jane; and even feared that with the others it was a dislike which not all his fortune and consequence might do away.
At night she opened her heart to Jane.Though suspicion was very far from Miss Bennet's general habits, she was absolutely incredulous here.
Miss Bennet still looked all amazement.Elizabeth again, and more seriously assured her of its truth.
Another intreaty that she would be serious, however, produced the desired effect; and she soon satisfied Jane by her solemn assurances of attachment.When convinced on that article, Miss Bennet had nothing farther to wish.
Elizabeth told her the motives of her secrecy.She had been unwilling to mention Bingley; and the unsettled state of her own feelings had made her equally avoid the name of his friend.But now she would no longer conceal from her, his share in Lydia's marriage.All was acknowledged, and half the night spent in conversation.
Elizabeth could hardly help laughing at so convenient a proposal; yet was really vexed that her mother should be always giving him such an epithet.
Kitty owned that she had rather stay at home.Darcy professed a great curiosity to see the view from the Mount, and Elizabeth silently consented.During their walk, it was resolved that Mr. Bennet's consent should be asked in the course of the evening.Elizabeth reserved to herself the application for her mother's.She could not determine how her mother would take it; sometimes doubting whether all his wealth and grandeur would be enough to overcome her abhorrence of the man.But whether she were violently set against the match, or violently delighted with it, it was certain that her manner would be equally ill adapted to do credit to her sense; and she could no more bear that Mr. Darcy should hear the first raptures of her joy, than the first vehemence of her disapprobation.
How earnestly did she then wish that her former opinions had been more reasonable, her expressions more moderate!It would have spared her from explanations and professions which it was exceedingly awkward to give; but they were now necessary, and she assured him with some confusion, of her attachment to Mr. Darcy.
Elizabeth, still more affected, was earnest and solemn in her reply; and at length, by repeated assurances that Mr. Darcy was really the object of her choice, by explaining the gradual change which her estimation of him had undergone, relating her absolute certainty that his affection was not the work of a day, but had stood the test of many months suspense, and enumerating with energy all his good qualities, she did conquer her father's incredulity, and reconcile him to the match.
To complete the favourable impression, she then told him what Mr. Darcy had voluntarily done for Lydia.He heard her with astonishment.
Elizabeth's mind was now relieved from a very heavy weight; and, after half an hour's quiet reflection in her own room, she was able to join the others with tolerable composure.Every thing was too recent for gaiety, but the evening passed tranquilly away; there was no longer any thing material to be dreaded, and the comfort of ease and familiarity would come in time.
When her mother went up to her dressing-room at night, she followed her, and made the important communication.Its effect was most extraordinary; for on first hearing it, Mrs. Bennet sat quite still, and unable to utter a syllable.Nor was it under many, many minutes, that she could comprehend what she heard; though not in general backward to credit what was for the advantage of her family, or that came in the shape of a lover to any of them.She began at length to recover, to fidget about in her chair, get up, sit down again, wonder, and bless herself.
This was enough to prove that her approbation need not be doubted: and Elizabeth, rejoicing that such an effusion was heard only by herself, soon went away.But before she had been three minutes in her own room, her mother followed her.
This was a sad omen of what her mother's behaviour to the gentleman himself might be; and Elizabeth found, that though in the certain possession of his warmest affection, and secure of her relations' consent, there was still something to be wished for.But the morrow passed off much better than she expected; for Mrs. Bennet luckily stood in such awe of her intended son-in-law, that she ventured not to speak to him, unless it was in her power to offer him any attention, or mark her deference for his opinion.
Elizabeth had the satisfaction of seeing her father taking pains to get acquainted with him; and Mr. Bennet soon assured her that he was rising every hour in his esteem.
From an unwillingness to confess how much her intimacy with Mr. Darcy had been over-rated, Elizabeth had never yet answered Mrs. Gardiner's long letter, but now, having that to communicate which she knew would be most welcome, she was almost ashamed to find, that her uncle and aunt had already lost three days of happiness, and immediately wrote as follows:
Mr. Darcy's letter to Lady Catherine, was in a different style; and still different from either, was what Mr. Bennet sent to Mr. Collins, in reply to his last.
Miss Bingley's congratulations to her brother, on his approaching marriage, were all that was affectionate and insincere.She wrote even to Jane on the occasion, to express her delight, and repeat all her former professions of regard.Jane was not deceived, but she was affected; and though feeling no reliance on her, could not help writing her a much kinder answer than she knew was deserved.
The joy which Miss Darcy expressed on receiving similar information, was as sincere as her brother's in sending it.Four sides of paper were insufficient to contain all her delight, and all her earnest desire of being loved by her sister.
Before any answer could arrive from Mr. Collins, or any congratulations to Elizabeth, from his wife, the Longbourn family heard that the Collinses were come themselves to Lucas lodge.The reason of this sudden removal was soon evident.Lady Catherine had been rendered so exceedingly angry by the contents of her nephew's letter, that Charlotte, really rejoicing in the match, was anxious to get away till the storm was blown over.At such a moment, the arrival of her friend was a sincere pleasure to Elizabeth, though in the course of their meetings she must sometimes think the pleasure dearly bought, when she saw Mr. Darcy exposed to all the parading and obsequious civility of her husband.He bore it however with admirable calmness.He could even listen to Sir William Lucas, when he complimented him on carrying away the brightest jewel of the country, and expressed his hopes of their all meeting frequently at St. James's, with very decent composure.If he did shrug his shoulders, it was not till Sir William was out of sight.
