luni, 15 august 2011

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

T is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in
possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man
may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well
fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is
considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their
‘My dear Mr Bennet,’ said his lady to him one day, ‘have you
heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?’
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
‘But it is,’ returned she; ‘for Mrs. Long has just been here, and
she told me all about it.’
Mr. Bennet made no answer.
‘Do not you want to know who has taken it?’ cried his wife
‘You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.’
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This was invitation enough.
‘Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield
is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of
England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see
the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with
Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before
Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the
end of next week.’
‘What is his name?’
‘Is he married or single?’
‘Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune;
four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!’
‘How so? how can it affect them?’
‘My dear Mr. Bennet,’ replied his wife, ‘how can you be so
tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of
‘Is that his design in settling here?’
‘Design! nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that
he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit
him as soon as he comes.’
‘I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may
send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as
you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley might like you
the best of the party.’
‘My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have had my share of
beauty, but I do not pretend to be any thing extraordinary now.
When a woman has five grown up daughters, she ought to give
over thinking of her own beauty.’
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‘In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of.’
‘But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when he
comes into the neighbourhood.’
‘It is more than I engage for, I assure you.’
‘But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment
it would be for one of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas are
determined to go, merely on that account, for in general you know
they visit no new comers. Indeed you must go, for it will be
impossible for us to visit him, if you do not.’
‘You are over scrupulous surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will be
very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure
him of my hearty consent to his marrying which ever he chuses of
the girls; though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy.’
‘I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than
the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor
half so good humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving her the
‘They have none of them much to recommend them,’ replied he;
‘they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has
something more of quickness than her sisters.’
‘Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a
way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on
my poor nerves.’
‘You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves.
They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with
consideration these twenty years at least.’
‘Ah! you do not know what I suffer.’
‘But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men
of four thousand a year come into the neighbourhood.’
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‘It will be no use to us, if twenty such should come since you will
not visit them.’
‘Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty, I will
visit them all.’
Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic
humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and
twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his
character. Her mind was less difficult to develope. She was a
woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain
temper. When she was discontented she fancied herself nervous.
The business of her life was to get her daughters married: its
solace was visiting and news.
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r. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited
on Mr. Bingley. He had always intended to visit him,
though to the last always assuring his wife that he
should not go; and till the evening after the visit was paid, she had
no knowledge of it. It was then disclosed in the following manner.
Observing his second daughter employed in trimming a hat, he
suddenly addressed her with,
‘I hope Mr. Bingley will like it Lizzy.’
‘We are not in a way to know what Mr. Bingley likes,’ said her
mother resentfully, ‘since we are not to visit.’
‘But you forget, mama,’ said Elizabeth, ‘that we shall meet him
at the assemblies, and that Mrs. Long has promised to introduce
‘I do not believe Mrs. Long will do any such thing. She has two
nieces of her own. She is a selfish, hypocritical woman, and I have
no opinion of her.’
‘No more have I,’ said Mr. Bennet; ‘and I am glad to find that
you do not depend on her serving you.’
Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply; but unable to
contain herself, began scolding one of her daughters.
‘Don’t keep coughing so, Kitty, for heaven’s sake! Have a little
compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces.’
‘Kitty has no discretion in her coughs,’ said her father; ‘she
times them ill.’
‘I do not cough for my own amusement,’ replied Kitty fretfully.
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‘When is your next ball to be, Lizzy?’
‘To-morrow fortnight.’
‘Aye, so it is,’ cried her mother, ‘and Mrs. Long does not come
back till the day before; so, it will be impossible for her to introduce
him, for she will not know him herself.’
‘Then, my dear, you may have the advantage of your friend, and
introduce Mr. Bingley to her.’
‘Impossible, Mr. Bennet, impossible, when I am not acquainted
with him myself; how can you be so teazing?’
‘I honour your circumspection. A fortnight’s acquaintance is
certainly very little. One cannot know what a man really is by the
end of a fortnight. But if we do not venture, somebody else will;
and after all, Mrs. Long and her nieces must stand their chance;
and therefore, as she will think it an act of kindness, if you decline
the office, I will take it on myself.’
The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only,
‘Nonsense, nonsense!’
‘What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?’ cried
he. ‘Do you consider the forms of introduction, and the stress that
is laid on them, as nonsense? I cannot quite agree with you there.
What say you, Mary? for you are a young lady of deep reflection I
know, and read great books, and make extracts.’
Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.
‘While Mary is adjusting her ideas,’ he continued, ‘let us return
to Mr. Bingley.’
‘I am sick of Mr. Bingley,’ cried his wife.
‘I am sorry to hear that; but why did not you tell me so before? If
I had known as much this morning, I certainly would not have
called on him. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually paid the
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visit, we cannot escape the acquaintance now.’
The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that of
Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though when the first
tumult of joy was over, she began to declare that it was what she
had expected all the while.
‘How good it was in you, my dear Mr. Bennet! But I knew I
should persuade you at last. I was sure you loved your girls too well
to neglect such an acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! and it is
such a good joke, too, that you should have gone this morning, and
never said a word about it till now.’
‘Now, Kitty, you may cough as much as you chuse,’ said Mr.
Bennet; and, as he spoke, he left the room, fatigued with the
raptures of his wife.
‘What an excellent father you have, girls,’ said she, when the
door was shut. ‘I do not know how you will ever make him amends
for his kindness; or me either, for that matter. At our time of life, it
is not so pleasant I can tell you, to be making new acquaintance
every day; but for your sakes, we would do any thing. Lydia, my
love, though you are the youngest, I dare say Mr. Bingley will
dance with you at the next ball.’
‘Oh!’ said Lydia stoutly, ‘I am not afraid; for though I am the
youngest, I’m the tallest.’
The rest of the evening was spent in conjecturing how soon he
would return Mr. Bennet’s visit, and determining when they
should ask him to dinner.
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ot all that Mrs. Bennet, however, with the assistance of
her five daughters, could ask on the subject was
sufficient to draw from her husband any satisfactory
description of Mr. Bingley. They attacked him in various ways;
with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant
surmises; but he eluded the skill of them all; and they were at last
obliged to accept the second-hand intelligence of their neighbour
Lady Lucas. Her report was highly favourable. Sir William had
been delighted with him. He was quite young, wonderfully
handsome, extremely agreeable, and to crown the whole, he
meant to be at the next assembly with a large party. Nothing could
be more delightful! To be fond of dancing was a certain step
towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley’s heart
were entertained.
‘If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at
Netherfield,’ said Mrs. Bennet to her husband, ‘and all the others
equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for.’
In a few days Mr. Bingley returned Mr. Bennet’s visit, and sat
about ten minutes with him in his library. He had entertained
hopes of being admitted to a sight of the young ladies, of whose
beauty he had heard much; but he saw only the father. The ladies
were somewhat more fortunate, for they had the advantage of
ascertaining from an upper window, that he wore a blue coat and
rode a black horse.
An invitation to dinner was soon afterwards dispatched; and
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already had Mrs. Bennet planned the courses that were to do
credit to her housekeeping, when an answer arrived which
deferred it all. Mr. Bingley was obliged to be in town the following
day, and consequently unable to accept the honour of their
invitation, &c. Mrs. Bennet was quite disconcerted. She could not
imagine what business he could have in town so soon after his
arrival in Hertfordshire; and she began to fear that he might be
always flying about from one place to another, and never settled at
Netherfield as he ought to be. Lady Lucas quieted her fears a little
by starting the idea of his being gone to London only to get a large
party for the ball; and a report soon followed that Mr. Bingley was
to bring twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him to the
assembly. The girls grieved over such a number of ladies; but were
comforted the day before the ball by hearing, that instead of
twelve, he had brought only six with him from London, his five
sisters and a cousin. And when the party entered the assembly
room, it consisted of only five altogether; Mr. Bingley, his two
sisters, the husband of the eldest, and another young man.
Mr. Bingley was good looking and gentlemanlike; he had a
pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His sisters
were fine women, with an air of decided fashion. His brother-inlaw,
Mr. Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but his friend Mr.
Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person,
handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in
general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his
having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be
a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer
than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for
about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which
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turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be
proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not
all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having
a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy
to be compared with his friend.
Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the
principal people in the room; he was lively and unreserved, danced
every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of
giving one himself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must
speak for themselves. What a contrast between him and his friend!
Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss
Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the
rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking
occasionally to one of his own party. His character was decided. He
was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and every
body hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the
most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his
general behaviour, was sharpened into particular resentment, by
his having slighted one of her daughters.
Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of
gentlemen, to sit down for two dances; and during part of that
time, Mr. Darcy had been standing near enough for her to
overhear a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who came
from the dance for a few minutes, to press his friend to join it.
‘Come, Darcy,’ said he, ‘I must have you dance. I hate to see you
standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much
better dance.’
‘I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am
particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as
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this, it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there
is not another woman in the room, whom it would not be a
punishment to me to stand up with.’
‘I would not be so fastidious as you are,’ cried Bingley, ‘for a
kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant
girls in my life, as I have this evening; and there are several of
them you see uncommonly pretty.’
‘You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,’ said
Mr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.
‘Oh! she is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there
is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very
pretty, and I dare say, very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to
introduce you.’
‘Which do you mean?’ and turning round, he looked for a
moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own
and coldly said, ‘She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to
tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence
to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better
return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting
your time with me.’
Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and
Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him. She
told the story however with great spirit among her friends; for she
had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing
The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole
family. Mrs. Bennet had seen her eldest daughter much admired
by the Netherfield party. Mr. Bingley had danced with her twice,
and she had been distinguished by his sisters. Jane was as much
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gratified by this, as her mother could be, though in a quieter way.
Elizabeth felt Jane’s pleasure. Mary had heard herself mentioned
to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the
neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate
enough to be never without partners, which was all that they had
yet learnt to care for at a ball. They returned therefore in good
spirits to Longbourn, the village where they lived, and of which
they were the principal inhabitants. They found Mr. Bennet still
up. With a book he was regardless of time; and on the present
occasion he had a good deal of curiosity as to the event of an
evening which had raised such splendid expectations. He had
rather hoped that all his wife’s views on the stranger would be
disappointed; but he soon found that he had a very different story
to hear.
‘Oh! my dear Mr. Bennet,’ as she entered the room, ‘we have
had a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had
been there. Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Every
body said how well she looked; and Mr. Bingley thought her quite
beautiful, and danced with her twice. Only think of that my dear;
he actually danced with her twice; and she was the only creature in
the room that he asked a second time. First of all, he asked Miss
Lucas. I was so vexed to see him stand up with her; but, however,
he did not admire her at all: indeed, nobody can, you know; and he
seemed quite struck with Jane as she was going down the dance.
So, he enquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her
for the two next. Then, the two third he danced with Miss King,
and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane
again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the Boulanger—’
‘If he had had any compassion for me,’ cried her husband
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impatiently, ‘he would not have danced half so much! For God’s
sake, say no more of his partners. Oh! that he had sprained his
ancle in the first dance!’
‘Oh! my dear,’ continued Mrs. Bennet, ‘I am quite delighted
with him. He is so excessively handsome! and his sisters are
charming women. I never in my life saw any thing more elegant
than their dresses. I dare say the lace upon Mrs. Hurst’s gown—’
Here she was interrupted again. Mr. Bennet protested against
any description of finery. She was therefore obliged to seek
another branch of the subject, and related, with much bitterness of
spirit and some exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Mr. Darcy.
‘But I can assure you, she added, ‘that Lizzy does not lose much
by not suiting his fancy; for he is a most disagreeable, horrid man,
not at all worth pleasing. So high and so conceited that there was
no enduring him! He walked here, and he walked there, fancying
himself so very great! Not handsome enough to dance with! I wish
you had been there, my dear, to have given him one of your set
downs. I quite detest the man.’
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hen Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who
had been cautious in her praise of Mr. Bingley before,
expressed to her sister how very much she admired
‘He is just what a young man ought to be,’ said she, ‘sensible,
good humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners!—so
much ease, with such perfect good breeding!’
‘He is also handsome,’ replied Elizabeth, ‘which a young man
ought likewise to be, if he possibly can. His character is thereby
‘I was very much flattered by his asking me to dance a second
time. I did not expect such a compliment.’
‘Did not you? I did for you. But that is one great difference
between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me
never. What could be more natural than his asking you again? He
could not help seeing that you were about five times as pretty as
every other woman in the room. No thanks to his gallantry for that.
Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like
him. You have liked many a stupider person.’
‘Dear Lizzy!’
‘Oh! you are a great deal too apt you know, to like people in
general. You never see a fault in any body. All the world are good
and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human
being in my life.’
‘I would wish not to be hasty in censuring any one; but I always
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speak what I think.’
‘I know you do; and it is that which makes the wonder. With
your good sense, to be so honestly blind to the follies and nonsense
of others! Affectation of candour is common enough;—one meets it
every where. But to be candid without ostentation or design—to
take the good of every body’s character and make it still better, and
say nothing of the bad—belongs to you alone. And so, you like this
man’s sisters too, do you? Their manners are not equal to his.’
‘Certainly not; at first. But they are very pleasing women when
you converse with them. Miss Bingley is to live with her brother
and keep his house; and I am much mistaken if we shall not find a
very charming neighbour in her.’
Elizabeth listened in silence, but was not convinced; their
behaviour at the assembly had not been calculated to please in
general; and with more quickness of observation and less pliancy
of temper than her sister, and with a judgment too unassailed by
any attention to herself, she was very little disposed to approve
them. They were in fact very fine ladies; not deficient in good
humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of being
agreeable where they chose it; but proud and conceited. They were
rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private
seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds,
were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of
associating with people of rank; and were therefore in every
respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others.
They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a
circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that
their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade.
Mr. Bingley inherited property to the amount of nearly an
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hundred thousand pounds from his father, who had intended to
purchase an estate, but did not live to do it. Mr. Bingley intended it
likewise, and sometimes made choice of his county; but as he was
now provided with a good house and the liberty of a manor, it was
doubtful to many of those who best knew the easiness of his
temper, whether he might not spend the remainder of his days at
Netherfield, and leave the next generation to purchase.
His sisters were very anxious for his having an estate of his own;
but though he was now established only as a tenant, Miss Bingley
was by no means unwilling to preside at his table, nor was Mrs.
Hurst, who had married a man of more fashion than fortune, less
disposed to consider his house as her home when it suited her. Mr.
Bingley had not been of age two years, when he was tempted by an
accidental recommendation to look at Netherfield House. He did
look at it and into it for half an hour, was pleased with the situation
and the principal rooms, satisfied with what the owner said in its
praise, and took it immediately.
Between him and Darcy there was a very steady friendship, in
spite of a great opposition of character.—Bingley was endeared to
Darcy by the easiness, openness, ductility of his temper, though no
disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own, and though
with his own he never appeared dissatisfied. On the strength of
Darcy’s regard Bingley had the firmest reliance, and of his
judgment the highest opinion. In understanding Darcy was the
superior. Bingley was by no means deficient, but Darcy was clever.
He was at the same time haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his
manners, though well bred, were not inviting. In that respect his
friend had greatly the advantage. Bingley was sure of being liked
wherever he appeared, Darcy was continually giving offence.
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The manner in which they spoke of the Meryton assembly was
sufficiently characteristic. Bingley had never met with pleasanter
people or prettier girls in his life; every body had been most kind
and attentive to him, there had been no formality, no stiffness, he
had soon felt acquainted with all the room; and as to Miss Bennet,
he could not conceive an angel more beautiful. Darcy, on the
contrary, had seen a collection of people in whom there was little
beauty and no fashion, for none of whom he had felt the smallest
interest, and from none received either attention or pleasure. Miss
Bennet he acknowledged to be pretty, but she smiled too much.
Mrs. Hurst and her sister allowed it to be so—but still they
admired her and liked her, and pronounced her to be a sweet girl,
and one whom they should not object to know more of. Miss
Bennet was therefore established as a sweet girl, and their brother
felt authorised by such commendation to think of her as he chose.
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ithin a short walk of Longbourn lived a family with
whom the Bennets were particularly intimate. Sir
William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton,
where he had made a tolerable fortune and risen to the honour of
knighthood by an address to the King, during his mayoralty. The
distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly. It had given him a
disgust to his business and to his residence in a small market
town; and quitting them both, he had removed with his family to a
house about a mile from Meryton, denominated from that period
Lucas Lodge, where he could think with pleasure of his own
importance, and unshackled by business, occupy himself solely in
being civil to all the world. For though elated by his rank, it did
not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention
to every body. By nature inoffensive, friendly and obliging, his
presentation at St. James’s had made him courteous.
Lady Lucas was a very good kind of woman, not too clever to be
a valuable neighbour to Mrs. Bennet.—They had several children.
The eldest of them, a sensible, intelligent young woman, about
twenty-seven, was Elizabeth’s intimate friend.
