"Oh, yes! -- of that kind of love which I suppose him to have felt. Poor Jane!
I am sorry for her, because, with her disposition, she may not get over it immediately.
It had better have happened to you, Lizzy; you would have laughed yourself out
of it sooner. But do you think she would be prevailed on to go back with us? Change
of scene might be of service -- and perhaps a little relief from home, may be as
useful as anything."
Elizabeth was exceedingly pleased with this proposal, and felt persuaded of her
sister's ready acquiescence.
"I hope," added Mrs. Gardiner, "that no consideration with regard to this young
man will influence her. We live in so different a part of town, all our connections
are so different, and, as you well know, we go out so little, that it is very improbable
they should meet at all, unless he really comes to see her."
"And that is quite impossible; for he is now in the custody of his friend,
and Mr. Darcy would no more suffer him to call on Jane in such a part of London
-- ! My dear aunt, how could you think of it? Mr. Darcy may perhaps have heard
of such a place as Gracechurch Street, but he would hardly think a month's ablution
enough to cleanse him from its impurities, were he once to enter it; and depend
upon it, Mr. Bingley never stirs without him."
"So much the better. I hope they will not meet at all. But does not Jane correspond
with the sister? She will not be able to help calling."
"She will drop the acquaintance entirely."
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.
<CHAPTER III (26)>
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: "You are too sensible a girl, Lizzy, to fall in love
merely because you are warned against it; and, therefore, I am not afraid of speaking
openly. Seriously, I would have you be on your guard. Do not involve yourself, or
endeavour to involve him in an affection which the want of fortune would make so
very imprudent. I have nothing to say against him; he is a most interesting young
man; and if he had the fortune he ought to have, I should think you could not do
better. But as it is -- you must not let your fancy run away with you. You have
sense, and we all expect you to use it. Your father would depend on your resolution
and good conduct, I am sure. You must not disappoint your father."
"My dear aunt, this is being serious indeed."
"Yes, and I hope to engage you to be serious likewise."
"Well, then, you need not be under any alarm. I will take care of myself, and
of Mr. Wickham too. He shall not be in love with me, if I can prevent it."
"Elizabeth, you are not serious now."
"I beg your pardon. I will try again. At present I am not in love with Mr. Wickham;
no, I certainly am not. But he is, beyond all comparison, the most agreeable man
I ever saw -- and if he becomes really attached to me -- I believe it will be better
that he should not. I see the imprudence of it. -- Oh! that abominable Mr. Darcy!
-- My father's opinion of me does me the greatest honor; and I should be miserable
to forfeit it.
My father, however, is partial to Mr. Wickham. In short, my dear aunt, I should
be very sorry to be the means of making any of you unhappy; but since we see every
day that where there is affection, young people are seldom withheld by immediate
want of fortune from entering into engagements with each other, how can I promise
to be wiser than so many of my fellow creatures if I am tempted, or how am I even
to know that it would be wisdom to resist? All that I can promise you, therefore,
is not to be in a hurry. I will not be in a hurry to believe myself his first object.
When I am in company with him, I will not be wishing. In short, I will do my best."
"Perhaps it will be as well, if you discourage his coming here so very often.
At least, you should not remind your mother of inviting him."
"As I did the other day," said Elizabeth, with a conscious smile; "very true,
it will be wise in me to refrain from that. But do not imagine that he is always
here so often.
It is on your account that he has been so frequently invited this week. You know
my mother's ideas as to the necessity of constant company for her friends. But really,
and upon my honour, I will try to do what I think to be wisest; and now, I hope
you are satisfied."
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.
Mr. Collins returned into Hertfordshire soon after it had been quitted by the
Gardiners and Jane; but as he took up his abode with the Lucases, his arrival was
no great inconvenience to Mrs. Bennet. His marriage was now fast approaching, and
she was at length so far resigned as to think it inevitable, and even repeatedly
to say in an ill-natured tone that she "wished they might be happy." Thursday
was to be the wedding day, and on Wednesday Miss Lucas paid her farewell visit;
and when she rose to take leave, Elizabeth, ashamed of her mother's ungracious and
reluctant good wishes, and sincerely affected herself, accompanied her out of the
room. As they went down stairs together, Charlotte said, "I shall depend on hearing
from you very often, Eliza."
"That you certainly shall."
"And I have another favour to ask. Will you come and see me?"
"We shall often meet, I hope, in Hertfordshire."
"I am not likely to leave Kent for some time. Promise me, therefore, to come
Elizabeth could not refuse, though she foresaw little pleasure in the visit.
"My father and Maria are to come to me in March," added Charlotte, "and I hope
you will consent to be of the party.
Indeed, Eliza, you will be as welcome to me as either of them."
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.