Mrs. Philips's vulgarity was another, and perhaps a greater tax on his forbearance; and though Mrs. Philips, as well as her sister, stood in too much awe of him to speak with the familiarity which Bingley's good humour encouraged, yet, whenever she did speak, she must be vulgar.Nor was her respect for him, though it made her more quiet, at all likely to make her more elegant.Elizabeth did all she could, to shield him from the frequent notice of either, and was ever anxious to keep him to herself, and to those of her family with whom he might converse without mortification; and though the uncomfortable feelings arising from all this took from the season of courtship much of its pleasure, it added to the hope of the future; and she looked forward with delight to the time when they should be removed from society so little pleasing to either, to all the comfort and elegance of their family party at Pemberley.
Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters.With what delighted pride she afterwards visited Mrs. Bingley and talked of Mrs. Darcy may be guessed.I wish I could say, for the sake of her family, that the accomplishment of her earnest desire in the establishment of so many of her children, produced so happy an effect as to make her a sensible, amiable, well-informed woman for the rest of her life; though perhaps it was lucky for her husband, who might not have relished domestic felicity in so unusual a form, that she still was occasionally nervous and invariably silly.
Mr. Bennet missed his second daughter exceedingly; his affection for her drew him oftener from home than any thing else could do.He delighted in going to Pemberley, especially when he was least expected.
Mr. Bingley and Jane remained at Netherfield only a twelvemonth.So near a vicinity to her mother and Meryton relations was not desirable even to his easy temper, or her affectionate heart.The darling wish of his sisters was then gratified; he bought an estate in a neighbouring county to Derbyshire, and Jane and Elizabeth, in addition to every other source of happiness, were within thirty miles of each other.
Kitty, to her very material advantage, spent the chief of her time with her two elder sisters.In society so superior to what she had generally known, her improvement was great.She was not of so ungovernable a temper as Lydia, and, removed from the influence of Lydia's example, she became, by proper attention and management, less irritable, less ignorant, and less insipid.From the farther disadvantage of Lydia's society she was of course carefully kept, and though Mrs. Wickham frequently invited her to come and stay with her, with the promise of balls and young men, her father would never consent to her going.
Mary was the only daughter who remained at home; and she was necessarily drawn from the pursuit of accomplishments by Mrs. Bennet's being quite unable to sit alone.Mary was obliged to mix more with the world, but she could still moralize over every morning visit; and as she was no longer mortified by comparisons between her sisters' beauty and her own, it was suspected by her father that she submitted to the change without much reluctance.
As for Wickham and Lydia, their characters suffered no revolution from the marriage of her sisters.He bore with philosophy the conviction that Elizabeth must now become acquainted with whatever of his ingratitude and falsehood had before been unknown to her; and in spite of every thing, was not wholly without hope that Darcy might yet be prevailed on to make his fortune.The congratulatory letter which Elizabeth received from Lydia on her marriage, explained to her that, by his wife at least, if not by himself, such a hope was cherished.The letter was to this effect:
As it happened that Elizabeth had much rather not, she endeavoured in her answer to put an end to every intreaty and expectation of the kind.Such relief, however, as it was in her power to afford, by the practice of what might be called economy in her own private expences, she frequently sent them.It had always been evident to her that such an income as theirs, under the direction of two persons so extravagant in their wants, and heedless of the future, must be very insufficient to their support; and whenever they changed their quarters, either Jane or herself were sure of being applied to, for some little assistance towards discharging their bills.Their manner of living, even when the restoration of peace dismissed them to a home, was unsettled in the extreme.They were always moving from place to place in quest of a cheap situation, and always spending more than they ought.His affection for her soon sunk into indifference; her's lasted a little longer; and in spite of her youth and her manners, she retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her.
Though Darcy could never receive him at Pemberley, yet, for Elizabeth's sake, he assisted him farther in his profession.Lydia was occasionally a visitor there, when her husband was gone to enjoy himself in London or Bath; and with the Bingleys they both of them frequently staid so long, that even Bingley's good humour was overcome, and he proceeded so far as to talk of giving them a hint to be gone.
Miss Bingley was very deeply mortified by Darcy's marriage; but as she thought it advisable to retain the right of visiting at Pemberley, she dropt all her resentment; was fonder than ever of Georgiana, almost as attentive to Darcy as heretofore, and paid off every arrear of civility to Elizabeth.
Pemberley was now Georgiana's home; and the attachment of the sisters was exactly what Darcy had hoped to see.They were able to love each other, even as well as they intended.Georgiana had the highest opinion in the world of Elizabeth; though at first she often listened with an astonishment bordering on alarm, at her lively, sportive, manner of talking to her brother.He, who had always inspired in herself a respect which almost overcame her affection, she now saw the object of open pleasantry.Her mind received knowledge which had never before fallen in her way.By Elizabeth's instructions she began to comprehend that a woman may take liberties with her husband, which a brother will not always allow in a sister more than ten years younger than himself.
Lady Catherine was extremely indignant on the marriage of her nephew; and as she gave way to all the genuine frankness of her character, in her reply to the letter which announced its arrangement, she sent him language so very abusive, especially of Elizabeth, that for some time all intercourse was at an end.But at length, by Elizabeth's persuasion, he was prevailed on to overlook the offence, and seek a reconciliation; and, after a little farther resistance on the part of his aunt, her resentment gave way, either to her affection for him, or her curiosity to see how his wife conducted herself; and she condescended to wait on them at Pemberley, in spite of that pollution which its woods had received, not merely from the presence of such a mistress, but the visits of her uncle and aunt from the city.
With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate terms.Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.