That the Miss Lucases and the Miss Bennets should meet to talk
over a ball was absolutely necessary; and the morning after the
assembly brought the former to Longbourn to hear and to
‘You began the evening well, Charlotte,’ said Mrs. Bennet with
civil self-command to Miss Lucas. ‘You were Mr. Bingley’s first
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‘Yes;—but he seemed to like his second better.’
‘Oh!—you mean Jane, I suppose—because he danced with her
twice. To be sure that did seem as if he admired her—indeed I
rather believe he did—I heard something about it—but I hardly
know what—something about Robinson.’
‘Perhaps you mean what I overheard between him and Mr.
Robinson; did not I mention it to you? Mr. Robinson’s asking him
how he liked our Meryton assemblies, and whether he did not
think there were a great many pretty women in the room, and
which he thought the prettiest? and his answering immediately to
the last question—Oh! the eldest Miss Bennet beyond a doubt,
there cannot be two opinions on that point.’
‘Upon my word!—Well, that was very decided indeed—that does
seem as if—but however, it may all come to nothing you know.’
‘My overhearings were more to the purpose than yours, Eliza,’
said Charlotte. ‘Mr. Darcy is not so well worth listening to as his
friend, is he?—Poor Eliza!—to be only just tolerable.’
‘I beg you would not put it into Lizzy’s head to be vexed by his
ill-treatment; for he is such a disagreeable man that it would be
quite a misfortune to be liked by him. Mrs. Long told me last night
that he sat close to her for half an hour without once opening his
‘Are you quite sure, Ma’am?—is not there a little mistake?’ said
Jane.—‘I certainly saw Mr. Darcy speaking to her.’
‘Aye—because she asked him at last how he liked Netherfield,
and he could not help answering her;—but she said he seemed
very angry at being spoke to.’
‘Miss Bingley told me,’ said Jane, ‘that he never speaks much
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unless among his intimate acquaintance. With them he is
remarkably agreeable.’
‘I do not believe a word of it, my dear. If he had been so very
agreeable he would have talked to Mrs. Long. But I can guess how
it was; every body says that he is ate up with pride, and I dare say
he had heard somehow that Mrs. Long does not keep a carriage,
and had come to the ball in a hack chaise.’
‘I do not mind his not talking to Mrs. Long,’ said Miss Lucas,
‘but I wish he had danced with Eliza.’
‘Another time, Lizzy,’ said her mother, ‘I would not dance with
him, if I were you.’
‘I believe, Ma’am, I may safely promise you never to dance with
‘His pride,’ said Miss Lucas, ‘does not offend me so much as
pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot
wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, every
thing in his favour, should think highly of himself. If I may so
express it, he has a right to be proud.’
‘That is very true,’ replied Elizabeth, ‘and I could easily forgive
his pride, if he had not mortified mine.’
‘Pride,’ observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of
her reflections, ‘is a very common failing I believe. By all that I
have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed, that
human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very
few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the
score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride
are different things, though the words are often used
synonimously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride
relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would
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have others think of us.’
‘If I were as rich as Mr. Darcy,’ cried a young Lucas who came
with his sisters, ‘I should not care how proud I was. I would keep a
pack of foxhounds, and drink a bottle of wine every day.’
‘Then you would drink a great deal more than you ought,’ said
Mrs. Bennet; ‘and if I were to see you at it I should take away your
bottle directly.’
The boy protested that she should not; she continued to declare
that she would, and the argument ended only with the visit.
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he ladies of Longbourn soon waited on those of
Netherfield. The visit was returned in due form. Miss
Bennet’s pleasing manners grew on the good will of Mrs.
Hurst and Miss Bingley; and though the mother was found to be
intolerable and the younger sisters not worth speaking to, a wish
of being better acquainted with them, was expressed towards the
two eldest. By Jane this attention was received with the greatest
pleasure; but Elizabeth still saw superciliousness in their
treatment of every body, hardly excepting even her sister, and
could not like them; though their kindness to Jane, such as it was,
had a value as arising in all probability from the influence of their
brother’s admiration. It was generally evident whenever they met,
that he did admire her; and to her it was equally evident that Jane
was yielding to the preference which she had begun to entertain
for him from the first, and was in a way to be very much in love;
but she considered with pleasure that it was not likely to be
discovered by the world in general, since Jane united with great
strength of feeling, a composure of temper and a uniform
cheerfulness of manner, which would guard her from the
suspicions of the impertinent. She mentioned this to her friend
Miss Lucas.
‘It may perhaps be pleasant,’ replied Charlotte, ‘to be able to
impose on the public in such a case; but it is sometimes a
disadvantage to be so very guarded. If a woman conceals her
affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the
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opportunity of fixing him; and it will then be but poor consolation
to believe the world equally in the dark. There is so much of
gratitude or vanity in almost every attachment, that it is not safe to
leave any to itself. We can all begin freely—a slight preference is
natural enough; but there are very few of us who have heart
enough to be really in love without encouragement. In nine cases
out of ten, a woman had better shew more affection than she feels.
Bingley likes your sister undoubtedly; but he may never do more
than like her, if she does not help him on.’
‘But she does help him on, as much as her nature will allow. If I
can perceive her regard for him, he must be a simpleton indeed not
to discover it too.’
‘Remember, Eliza, that he does not know Jane’s disposition as
you do.’
‘But if a woman is partial to a man, and does not endeavour to
conceal it, he must find it out.’
‘Perhaps he must, if he sees enough of her. But though Bingley
and Jane meet tolerably often, it is never for many hours together;
and as they always see each other in large mixed parties, it is
impossible that every moment should be employed in conversing
together. Jane should therefore make the most of every half hour
in which she can command his attention. When she is secure of
him, there will be leisure for falling in love as much as she chuses.’
‘Your plan is a good one,’ replied Elizabeth, ‘where nothing is in
question but the desire of being well married; and if I were
determined to get a rich husband, or any husband, I dare say I
should adopt it. But these are not Jane’s feelings; she is not acting
by design. As yet, she cannot even be certain of the degree of her
own regard, nor of its reasonableness. She has known him only a
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fortnight. She danced four dances with him at Meryton; she saw
him one morning at his own house, and has since dined in
company with him four times. This is not quite enough to make her
understand his character.’
‘Not as you represent it. Had she merely dined with him, she
might only have discovered whether he had a good appetite; but
you must remember that four evenings have been also spent
together—and four evenings may do a great deal.’
‘Yes; these four evenings have enabled them to ascertain that
they both like Vingt-un better than Commerce; but with respect to
any other leading characteristic, I do not imagine that much has
been unfolded.’
‘Well,’ said Charlotte, ‘I wish Jane success with all my heart; and
if she were married to him to-morrow, I should think she had as
good a chance of happiness, as if she were to be studying his
character for a twelve-month. Happiness in marriage is entirely a
matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well
known to each other, or ever so similar before-hand, it does not
advance their felicity in the least. They always contrive to grow
sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it
is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person
with whom you are to pass your life.’
‘You make me laugh, Charlotte; but it is not sound. You know it
is not sound, and that you would never act in this way yourself.’
Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley’s attentions to her sister,
Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming
an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had
at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her
without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked
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at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to
himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her
face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent
by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery
succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had
detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect
symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to
be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners
were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their
easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware;—to her he was
only the man who made himself agreeable no where, and who had
not thought her handsome enough to dance with.
He began to wish to know more of her, and as a step towards
conversing with her himself, attended to her conversation with
others. His doing so drew her notice. It was at Sir William Lucas’s,
where a large party were assembled.
‘What does Mr. Darcy mean,’ said she to Charlotte, ‘by listening
to my conversation with Colonel Forster?’
‘That is a question which Mr. Darcy only can answer.’
‘But if he does it any more I shall certainly let him know that I
see what he is about. He has a very satirical eye, and if I do not
begin by being impertinent myself, I shall soon grow afraid of him.’
On his approaching them soon afterwards, though without
seeming to have any intention of speaking, Miss Lucas defied her
friend to mention such a subject to him, which immediately
provoking Elizabeth to do it, she turned to him and said,
‘Did not you think, Mr. Darcy, that I expressed myself
uncommonly well just now, when I was teazing Colonel Forster to
give us a ball at Meryton?’
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‘With great energy;—but it is a subject which always makes a
lady energetic.’
‘You are severe on us.’
‘It will be her turn soon to be teazed,’ said Miss. Lucas. ‘I am
going to open the instrument, Eliza, and you know what follows.’
‘You are a very strange creature by way of a friend!—always
wanting me to play and sing before any body and every body!—If
my vanity had taken a musical turn, you would have been
invaluable, but as it is, I would really rather not sit down before
those who must be in the habit of hearing the very best
performers.’ On Miss Lucas’s persevering, however, she added,
‘Very well; if it must be so, it must.’ And gravely glancing at Mr.
