FictionForest

Chapter 58

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

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Instead of receiving any such letter
of excuse from his friend, as Elizabeth half expected
Mr. Bingley to do, he was able to bring Darcy with
him to Longbourn before many days had passed after
Lady Catherine’s visit.  The gentlemen arrived
early; and, before Mrs. Bennet had time to tell him
of their having seen his aunt, of which her daughter
sat in momentary dread, Bingley, who wanted to be
alone with Jane, proposed their all walking out. 
It was agreed to.  Mrs. Bennet was not in the
habit of walking; Mary could never spare time; but
the remaining five set off together.  Bingley
and Jane, however, soon allowed the others to outstrip
them.  They lagged behind, while Elizabeth, Kitty,
and Darcy were to entertain each other.  Very
little was said by either; Kitty was too much afraid
of him to talk; Elizabeth was secretly forming a desperate
resolution; and perhaps he might be doing the same.

They walked towards the Lucases, because
Kitty wished to call upon Maria; and as Elizabeth
saw no occasion for making it a general concern, when
Kitty left them she went boldly on with him alone. 
Now was the moment for her resolution to be executed,
and, while her courage was high, she immediately said: 

“Mr. Darcy, I am a very selfish
creature; and, for the sake of giving relief to my
own feelings, care not how much I may be wounding yours. 
I can no longer help thanking you for your unexampled
kindness to my poor sister.  Ever since I have
known it, I have been most anxious to acknowledge
to you how gratefully I feel it.  Were it known
to the rest of my family, I should not have merely
my own gratitude to express.”

“I am sorry, exceedingly sorry,”
replied Darcy, in a tone of surprise and emotion,
“that you have ever been informed of what may,
in a mistaken light, have given you uneasiness. 
I did not think Mrs. Gardiner was so little to be
trusted.”

“You must not blame my aunt. 
Lydia’s thoughtlessness first betrayed to me
that you had been concerned in the matter; and, of
course, I could not rest till I knew the particulars. 
Let me thank you again and again, in the name of all
my family, for that generous compassion which induced
you to take so much trouble, and bear so many mortifications,
for the sake of discovering them.”

“If you will thank me,”
he replied, “let it be for yourself alone. 
That the wish of giving happiness to you might add
force to the other inducements which led me on, I
shall not attempt to deny.  But your family
owe me nothing.  Much as I respect them, I believe
I thought only of you.”

Elizabeth was too much embarrassed
to say a word.  After a short pause, her companion
added, “You are too generous to trifle with me. 
If your feelings are still what they were last April,
tell me so at once. My affections and wishes
are unchanged, but one word from you will silence
me on this subject for ever.”

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than
common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now
forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not
very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments
had undergone so material a change, since the period
to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude
and pleasure his present assurances.  The happiness
which this reply produced, was such as he had probably
never felt before; and he expressed himself on the
occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently
in love can be supposed to do.  Had Elizabeth
been able to encounter his eye, she might have seen
how well the expression of heartfelt delight, diffused
over his face, became him; but, though she could not
look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings,
which, in proving of what importance she was to him,
made his affection every moment more valuable.

They walked on, without knowing in
what direction.  There was too much to be thought,
and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects. 
She soon learnt that they were indebted for their
present good understanding to the efforts of his aunt,
who did call on him in her return through London,
and there relate her journey to Longbourn, its motive,
and the substance of her conversation with Elizabeth;
dwelling emphatically on every expression of the latter
which, in her ladyship’s apprehension, peculiarly
denoted her perverseness and assurance; in the belief
that such a relation must assist her endeavours to
obtain that promise from her nephew which she had
refused to give.  But, unluckily for her ladyship,
its effect had been exactly contrariwise.

“It taught me to hope,”
said he, “as I had scarcely ever allowed myself
to hope before.  I knew enough of your disposition
to be certain that, had you been absolutely, irrevocably
decided against me, you would have acknowledged it
to Lady Catherine, frankly and openly.”

Elizabeth coloured and laughed as
she replied, “Yes, you know enough of my frankness
to believe me capable of that.  After abusing
you so abominably to your face, I could have no scruple
in abusing you to all your relations.”

“What did you say of me, that
I did not deserve?  For, though your accusations
were ill-founded, formed on mistaken premises, my
behaviour to you at the time had merited the severest
reproof.  It was unpardonable.  I cannot think
of it without abhorrence.”

“We will not quarrel for the
greater share of blame annexed to that evening,”
said Elizabeth.  “The conduct of neither,
if strictly examined, will be irreproachable; but
since then, we have both, I hope, improved in civility.”

“I cannot be so easily reconciled
to myself.  The recollection of what I then said,
of my conduct, my manners, my expressions during the
whole of it, is now, and has been many months, inexpressibly
painful to me.  Your reproof, so well applied,
I shall never forget:  ’had you behaved in
a more gentlemanlike manner.’  Those were
your words.  You know not, you can scarcely conceive,
how they have tortured me; ­though it was
some time, I confess, before I was reasonable enough
to allow their justice.”

“I was certainly very far from
expecting them to make so strong an impression. 
I had not the smallest idea of their being ever felt
in such a way.”

“I can easily believe it. 
You thought me then devoid of every proper feeling,
I am sure you did.  The turn of your countenance
I shall never forget, as you said that I could not
have addressed you in any possible way that would
induce you to accept me.”

“Oh! do not repeat what I then
said.  These recollections will not do at all. 
I assure you that I have long been most heartily ashamed
of it.”

Darcy mentioned his letter.  “Did
it,” said he, “did it soon make you think
better of me?  Did you, on reading it, give any
credit to its contents?”

