FictionForest

Chapter 55

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

Light off Small Medium Large

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.

“Next time you call,”
said she, “I hope we shall be more lucky.”

He should be particularly happy at
any time, etc. etc.; and if she would give
him leave, would take an early opportunity of waiting
on them.

“Can you come to-morrow?”

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.  In
ran Mrs. Bennet to her daughter’s room, in her
dressing gown, and with her hair half finished, crying
out: 

“My dear Jane, make haste and
hurry down.  He is come ­Mr. Bingley
is come.  He is, indeed.  Make haste, make
haste.  Here, Sarah, come to Miss Bennet this
moment, and help her on with her gown.  Never mind
Miss Lizzy’s hair.”

“We will be down as soon as
we can,” said Jane; “but I dare say Kitty
is forwarder than either of us, for she went up stairs
half an hour ago.”

“Oh! hang Kitty! what has she
to do with it?  Come be quick, be quick! 
Where is your sash, my dear?”

But when her mother was gone, Jane
would not be prevailed on to go down without one of
her sisters.

The same anxiety to get them by themselves
was visible again in the evening.  After tea,
Mr. Bennet retired to the library, as was his custom,
and Mary went up stairs to her instrument.  Two
obstacles of the five being thus removed, Mrs. Bennet
sat looking and winking at Elizabeth and Catherine
for a considerable time, without making any impression
on them.  Elizabeth would not observe her; and
when at last Kitty did, she very innocently said,
“What is the matter mamma?  What do you
keep winking at me for?  What am I to do?”

“Nothing child, nothing. 
I did not wink at you.”  She then sat still
five minutes longer; but unable to waste such a precious
occasion, she suddenly got up, and saying to Kitty,
“Come here, my love, I want to speak to you,”
took her out of the room.  Jane instantly gave
a look at Elizabeth which spoke her distress at such
premeditation, and her entreaty that she would
not give in to it.  In a few minutes, Mrs. Bennet
half-opened the door and called out: 

“Lizzy, my dear, I want to speak with you.”

Elizabeth was forced to go.

“We may as well leave them by
themselves you know;” said her mother, as soon
as she was in the hall.  “Kitty and I are
going upstairs to sit in my dressing-room.”

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 hers
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.

“’Tis too much!”
she added, “by far too much.  I do not deserve
it.  Oh! why is not everybody as happy?”

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.

“I must go instantly to my mother;”
she cried.  “I would not on any account
trifle with her affectionate solicitude; or allow her
to hear it from anyone but myself.  He is gone
to my father already.  Oh!  Lizzy, to know
that what I have to relate will give such pleasure
to all my dear family! how shall I bear so much happiness!”

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.

“And this,” said she,
“is the end of all his friend’s anxious
circumspection! of all his sister’s falsehood
and contrivance! the happiest, wisest, most reasonable
end!”

In a few minutes she was joined by
Bingley, whose conference with her father had been
short and to the purpose.

“Where is your sister?”
said he hastily, as he opened the door.

“With my mother up stairs. 
She will be down in a moment, I dare say.”

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 showed how really happy
he was.

Not a word, however, passed his lips
in allusion to it, till their visitor took his leave
for the night; but as soon as he was gone, he turned
to his daughter, and said: 

“Jane, I congratulate you. 
You will be a very happy woman.”

Jane went to him instantly, kissed
him, and thanked him for his goodness.

“You are a good girl;”
he replied, “and I have great pleasure in thinking
you will be so happily settled.  I have not a doubt
of your doing very well together.  Your tempers
are by no means unlike.  You are each of you so
complying, that nothing will ever be resolved on; so
easy, that every servant will cheat you; and so generous,
that you will always exceed your income.”

“I hope not so.  Imprudence
or thoughtlessness in money matters would be unpardonable
in me.”

“Exceed their income!  My
dear Mr. Bennet,” cried his wife, “what
are you talking of?  Why, he has four or five
thousand a year, and very likely more.” 
Then addressing her daughter, “Oh! my dear, dear
Jane, I am so happy!  I am sure I shan’t
get a wink of sleep all night.  I knew how it
would be.  I always said it must be so, at last. 
I was sure you could not be so beautiful for nothing! 
I remember, as soon as ever I saw him, when he first
came into Hertfordshire last year, I thought how likely
it was that you should come together.  Oh! he
is the handsomest young man that ever was seen!”

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 anyone
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.

“He has made me so happy,”
said she, one evening, “by telling me that he
was totally ignorant of my being in town last spring! 
I had not believed it possible.”

“I suspected as much,”
replied Elizabeth.  “But how did he account
for it?”

“It must have been his sister’s
doing.  They were certainly no friends to his
acquaintance with me, which I cannot wonder at, since
he might have chosen so much more advantageously in
many respects.  But when they see, as I trust
they will, that their brother is happy with me, they
will learn to be contented, and we shall be on good
terms again; though we can never be what we once were
to each other.”

“That is the most unforgiving
speech,” said Elizabeth, “that I ever
heard you utter.  Good girl!  It would vex
me, indeed, to see you again the dupe of Miss Bingley’s
pretended regard.”

“Would you believe it, Lizzy,
that when he went to town last November, he really
loved me, and nothing but a persuasion of my
being indifferent would have prevented his coming
down again!”

“He made a little mistake to
be sure; but it is to the credit of his modesty.”

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.

“I am certainly the most fortunate
creature that ever existed!” cried Jane. 
“Oh!  Lizzy, why am I thus singled from my
family, and blessed above them all!  If I could
but see you as happy!  If there were
but such another man for you!”

“If you were to give me forty
such men, I never could be so happy as you.  Till
I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can
have your happiness.  No, no, let me shift for
myself; and, perhaps, if I have very good luck, I
may meet with another Mr. Collins in time.”

The situation of affairs in the Longbourn
family could not be long a secret.  Mrs. Bennet
was privileged to whisper it to Mrs. Phillips, 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.

 

Leave a Reply