Darcy, ‘There is a fine old saying, which every body here is of
course familiar with—“Keep your breath to cool your porridge,”—
and I shall keep mine to swell my song.’
Her performance was pleasing, though by no means capital.
After a song or two, and before she could reply to the entreaties of
several that she would sing again, she was eagerly succeeded at the
instrument by her sister Mary, who having, in consequence of
being the only plain one in the family, worked hard for knowledge
and accomplishments, was always impatient for display.
Mary had neither genius nor taste; and though vanity had given
her application, it had given her likewise a pedantic air and
conceited manner, which would have injured a higher degree of
excellence than she had reached. Elizabeth, easy and unaffected,
had been listened to with much more pleasure, though not playing
half so well; and Mary, at the end of a long concerto, was glad to
purchase praise and gratitude by Scotch and Irish airs, at the
request of her younger sisters, who with some of the Lucases and
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two or three officers joined eagerly in dancing at one end of the
Mr. Darcy stood near them in silent indignation at such a mode
of passing the evening, to the exclusion of all conversation, and was
too much engrossed by his own thoughts to perceive that Sir
William Lucas was his neighbour, till Sir William thus began.
‘What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr.
Darcy!—There is nothing like dancing after all.—I consider it as
one of the first refinements of polished societies.’
‘Certainly, Sir;—and it has the advantage also of being in vogue
amongst the less polished societies of the world.—Every savage
can dance.’
Sir William only smiled. ‘Your friend performs delightfully;’ he
continued after a pause, on seeing Bingley join the group;—‘and I
doubt not that you are an adept in the science yourself, Mr. Darcy.’
‘You saw me dance at Meryton, I believe, Sir.’
‘Yes, indeed, and received no inconsiderable pleasure from the
sight. Do you often dance at St. James’s?’
‘Never, sir.’
‘Do you not think it would be a proper compliment to the place?’
‘It is a compliment which I never pay to any place if I can avoid
‘You have a house in town, I conclude?’
Mr. Darcy bowed.
‘I had once some thoughts of fixing in town myself—for I am
fond of superior society; but I did not feel quite certain that the air
of London would agree with Lady Lucas.’
He paused in hopes of an answer; but his companion was not
disposed to make any; and Elizabeth at that instant moving
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towards them, he was struck with the notion of doing a very gallant
thing, and called out to her,
‘My dear Miss Eliza, why are not you dancing?—Mr. Darcy, you
must allow me to present this young lady to you as a very desirable
partner.—You cannot refuse to dance, I am sure, when so much
beauty is before you.’ And taking her hand, he would have given it
to Mr. Darcy, who, though extremely surprised, was not unwilling
to receive it, when she instantly drew back, and said with some
discomposure to Sir William,
‘Indeed, Sir, I have not the least intention of dancing.—I entreat
you not to suppose that I moved this way in order to beg for a
Mr. Darcy with grave propriety requested to be allowed the
honour of her hand; but in vain. Elizabeth was determined; nor did
Sir William at all shake her purpose by his attempt at persuasion.
‘You excel so much in the dance, Miss Eliza, that it is cruel to
deny me the happiness of seeing you; and though this gentleman
dislikes the amusement in general, he can have no objection, I am
sure, to oblige us for one half hour.’
‘Mr. Darcy is all politeness,’ said Elizabeth, smiling.
‘He is indeed—but considering the inducement, my dear Miss
Eliza, we cannot wonder at his complaisance; for who would object
to such a partner?’
Elizabeth looked archly, and turned away. Her resistance had
not injured her with the gentleman, and he was thinking of her
with some complacency, when thus accosted by Miss Bingley,
‘I can guess the subject of your reverie.
‘I should imagine not.’
‘You are considering how insupportable it would be to pass
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many evenings in this manner—in such society; and indeed I am
quite of your opinion. I was never more annoyed! The insipidity
and yet the noise; the nothingness and yet the self-importance of
all these people!—What would I give to hear your strictures on
‘Your conjecture is totally wrong, I assure you. My mind was
more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great
pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can
Miss Bingley immediately fixed her eyes on his face, and desired
he would tell her what lady had the credit of inspiring such
reflections. Mr. Darcy replied with great intrepidity,
‘Miss Elizabeth Bennet.’
‘Miss Elizabeth Bennet!’ repeated Miss Bingley. ‘I am all
astonishment. How long has she been such a favourite?—and pray
when am I to wish you joy?’
‘That is exactly the question which I expected you to ask. A
lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love,
from love to matrimony in a moment. I knew you would be wishing
me joy.’
‘Nay, if you are so serious about it, I shall consider the matter as
absolutely settled. You will have a charming mother-in-law,
indeed, and of course she will be always at Pemberley with you.
He listened to her with perfect indifference, while she chose to
entertain herself in this manner, and as his composure convinced
her that all was safe, her wit flowed long.
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r. Bennet’s property consisted almost entirely in an
estate of two thousand a year, which, unfortunately for
his daughters, was entailed in default of heirs male, on
a distant relation; and their mother’s fortune, though ample for
her situation in life, could but ill supply the deficiency of his. Her
father had been an attorney in Meryton, and had left her four
thousand pounds.
She had a sister married to a Mr. Philips, who had been a clerk
to their father, and succeeded him in the business, and a brother
settled in London in a respectable line of trade.
The village of Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton; a
most convenient distance for the young ladies, who were usually
tempted thither three or four times a week, to pay their duty to
their aunt and to a milliner’s shop just over the way. The two
youngest of the family, Catherine and Lydia, were particularly
frequent in these attentions; their minds were more vacant than
their sisters’, and when nothing better offered, a walk to Meryton
was necessary to amuse their morning hours and furnish
conversation for the evening; and however bare of news the
country in general might be, they always contrived to learn some
from their aunt. At present, indeed, they were well supplied both
with news and happiness by the recent arrival of a militia regiment
in the neighbourhood; it was to remain the whole winter, and
Meryton was the head quarters.
Their visits to Mrs. Philips were now productive of the most
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interesting intelligence. Every day added something to their
knowledge of the officers’ names and connections. Their lodgings
were not long a secret, and at length they began to know the
officers themselves. Mr. Philips visited them all, and this opened to
his nieces a source of felicity unknown before. They could talk of
nothing but officers; and Mr. Bingley’s large fortune, the mention
of which gave animation to their mother, was worthless in their
eyes when opposed to the regimentals of an ensign.
After listening one morning to their effusions on this subject,
Mr. Bennet coolly observed,
‘From all that I can collect by your manner of talking, you must
be two of the silliest girls in the country. I have suspected it some
time, but I am now convinced.’
Catherine was disconcerted, and made no answer; but Lydia,
with perfect indifference, continued to express her admiration of
Captain Carter, and her hope of seeing him in the course of the
day, as he was going the next morning to London.
‘I am astonished, my dear,’ said Mrs. Bennet, ‘that you should
be so ready to think your own children silly. If I wished to think
slightingly of any body’s children, it should not be of my own
‘If my children are silly I must hope to be always sensible of it.’
‘Yes—but as it happens, they are all of them very clever.’
‘This is the only point, I flatter myself, on which we do not
agree. I had hoped that our sentiments coincided in every
particular, but I must so far differ from you as to think our two
youngest daughters uncommonly foolish.’
‘My dear Mr. Bennet, you must not expect such girls to have the
sense of their father and mother.—When they get to our age I dare
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say they will not think about officers any more than we do. I
remember the time when I liked a red coat myself very well—and
indeed so I do still at my heart; and if a smart young colonel, with
five or six thousand a year, should want one of my girls, I shall not
say nay to him; and I thought Colonel Forster looked very
becoming the other night at Sir William’s in his regimentals.’
‘Mama,’ cried Lydia, ‘my aunt says that Colonel Forster and
Captain Carter do not go so often to Miss Watson’s as they did
when they first came; she sees them now very often standing in
Clarke’s library.’
Mrs. Bennet was prevented replying by the entrance of the
footman with a note for Miss Bennet; it came from Netherfield, and
the servant waited for an answer. Mrs. Bennet’s eyes sparkled with
pleasure, and she was eagerly calling out, while her daughter read,
‘Well, Jane, who is it from? what is it about? what does he say?
Well, Jane, make haste and tell us; make haste, my love.’
‘It is from Miss Bingley,’ said Jane, and then read it aloud.
