FictionForest

Chapter 26

Jane AustenAug 15, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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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 honour, 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 the 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 downstairs together, Charlotte said: 

“I shall depend on hearing from you very often,
Eliza.”

That you certainly shall.”

“And I have another favour to ask you. 
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
to Hunsford.”

Elizabeth could not refuse, though
she foresaw little pleasure in the visit.

“My father and Maria are coming
to me in March,” added Charlotte, “and
I hope you will consent to be of the party.  Indeed,
Eliza, you will be as welcome as either of them.”

The wedding took place; the bride
and bridegroom set off for Kent from the church door,
and everybody 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.

“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 inquired 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 see them soon 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 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.

“My dearest Lizzy will, I am
sure, be incapable of triumphing in her better judgement,
at my expense, 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 meantime.  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
must 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 ago.  He knows of my being
in town, I am certain, from something she said herself;
and yet it would 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. ­Yours, etc.”

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 a 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 this 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 certainly should be a more
interesting object to all my acquaintances 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.”

 

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