"Yes, there can; for mine is totally different. -- Will you hear it?"
"You shall have it in few words. Miss Bingley sees that her brother is in love
with you, and wants him to marry Miss Darcy.
She follows him to town in the hope of keeping him there, and tries to persuade
you that he does not care about you."
Jane shook her head.
"Indeed, Jane, you ought to believe me. -- No one who has ever seen you together,
can doubt his affection. Miss Bingley I am sure cannot. She is not such a simpleton.
Could she have seen half as much love in Mr. Darcy for herself, she would have ordered
her wedding clothes. But the case is this. We are not rich enough, or grand enough
for them; and she is the more anxious to get Miss Darcy for her brother, from the
notion that when there has been one intermarriage, she may have less trouble in
achieving a second; in which there is certainly some ingenuity, and I dare say it
would succeed, if Miss de Bourgh were out of the way. But, my dearest Jane, you
cannot seriously imagine that because Miss Bingley tells you her brother greatly
admires Miss Darcy, he is in the smallest degree less sensible of your merit than
when he took leave of you on Tuesday, or that it will be in her power to persuade
him that instead of being in love with you, he is very much in love with her friend."
"If we thought alike of Miss Bingley," replied Jane, "your representation of
all this, might make me quite easy. But I know the foundation is unjust. Caroline
is incapable of wilfully deceiving any one; and all that I can hope in this case
is, that she is deceived herself."
"That is right. -- You could not have started a more happy idea, since you will
not take comfort in mine. Believe her to be deceived by all means. You have now
done your duty by her, and must fret no longer."
"But, my dear sister, can I be happy, even supposing the best, in accepting a
man whose sisters and friends are all wishing him to marry elsewhere?"
"You must decide for yourself," said Elizabeth, "and if, upon mature deliberation,
you find that the misery of disobliging his two sisters is more than equivalent
to the happiness of being his wife, I advise you by all means to refuse him."
"How can you talk so?" -- said Jane faintly smiling, -- "You must know that though
I should be exceedingly grieved at their disapprobation, I could not hesitate."
"I did not think you would; -- and that being the case, I cannot consider your
situation with much compassion."
"But if he returns no more this winter, my choice will never be required. A thousand
things may arise in six months!"
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.
<CHAPTER XXII (22)>
THE Bennets were engaged to dine with the Lucases, and again during the chief
of the day, was Miss Lucas so kind as to listen to Mr. Collins. Elizabeth took an
opportunity of thanking her. "It keeps him in good humour," said she, "and I am
more obliged to you than I can express." Charlotte assured her friend of her satisfaction
in being useful, and that it amply repaid her for the little sacrifice of her time.
This was very amiable, but Charlotte's kindness extended farther than Elizabeth
had any conception of; -- its object was nothing less than to secure her from any
return of Mr. Collins's addresses, by engaging them towards herself. Such was Miss
Lucas's scheme; and appearances were so favourable that when they parted at night,
she would have felt almost sure of success if he had not been to leave Hertfordshire
so very soon.
But here, she did injustice to the fire and independence of his character, for
it led him to escape out of Longbourn House the next morning with admirable slyness,
and hasten to Lucas Lodge to throw himself at her feet. He was anxious to avoid
the notice of his cousins, from a conviction that if they saw him depart, they could
not fail to conjecture his design, and he was not willing to have the attempt known
till its success could be known likewise; for though feeling almost secure, and
with reason, for Charlotte had been tolerably encouraging, he was comparatively
diffident since the adventure of Wednesday.
His reception however was of the most flattering kind. Miss Lucas perceived him
from an upper window as he walked towards the house, and instantly set out to meet
him accidentally in the lane. But little had she dared to hope that so much love
and eloquence awaited her there.
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. -- Without thinking
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.
"My dear Madam," he replied, "this invitation is particularly gratifying, because
it is what I have been hoping to receive; and you may be very certain that I shall
avail myself of it as soon as possible."