‘My dear Friend,
‘If you are not so compassionate as to dine to-day with Louisa
and me, we shall be in danger of hating each other for the rest of
our lives, for a whole day’s tête-à-tête between two women can
never end without a quarrel. Come as soon as you can on the
receipt of this. My brother and the gentlemen are to dine with the
officers. Yours ever,
‘Caroline Bingley.’
‘With the officers!’ cried Lydia. ‘I wonder my aunt did not tell us
of that.’
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‘Dining out,’ said Mrs. Bennet, ‘that is very unlucky.’
‘Can I have the carriage?’ said Jane.
‘No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems
likely to rain; and then you must stay all night.’
‘That would be a good scheme,’ said Elizabeth, ‘if you were sure
that they would not offer to send her home.’
‘Oh! but the gentlemen will have Mr. Bingley’s chaise to go to
Meryton; and the Hursts have no horses to theirs.’
‘I had much rather go in the coach.’
‘But, my dear, your father cannot spare the horses, I am sure.
They are wanted in the farm, Mr. Bennet, are not they?’
‘They are wanted in the farm much oftener than I can get them.’
‘But if you have got them to-day,’ said Elizabeth, ‘my mother’s
purpose will be answered.’
She did at last extort from her father an acknowledgment that
the horses were engaged. Jane was therefore obliged to go on
horseback, and her mother attended her to the door with many
cheerful prognostics of a bad day. Her hopes were answered; Jane
had not been gone long before it rained hard. Her sisters were
uneasy for her, but her mother was delighted. The rain continued
the whole evening without intermission; Jane certainly could not
come back.
‘This was a lucky idea of mine, indeed!’ said Mrs. Bennet, more
than once, as if the credit of making it rain were all her own. Till
the next morning, however, she was not aware of all the felicity of
her contrivance. Breakfast was scarcely over when a servant from
Netherfield brought the following note for Elizabeth:
‘My dearest Lizzy,
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‘I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose is to be
imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will
not hear of my returning home till I am better. They insist also on
my seeing Mr. Jones—therefore do not be alarmed if you should
hear of his having been to me—and excepting a sore-throat and
head-ache there is not much the matter with me.
‘Yours, &c.’
‘Well, my dear,’ said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth had read the
note aloud, ‘if your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness,
if she should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in
pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your orders.’
‘Oh! I am not at all afraid of her dying. People do not die of little
trifling colds. She will be taken good care of. As long as she stays
there, it is all very well. I would go and see her, if I could have the
Elizabeth, feeling really anxious, was determined to go to her,
though the carriage was not to be had; and as she was no horsewoman,
walking was her only alternative. She declared her
‘How can you be so silly,’ cried her mother, ‘as to think of such a
thing, in all this dirt! You will not be fit to be seen when you get
‘I shall be very fit to see Jane—which is all I want.’
‘Is this a hint to me, Lizzy,’ said her father, ‘to send for the
‘No, indeed. I do not wish to avoid the walk. The distance is
nothing, when one has a motive; only three miles. I shall be back
by dinner.’
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‘I admire the activity of your benevolence,’ observed Mary, ‘but
every impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my
opinion, exertion should always be in proportion to what is
‘We will go as far as Meryton with you,’ said Catherine and
Lydia.—Elizabeth accepted their company, and the three young
ladies set off together.
‘If we make haste,’ said Lydia, as they walked along, ‘perhaps
we may see something of Captain Carter before he goes.’
In Meryton they parted; the two youngest repaired to the
lodgings of one of the officers’ wives, and Elizabeth continued her
walk alone, crossing field after field at a quick pace, jumping over
stiles and springing over puddles with impatient activity, and
finding herself at last within view of the house, with weary ancles,
dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise.
She was shewn into the breakfast-parlour, where all but Jane
were assembled, and where her appearance created a great deal of
surprise.—That she should have walked three miles so early in the
day, in such dirty weather, and by herself was almost incredible to
Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and Elizabeth was convinced that
they held her in contempt for it. She was received, however, very
politely by them; and in their brother’s manners there was
something better than politeness; there was good humour and
kindness. Mr. Darcy said very little, and Mr. Hurst nothing at all.
The former was divided between admiration of the brilliancy
which exercise had given to her complexion, and doubt as to the
occasion’s justifying her coming so far alone. The latter was
thinking only of his breakfast.
Her enquiries after her sister were not very favourably
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answered. Miss Bennet had slept ill, and though up, was very
feverish and not well enough to leave her room. Elizabeth was glad
to be taken to her immediately; and Jane, who had only been
withheld by the fear of giving alarm or inconvenience, from
expressing in her note how much she longed for such a visit, was
delighted at her entrance. She was not equal, however, to much
conversation, and when Miss Bingley left them together, could
attempt little beside expressions of gratitude for the extraordinary
kindness she was treated with. Elizabeth silently attended her.
When breakfast was over, they were joined by the sisters; and
Elizabeth began to like them herself, when she saw how much
affection and solicitude they shewed for Jane. The apothecary
came, and having examined his patient, said, as might be
supposed, that she had caught a violent cold, and that they must
endeavour to get the better of it; advised her to return to bed, and
promised her some draughts. The advice was followed readily, for
the feverish symptoms increased, and her head ached acutely.
Elizabeth did not quit her room for a moment, nor were the other
ladies often absent; the gentlemen being out, they had in fact
nothing to do elsewhere.
When the clock struck three, Elizabeth felt that she must go;
and very unwillingly said so. Miss Bingley offered her the carriage,
and she only wanted a little pressing to accept it, when Jane
testified such concern in parting with her, that Miss Bingley was
obliged to convert the offer of the chaise into an invitation to
remain at Netherfield for the present. Elizabeth most thankfully
consented, and a servant was dispatched to Longbourn to acquaint
the family with her stay, and bring back a supply of clothes.
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t five o’clock the two ladies retired to dress, and at half
past six Elizabeth was summoned to dinner. To the civil
enquiries which then poured in, and amongst which she
had the pleasure of distinguishing the much superior solicitude of
Mr. Bingley’s, she could not make a very favourable answer. Jane
was by no means better. The sisters, on hearing this, repeated
three or four times how much they were grieved, how shocking it
was to have a bad cold, and how excessively they disliked being ill
themselves; and then thought no more of the matter: and their
indifference towards Jane when not immediately before them,
restored Elizabeth to the enjoyment of all her original dislike.
Their brother, indeed, was the only one of the party whom she
could regard with any complacency. His anxiety for Jane was
evident, and his attentions to herself most pleasing, and they
prevented her feeling herself so much an intruder as she believed
she was considered by the others. She had very little notice from
any but him. Miss Bingley was engrossed by Mr. Darcy, her sister
scarcely less so; and as for Mr. Hurst, by whom Elizabeth sat, he
was an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play at
cards, who when he found her prefer a plain dish to a ragout, had
nothing to say to her.
When dinner was over, she returned directly to Jane, and Miss
Bingley began abusing her as soon as she was out of the room. Her
manners were pronounced to be very bad indeed, a mixture of
pride and impertinence; she had no conversation, no stile, no taste,
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no beauty. Mrs. Hurst thought the same, and added,
‘She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an
excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning.
She really looked almost wild.’
‘She did indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance.
Very nonsensical to come at all! Why must she be scampering
about the country, because her sister had a cold? Her hair so
untidy, so blowsy!’
‘Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches
deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had
been let down to hide it, not doing its office.’
‘Your picture may be very exact, Louisa,’ said Bingley; ‘but this
was all lost upon me. I thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet looked
remarkably well, when she came into the room this morning. Her
dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice.’
‘You observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure,’ said Miss Bingley; ‘and I
am inclined to think that you would not wish to see your sister
make such an exhibition.’
‘Certainly not.’
‘To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it
is, above her ancles in dirt, and alone, quite alone!—what could she
mean by it? It seems to me to shew an abominable sort of
conceited independence, a most country town indifference to
‘It shews an affection for her sister that is very pleasing,’ said
‘I am afraid, Mr. Darcy,’ observed Miss Bingley, in a half
whisper, ‘that this adventure has rather affected your admiration
of her fine eyes.’
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‘Not at all,’ he replied; ‘they were brightened by the exercise.’—
A short pause followed this speech, and Mrs. Hurst began again.
‘I have an excessive regard for Jane Bennet, she is really a very
sweet girl, and I wish with all my heart she were well settled. But
with such a father and mother, and such low connections, I am
afraid there is no chance of it.’
‘I think I have heard you say, that their uncle is an attorney in
‘Yes; and they have another, who lives somewhere near
‘That is capital,’ added her sister, and they both laughed
‘If they had uncles enough to fill all Cheapside,’ cried Bingley, ‘it
would not make them one jot less agreeable.’
