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.
"My aunt," she continued, "is going to-morrow into that part of the town, and
I shall take the opportunity of calling in Grosvenor-street."
She wrote again when the visit was paid, and she had seen Miss Bingley. "I did
not think Caroline in spirits," were her words, "but she was very glad to see me,
and reproached me for giving her no notice of my coming to London. I was right,
therefore; my last letter had never reached her. I enquired after their brother,
of course. He was well, but so much engaged with Mr. Darcy, that they scarcely ever
saw him. I found that Miss Darcy was expected to dinner. I wish I could see her.
My visit was not long, as Caroline and Mrs. Hurst were going out. I dare say I shall
soon see them here."
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
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.
"My dearest Lizzy will, I am sure, be incapable of triumphing in her better judgment,
at my expence, when I confess myself to have been entirely deceived in Miss Bingley's
regard for me.
But, my dear sister, though the event has proved you right, do not think me obstinate
if I still assert that, considering what her behaviour was, my confidence was as
natural as your suspicion. I do not at all comprehend her reason for wishing to
be intimate with me, but if the same circumstances were to happen again, I am sure
I should be deceived again. Caroline did not return my visit till yesterday; and
not a note, not a line, did I receive in the mean time. When she did come, it was
very evident that she had no pleasure in it; she made a slight, formal, apology
for not calling before, said not a word of wishing to see me again, and was in every
respect so altered a creature, that when she went away I was perfectly resolved
to continue the acquaintance no longer. I pity, though I cannot help blaming her.
She was very wrong in singling me out as she did; I can safely say, that every advance
to intimacy began on her side. But I pity her, because she must feel that she has
been acting wrong, and because I am very sure that anxiety for her brother is the
cause of it, I need not explain myself farther; and though we know this anxiety
to be quite needless, yet if she feels it, it will easily account for her behaviour
to me; and so deservedly dear as he is to his sister, whatever anxiety she may feel
on his behalf is natural and amiable.
I cannot but wonder, however, at her having any such fears now, because, if he
had at all cared about me, we must have met long, long ago. He knows of my being
in town, I am certain, from something she said herself; and yet it should seem by
her manner of talking, as if she wanted to persuade herself that he is really partial
to Miss Darcy. I cannot understand it. If I were not afraid of judging harshly,
I should be almost tempted to say that there is a strong appearance of duplicity
in all this. But I will endeavour to banish every painful thought, and think only
of what will make me happy: your affection, and the invariable kindness of my dear
uncle and aunt. Let me hear from you very soon. Miss Bingley said something of his
never returning to Netherfield again, of giving up the house, but not with any certainty.
We had better not mention it. I am extremely glad that you have such pleasant accounts
from our friends at Hunsford. Pray go to see them, with Sir William and Maria. I
am sure you will be very comfortable there.
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.
All this was acknowledged to Mrs. Gardiner; and after relating the circumstances,
she thus went on: -- "I am now convinced, my dear aunt, that I have never been much
in love; for had I really experienced that pure and elevating passion, I should
at present detest his very name, and wish him all manner of evil.
But my feelings are not only cordial towards him; they are even impartial towards
Miss King. I cannot find out that I hate her at all, or that I am in the least unwilling
to think her a very good sort of girl. There can be no love in all this. My watchfulness
has been effectual; and though I should certainly be a more interesting object to
all my acquaintance, were I distractedly in love with him, I cannot say that I regret
my comparative insignificance. Importance may sometimes be purchased too dearly.
Kitty and Lydia take his defection much more to heart than I do. They are young
in the ways of the world, and not yet open to the mortifying conviction that handsome
young men must have something to live on, as well as the plain."
<CHAPTER IV (27)>
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.