She explained what its effect on her
had been, and how gradually all her former prejudices
had been removed.

“I knew,” said he, “that
what I wrote must give you pain, but it was necessary. 
I hope you have destroyed the letter.  There was
one part especially, the opening of it, which I should
dread your having the power of reading again. 
I can remember some expressions which might justly
make you hate me.”

“The letter shall certainly
be burnt, if you believe it essential to the preservation
of my regard; but, though we have both reason to think
my opinions not entirely unalterable, they are not,
I hope, quite so easily changed as that implies.”

“When I wrote that letter,”
replied Darcy, “I believed myself perfectly
calm and cool, but I am since convinced that it was
written in a dreadful bitterness of spirit.”

“The letter, perhaps, began
in bitterness, but it did not end so.  The adieu
is charity itself.  But think no more of the letter. 
The feelings of the person who wrote, and the person
who received it, are now so widely different from
what they were then, that every unpleasant circumstance
attending it ought to be forgotten.  You must learn
some of my philosophy.  Think only of the past
as its remembrance gives you pleasure.”

“I cannot give you credit for
any philosophy of the kind.  Your rétrospections
must be so totally void of reproach, that the contentment
arising from them is not of philosophy, but, what is
much better, of innocence.  But with me, it is
not so.  Painful recollections will intrude which
cannot, which ought not, to be repelled.  I have
been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though
not in principle.  As a child I was taught what
was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. 
I was given good principles, but left to follow them
in pride and conceit.  Unfortunately an only son
(for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my
parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly,
all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged,
almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to
care for none beyond my own family circle; to think
meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least
to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with
my own.  Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty;
and such I might still have been but for you, dearest,
loveliest Elizabeth!  What do I not owe you! 
You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but
most advantageous.  By you, I was properly humbled. 
I came to you without a doubt of my reception. 
You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions
to please a woman worthy of being pleased.”

“Had you then persuaded yourself that I should?”

“Indeed I had.  What will
you think of my vanity?  I believed you to be
wishing, expecting my addresses.”

“My manners must have been in
fault, but not intentionally, I assure you.  I
never meant to deceive you, but my spirits might often
lead me wrong.  How you must have hated me after
that evening?”

“Hate you!  I was angry
perhaps at first, but my anger soon began to take
a proper direction.”

“I am almost afraid of asking
what you thought of me, when we met at Pemberley. 
You blamed me for coming?”

“No indeed; I felt nothing but surprise.”

“Your surprise could not be
greater than mine in being noticed by you. 
My conscience told me that I deserved no extraordinary
politeness, and I confess that I did not expect to
receive more than my due.”

“My object then,” replied
Darcy, “was to show you, by every civility in
my power, that I was not so mean as to resent the past;
and I hoped to obtain your forgiveness, to lessen
your ill opinion, by letting you see that your reproofs
had been attended to.  How soon any other wishes
introduced themselves I can hardly tell, but I believe
in about half an hour after I had seen you.”

He then told her of Georgiana’s
delight in her acquaintance, and of her disappointment
at its sudden interruption; which naturally leading
to the cause of that interruption, she soon learnt
that his resolution of following her from Derbyshire
in quest of her sister had been formed before he quitted
the inn, and that his gravity and thoughtfulness there
had arisen from no other struggles than what such a
purpose must comprehend.

She expressed her gratitude again,
but it was too painful a subject to each, to be dwelt
on farther.

After walking several miles in a leisurely
manner, and too busy to know anything about it, they
found at last, on examining their watches, that it
was time to be at home.

“What could become of Mr. Bingley
and Jane!” was a wonder which introduced the
discussion of their affairs.  Darcy was delighted
with their engagement; his friend had given him the
earliest information of it.

“I must ask whether you were surprised?”
said Elizabeth.

“Not at all.  When I went away, I felt that
it would soon happen.”

“That is to say, you had given
your permission.  I guessed as much.” 
And though he exclaimed at the term, she found that
it had been pretty much the case.

“On the evening before my going
to London,” said he, “I made a confession
to him, which I believe I ought to have made long ago. 
I told him of all that had occurred to make my former
interference in his affairs absurd and impertinent. 
His surprise was great.  He had never had the
slightest suspicion.  I told him, moreover, that
I believed myself mistaken in supposing, as I had
done, that your sister was indifferent to him; and
as I could easily perceive that his attachment to her
was unabated, I felt no doubt of their happiness together.”

Elizabeth could not help smiling at
his easy manner of directing his friend.

“Did you speak from your own
observation,” said she, “when you told
him that my sister loved him, or merely from my information
last spring?”

“From the former.  I had
narrowly observed her during the two visits which
I had lately made here; and I was convinced of her
affection.”

“And your assurance of it, I
suppose, carried immediate conviction to him.”

“It did.  Bingley is most
unaffectedly modest.  His diffidence had prevented
his depending on his own judgment in so anxious a case,
but his reliance on mine made every thing easy. 
I was obliged to confess one thing, which for a time,
and not unjustly, offended him.  I could not allow
myself to conceal that your sister had been in town
three months last winter, that I had known it, and
purposely kept it from him.  He was angry. 
But his anger, I am persuaded, lasted no longer than
he remained in any doubt of your sister’s sentiments. 
He has heartily forgiven me now.”

Elizabeth longed to observe that Mr.
Bingley had been a most delightful friend; so easily
guided that his worth was invaluable; but she checked
herself.  She remembered that he had yet to learn
to be laughed at, and it was rather too early to begin. 
In anticipating the happiness of Bingley, which of
course was to be inferior only to his own, he continued
the conversation till they reached the house. 
In the hall they parted.

 

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