‘But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying
men of any consideration in the world,’ replied Darcy.
To this speech Bingley made no answer; but his sisters gave it
their hearty assent, and indulged their mirth for some time at the
expense of their dear friend’s vulgar relations.
With a renewal of tenderness, however, they repaired to her
room on leaving the dining-parlour, and sat with her till
summoned to coffee. She was still very poorly, and Elizabeth
would not quit her at all, till late in the evening, when she had the
comfort of seeing her asleep, and when it appeared to her rather
right than pleasant that she should go down stairs herself. On
entering the drawing-room she found the whole party at loo, and
was immediately invited to join them; but suspecting them to be
playing high she declined it, and making her sister the excuse, said
she would amuse herself for the short time she could stay below
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with a book. Mr. Hurst looked at her with astonishment.
‘Do you prefer reading to cards?’ said he; ‘that is rather
‘Miss Eliza Bennet,’ said Miss Bingley, ‘despises cards. She is a
great reader and has no pleasure in anything else.’
‘I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,’ cried
Elizabeth; ‘I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many
‘In nursing your sister I am sure you have pleasure,’ said
Bingley; ‘and I hope it will soon be increased by seeing her quite
Elizabeth thanked him from her heart, and then walked towards
a table where a few books were lying. He immediately offered to
fetch her others; all that his library afforded.
‘And I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my
own credit; but I am an idle fellow, and though I have not many, I
have more than I ever look into.’
Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly with
those in the room.
‘I am astonished,’ said Miss Bingley, ‘that my father should have
left so small a collection of books.—What a delightful library you
have at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy!’
‘It ought to be good,’ he replied, ‘it has been the work of many
‘And then you have added so much to it yourself, you are always
buying books.’
‘I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such
days as these.’
‘Neglect! I am sure you neglect nothing that can add to the
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beauties of that noble place. Charles, when you build your house, I
wish it may be half as delightful as Pemberley.’
‘I wish it may.’
‘But I would really advise you to make your purchase in that
neighbourhood, and take Pemberley for a kind of model. There is
not a finer county in England than Derbyshire.’
‘With all my heart; I will buy Pemberley itself if Darcy will sell
‘I am talking of possibilities, Charles.’
‘Upon my word, Caroline, I should think it more possible to get
Pemberley by purchase than by imitation.’
Elizabeth was so much caught by what passed, as to leave her
very little attention for her book; and soon laying it wholly aside,
she drew near the card-table, and stationed herself between Mr.
Bingley and his eldest sister, to observe the game.
‘Is Miss Darcy much grown since the spring?’ said Miss Bingley;
‘will she be as tall as I am?’
‘I think she will. She is now about Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s
height, or rather taller.’
‘How I long to see her again! I never met with anybody who
delighted me so much. Such a countenance, such manners! and so
extremely accomplished for her age! Her performance on the
pianoforté is exquisite.’
‘It is amazing to me,’ said Bingley, ‘how young ladies can have
patience to be so very accomplished, as they all are.
‘All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you
‘Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover skreens and
net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I
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am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time,
without being informed that she was very accomplished.’
‘Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,’ said
Darcy, ‘has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman
who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse, or covering a
skreen. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your
estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more
than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are
really accomplished.’
‘Nor I, I am sure,’ said Miss Bingley.
‘Then,’ observed Elizabeth, ‘you must comprehend a great deal
in your idea of an accomplished women.’
‘Yes; I do comprehend a great deal in it.’
‘Oh! certainly,’ cried his faithful assistant, ‘no one can be really
esteemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is
usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of
music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to
deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain
something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice,
her address and expressions, or the word will be but half
‘All this she must possess,’ added Darcy, ‘and to all this she must
yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her
mind by extensive reading.’
‘I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished
women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.’
‘Are you so severe upon your own sex, as to doubt the possibility
of all this?’
‘I never saw such a woman. I never saw such capacity, and taste,
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and application, and elegance, as you describe, united.’
Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley both cried out against the injustice
of her implied doubt, and were both protesting that they knew
many women who answered this description, when Mr. Hurst
called them to order, with bitter complaints of their inattention to
what was going forward. As all conversation was thereby at an end,
Elizabeth soon afterwards left the room.
‘Eliza Bennet,’ said Miss Bingley, when the door was closed on
her, ‘is one of those young ladies who seek to recommend
themselves to the other sex, by undervaluing their own; and with
many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my opinion, it is a paltry
device, a very mean art.’
‘Undoubtedly,’ replied Darcy, to whom this remark was chiefly
addressed, ‘there is meanness in all the arts which ladies
sometimes condescend to employ for captivation. Whatever bears
affinity to cunning is despicable.’
Miss Bingley was not so entirely satisfied with this reply as to
continue the subject.
Elizabeth joined them again only to say that her sister was
worse, and that she could not leave her. Bingley urged Mr. Jones’s
being sent for immediately; while his sisters, convinced that no
country advice could be of any service, recommended an express
to town for one of the most eminent physicians. This, she would
not hear of; but she was not so unwilling to comply with their
brother’s proposal; and it was settled that Mr. Jones should be sent
for early in the morning, if Miss Bennet were not decidedly better.
Bingley was quite uncomfortable; his sisters declared that they
were miserable. They solaced their wretchedness, however, by
duets after supper, while he could find no better relief to his
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feelings than by giving his housekeeper directions that every
possible attention might be paid to the sick lady and her sister.
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lizabeth passed the chief of the night in her sister’s room,
and in the morning had the pleasure of being able to send
a tolerable answer to the enquiries which she very early
received from Mr. Bingley by a housemaid, and some time
afterwards from the two elegant ladies who waited on his sisters.
In spite of this amendment, however, she requested to have a note
sent to Longbourn, desiring her mother to visit Jane, and form her
own judgment of her situation. The note was immediately
dispatched, and its contents as quickly complied with. Mrs.
Bennet, accompanied by her two youngest girls, reached
Netherfield soon after the family breakfast.
Had she found Jane in any apparent danger, Mrs. Bennet would
have been very miserable; but being satisfied on seeing her that
her illness was not alarming, she had no wish of her recovering
immediately, as her restoration to health would probably remove
her from Netherfield. She would not listen therefore to her
daughter’s proposal of being carried home; neither did the
apothecary, who arrived about the same time, think it at all
advisable. After sitting a little while with Jane, on Miss Bingley’s
appearance and invitation, the mother and three daughters all
attended her into the breakfast parlour. Bingley met them with
hopes that Mrs. Bennet had not found Miss Bennet worse than she
‘Indeed I have, Sir,’ was her answer. ‘She is a great deal too ill to
be moved. Mr. Jones says we must not think of moving her. We
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must trespass a little longer on your kindness.’
‘Removed!’ cried Bingley. ‘It must not be thought of. My sister, I
am sure, will not hear of her removal.’
‘You may depend upon it, Madam,’ said Miss Bingley, with cold
civility, ‘that Miss Bennet shall receive every possible attention
while she remains with us.’
Mrs. Bennet was profuse in her acknowledgments.
‘I am sure,’ she added, ‘if it was not for such good friends I do
not know what would become of her, for she is very ill indeed, and
suffers a vast deal, though with the greatest patience in the world,
which is always the way with her, for she has, without exception,
the sweetest temper I ever met with. I often tell my other girls they
are nothing to her. You have a sweet room here, Mr. Bingley, and a
charming prospect over that gravel walk. I do not know a place in
the country that is equal to Netherfield. You will not think of
quitting it in a hurry I hope, though you have but a short lease.’
‘Whatever I do is done in a hurry,’ replied he; ‘and therefore if I
should resolve to quit Netherfield, I should probably be off in five
minutes. At present, however, I consider myself as quite fixed
‘That is exactly what I should have supposed of you,’ said
‘You begin to comprehend me, do you?’ cried he, turning
towards her.
‘Oh! yes—I understand you perfectly.’
I wish I might take this for a compliment; but to be so easily
seen through I am afraid is pitiful.’
‘That is as it happens. It does not necessarily follow that a deep,
intricate character is more or less estimable than such a one as
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‘Lizzy,’ cried her mother, ‘remember where you are, and do not
run on in the wild manner that you are suffered to do at home.’
‘I did not know before,’ continued Bingley immediately, ‘that
you were a studier of character. It must be an amusing study.’
‘Yes; but intricate characters are the most amusing. They have
at least that advantage.’
‘The country,’ said Darcy, ‘can in general supply but few
subjects for such a study. In a country neighbourhood you move in
a very confined and unvarying society.’
‘But people themselves alter so much, that there is something
new to be observed in them for ever.’
‘Yes, indeed,’ cried Mrs. Bennet, offended by his manner of
mentioning a country neighbourhood. ‘I assure you there is quite
as much of that going on in the country as in town.’
Every body was surprised; and Darcy, after looking at her for a
moment, turned silently away. Mrs. Bennet, who fancied she had
gained a complete victory over him, continued her triumph.
‘I cannot see that London has any great advantage over the
country for my part, except the shops and public places. The
country is a vast deal pleasanter, is not it, Mr. Bingley?’
‘When I am in the country,’ he replied, ‘I never wish to leave it;
and when I am in town it is pretty much the same. They have each
their advantages, and I can be equally happy in either.’
‘Aye—that is because you have the right disposition. But that
gentleman,’ looking at Darcy, ‘seemed to think the country was
nothing at all.’
‘Indeed, Mama, you are mistaken,’ said Elizabeth, blushing for
her mother. ‘You quite mistook Mr. Darcy. He only meant that
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there were not such a variety of people to be met with in the
country as in town, which you must acknowledge to be true.’
‘Certainly, my dear, nobody said there were; but as to not
meeting with many people in this neighbourhood, I believe there
are few neighbourhoods larger. I know we dine with four and
twenty families.’
Nothing but concern for Elizabeth could enable Bingley to keep
his countenance. His sister was less delicate, and directed her eye
towards Mr. Darcy with a very expressive smile. Elizabeth, for the
sake of saying something that might turn her mother’s thoughts,
now asked her if Charlotte Lucas had been at Longbourn since her
coming away.
‘Yes, she called yesterday with her father. What an agreeable
man Sir William is, Mr. Bingley—is not he? so much the man of
fashion! so genteel and so easy!—He has always something to say
to every body.—That is my idea of good breeding; and those
persons who fancy themselves very important and never open
their mouths, quite mistake the matter.’
‘Did Charlotte dine with you?’
‘No, she would go home. I fancy she was wanted about the
mince pies. For my part, Mr. Bingley, I always keep servants that
can do their own work; my daughters are brought up differently.
But every body is to judge for themselves, and the Lucases are very
good sort of girls, I assure you. It is a pity they are not handsome!
Not that I think Charlotte so very plain—but then she is our
particular friend.’
‘She seems a very pleasant young woman,’ said Bingley.
‘Oh! dear, yes;—but you must own she is very plain. Lady Lucas
herself has often said so, and envied me Jane’s beauty. I do not like
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to boast of my own child, but to be sure, Jane—one does not often
see any body better looking. It is what every body says. I do not
trust my own partiality. When she was only fifteen, there was a
gentleman at my brother Gardiner’s in town, so much in love with
her, that my sister-in-law was sure he would make her an offer
before we came away. But however he did not. Perhaps he thought
her too young. However, he wrote some verses on her, and very
pretty they were.’
‘And so ended his affection,’ said Elizabeth impatiently. ‘There
has been many a one, I fancy, overcome in the same way. I wonder
who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!’
‘I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love,’ said
‘Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Every thing nourishes what
is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I
am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away.’
Darcy only smiled; and the general pause which ensued made
Elizabeth tremble lest her mother should be exposing herself
again. She longed to speak, but could think of nothing to say; and
after a short silence Mrs. Bennet began repeating her thanks to
Mr. Bingley for his kindness to Jane, with an apology for troubling
him also with Lizzy. Mr. Bingley was unaffectedly civil in his
answer, and forced his younger sister to be civil also, and say what
the occasion required. She performed her part indeed without
much graciousness, but Mrs. Bennet was satisfied, and soon
afterwards ordered her carriage. Upon this signal, the youngest of
her daughters put herself forward. The two girls had been
whispering to each other during the whole visit, and the result of it
was, that the youngest should tax Mr. Bingley with having
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promised on his first coming into the country to give a ball at
Lydia was a stout, well-grown girl of fifteen, with a fine
complexion and good-humoured countenance; a favourite with her
mother, whose affection had brought her into public at an early
age. She had high animal spirits, and a sort of natural selfconsequence,
which the attentions of the officers, to whom her
uncle’s good dinners and her own easy manners recommended
her, had increased into assurance. She was very equal therefore to
address Mr. Bingley on the subject of the ball, and abruptly
reminded him of his promise; adding, that it would be the most
shameful thing in the world if he did not keep it. His answer to this
sudden attack was delightful to their mother’s ear.
‘I am perfectly ready, I assure you, to keep my engagement; and
when your sister is recovered, you shall if you please name the very
day of the ball. But you would not wish to be dancing while she is
Lydia declared herself satisfied. ‘Oh! yes—it would be much
better to wait till Jane was well, and by that time most likely
Captain Carter would be at Meryton again. And when you have
given your ball,’ she added, ‘I shall insist on their giving one also. I
shall tell Colonel Forster it will be quite a shame if he does not.’
Mrs. Bennet and her daughters then departed, and Elizabeth
returned instantly to Jane, leaving her own and her relations’
behaviour to the remarks of the two ladies and Mr. Darcy; the
latter of whom, however, could not be prevailed on to join in their
censure of her, in spite of all Miss Bingley’s witticisms on fine eyes.
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he day passed much as the day before had done. Mrs.
Hurst and Miss Bingley had spent some hours of the
morning with the invalid, who continued, though slowly,
to mend; and in the evening Elizabeth joined their party in the
drawing-room. The loo table, however, did not appear. Mr. Darcy
was writing, and Miss Bingley, seated near him, was watching the
progress of his letter, and repeatedly calling off his attention by
messages to his sister. Mr. Hurst and Mr. Bingley were at piquet,
and Mrs. Hurst was observing their game.
Elizabeth took up some needlework, and was sufficiently
amused in attending to what passed between Darcy and his
companion. The perpetual commendations of the lady either on his
hand-writing, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his
letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her praises were
received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in unison
with her opinion of each.
‘How delighted Miss Darcy will be to receive such a letter!’
He made no answer.
‘You write uncommonly fast.’
‘You are mistaken. I write rather slowly.’
‘How many letters you must have occasion to write in the course
of the year! Letters of business too! How odious I should think
‘It is fortunate, then, that they fall to my lot instead of to yours.’
‘Pray tell your sister that I long to see her.’
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‘I have already told her so once, by your desire.’
‘I am afraid you do not like your pen. Let me mend it for you. I
mend pens remarkably well.’
‘Thank you—but I always mend my own.
‘How can you contrive to write so even?’
He was silent.
‘Tell your sister I am delighted to hear of her improvement on
the harp, and pray let her know that I am quite in raptures with
her beautiful little design for a table, and I think it infinitely
superior to Miss Grantley’s.’
‘Will you give me leave to defer your raptures till I write
again?—At present I have not room to do them justice.’
‘Oh! it is of no consequence. I shall see her in January. But do
you always write such charming long letters to her, Mr. Darcy?’
‘They are generally long; but whether always charming, it is not
for me to determine.’
‘It is a rule with me, that a person who can write a long letter,
with ease, cannot write ill.’
‘That will not do for a compliment to Darcy, Caroline,’ cried her
brother—‘because he does not write with ease. He studies too
much for words of four syllables.—Do not you, Darcy?’
‘My stile of writing is very different from yours.’
‘Oh!’ cried Miss Bingley, ‘Charles writes in the most careless
way imaginable. He leaves out half his words, and blots the rest.’
‘My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them—
by which means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my
‘Your humility, Mr. Bingley,’ said Elizabeth, ‘must disarm
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‘Nothing is more deceitful,’ said Darcy, ‘than the appearance of
humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an
indirect boast.’
‘And which of the two do you call my little recent piece of
‘The indirect boast;—for you are really proud of your defects in
writing, because you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity
of thought and carelessness of execution, which if not estimable,
you think at least highly interesting. The power of doing any thing
with quickness is always much prized by the possessor, and often
without any attention to the imperfection of the performance.
When you told Mrs. Bennet this morning that if you ever resolved
on quitting Netherfield you should be gone in five minutes, you
meant it to be a sort of panegyric, of compliment to yourself—and
yet what is there so very laudable in a precipitance which must
leave very necessary business undone, and can be of no real
advantage to yourself or any one else?’
‘Nay,’ cried Bingley, ‘this is too much, to remember at night all
the foolish things that were said in the morning. And yet, upon my
honour, I believed what I said of myself to be true, and I believe it
at this moment. At least, therefore, I did not assume the character
of needless precipitance merely to shew off before the ladies.’
‘I dare say you believed it; but I am by no means convinced that
you would be gone with such celerity. Your conduct would be quite
as dependant on chance as that of any man I know; and if, as you
were mounting your horse, a friend were to say, “Bingley, you had
better stay till next week,” you would probably do it, you would
probably not go—and, at another word, might stay a month.’
‘You have only proved by this,’ cried Elizabeth, ‘that Mr.
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Bingley did not do justice to his own disposition. You have shewn
him off now much more than he did himself.’
‘I am exceedingly gratified,’ said Bingley, ‘by your converting
what my friend says into a compliment on the sweetness of my
temper. But I am afraid you are giving it a turn which that
gentleman did by no means intend; for he would certainly think
the better of me, if under such a circumstance I were to give a flat
denial, and ride off as fast as I could.’
‘Would Mr. Darcy then consider the rashness of your original
intention as atoned for by your obstinacy in adhering to it?’
‘Upon my word I cannot exactly explain the matter, Darcy must
speak for himself.’
‘You expect me to account for opinions which you chuse to call
mine, but which I have never acknowledged. Allowing the case,
however, to stand according to your representation, you must
remember, Miss Bennet, that the friend who is supposed to desire
his return to the house, and the delay of his plan, has merely
desired it, asked it without offering one argument in favour of its
‘To yield readily—easily—to the persuasion of a friend is no
merit with you.’
‘To yield without conviction is no compliment to the understanding
of either.’
‘You appear to me, Mr. Darcy, to allow nothing for the influence
of friendship and affection. A regard for the requester would often
make one readily yield to a request, without waiting for arguments
to reason one into it. I am not particularly speaking of such a case
as you have supposed about Mr. Bingley. We may as well wait,
perhaps, till the circumstance occurs, before we discuss the
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discretion of his behaviour thereupon. But in general and ordinary
cases between friend and friend, where one of them is desired by
the other to change a resolution of no very great moment, should
you think ill of that person for complying with the desire, without
waiting to be argued into it?’
‘Will it not be advisable, before we proceed on this subject, to
arrange with rather more precision the degree of importance
which is to appertain to this request, as well as the degree of
intimacy subsisting between the parties?’
‘By all means,’ cried Bingley; ‘let us hear all the particulars, not
forgetting their comparative height and size; for that will have
more weight in the argument, Miss Bennet, than you may be aware
of. I assure you that if Darcy were not such a great tall fellow, in
comparison with myself, I should not pay him half so much
deference. I declare I do not know a more aweful object than
Darcy, on particular occasions, and in particular places; at his own
house especially, and of a Sunday evening when he has nothing to
Mr. Darcy smiled; but Elizabeth thought she could perceive that
he was rather offended; and therefore checked her laugh. Miss
Bingley warmly resented the indignity he had received, in an
expostulation with her brother for talking such nonsense.
‘I see your design, Bingley,’ said his friend.—‘You dislike an
argument, and want to silence this.’
‘Perhaps I do. Arguments are too much like disputes. If you and
Miss Bennet will defer yours till I am out of the room, I shall be
very thankful; and then you may say whatever you like of me.’
‘What you ask,’ said Elizabeth, ‘is no sacrifice on my side; and
Mr. Darcy had much better finish his letter.’
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Mr. Darcy took her advice, and did finish his letter.
When that business was over, he applied to Miss Bingley and
Elizabeth for the indulgence of some music. Miss Bingley moved
with alacrity to the pianoforté, and after a polite request that
Elizabeth would lead the way, which the other as politely and more
earnestly negatived, she seated herself.
Mrs. Hurst sang with her sister, and while they were thus
employed Elizabeth could not help observing as she turned over
some music books that lay on the instrument, how frequently Mr.
Darcy’s eyes were fixed on her. She hardly knew how to suppose
that she could be an object of admiration to so great a man; and yet
that he should look at her because he disliked her, was still more
strange. She could only imagine however at last, that she drew his
notice because there was a something about her more wrong and
reprehensible, according to his ideas of right, than in any other
person present. The supposition did not pain her. She liked him
too little to care for his approbation.
After playing some Italian songs, Miss Bingley varied the charm
by a lively Scotch air; and soon afterwards Mr. Darcy, drawing
near Elizabeth, said to her—
‘Do not you feel a great inclination, Miss Bennet, to seize such
an opportunity of dancing a reel?’
She smiled, but made no answer. He repeated the question,
with some surprise at her silence.
‘Oh!’ said she, ‘I heard you before; but I could not immediately
determine what to say in reply. You wanted me, I know, to say
“Yes,” that you might have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I
always delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes, and
cheating a person of their premeditated contempt. I have therefore
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made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at
all—and now despise me if you dare.’
‘Indeed I do not dare.’
Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at
his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in
her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody; and
Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by
her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her
connections, he should be in some danger.
Miss Bingley saw, or suspected enough to be jealous; and her
great anxiety for the recovery of her dear friend Jane, received
some assistance from her desire of getting rid of Elizabeth.
She often tried to provoke Darcy into disliking her guest, by
talking of their supposed marriage, and planning his happiness in
such an alliance.
‘I hope,’ said she, as they were walking together in the
shrubbery the next day, ‘you will give your mother-in-law a few
hints, when this desirable event takes place, as to the advantage of
holding her tongue; and if you can compass it, do cure the younger
girls of running after the officers.—And, if I may mention so
delicate a subject, endeavour to check that little something,
bordering on conceit and impertinence, which your lady
‘Have you any thing else to propose for my domestic felicity?’
‘Oh! yes.—Do let the portraits of your uncle and aunt Philips be
placed in the gallery at Pemberley. Put them next to your great
uncle the judge. They are in the same profession, you know; only in
different lines. As for your Elizabeth’s picture, you must not
attempt to have it taken, for what painter could do justice to those
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beautiful eyes?’
‘It would not be easy, indeed, to catch their expression, but their
colour and shape, and the eye-lashes, so remarkably fine, might be
At that moment they were met from another walk, by Mrs.
Hurst and Elizabeth herself.
‘I did not know that you intended to walk,’ said Miss Bingley, in
some confusion, lest they had been overheard.
‘You used us abominably ill,’ answered Mrs. Hurst, ‘in running
away without telling us that you were coming out.’
Then taking the disengaged arm of Mr. Darcy, she left Elizabeth
to walk by herself. The path just admitted three. Mr. Darcy felt
their rudeness and immediately said,—
‘This walk is not wide enough for our party. We had better go
into the avenue.’
But Elizabeth, who had not the least inclination to remain with
them, laughingly answered,
‘No, no; stay where you are.—You are charmingly group’d, and
appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoilt
by admitting a fourth. Good bye.’
She then ran gaily off, rejoicing as she rambled about, in the
hope of being at home again in a day or two. Jane was already so
much recovered as to intend leaving her room for a couple of hours
that evening.
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hen the ladies removed after dinner, Elizabeth ran up
to her sister, and seeing her well guarded from cold,
attended her into the drawing-room; where she was
welcomed by her two friends with many professions of pleasure;
and Elizabeth had never seen them so agreeable as they were
during the hour which passed before the gentlemen appeared.
Their powers of conversation were considerable. They could
describe an entertainment with accuracy, relate an anecdote with
humour, and laugh at their acquaintance with spirit.
But when the gentlemen entered, Jane was no longer the first
object. Miss Bingley’s eyes were instantly turned towards Darcy,
and she had something to say to him before he had advanced many
steps. He addressed himself directly to Miss Bennet, with a polite
congratulation; Mr. Hurst also made her a slight bow, and said he
was ‘very glad;’ but diffuseness and warmth remained for Bingley’s
salutation. He was full of joy and attention. The first half hour was
spent in piling up the fire, lest she should suffer from the change of
room; and she removed at his desire to the other side of the fireplace,
that she might be farther from the door. He then sat down
by her, and talked scarcely to any one else. Elizabeth, at work in
the opposite corner, saw it all with great delight.
When tea was over, Mr. Hurst reminded his sister-in-law of the
card-table—but in vain. She had obtained private intelligence that
Mr. Darcy did not wish for cards; and Mr. Hurst soon found even
his open petition rejected. She assured him that no one intended to
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play, and the silence of the whole party on the subject, seemed to
justify her. Mr. Hurst had therefore nothing to do, but to stretch
himself on one of the sophas and go to sleep. Darcy took up a book;
Miss Bingley did the same; and Mrs. Hurst, principally occupied in
playing with her bracelets and rings, joined now and then in her
brother’s conversation with Miss Bennet.
Miss Bingley’s attention was quite as much engaged in watching
Mr. Darcy’s progress through his book, as in reading her own; and
she was perpetually either making some inquiry, or looking at his
page. She could not win him, however, to any conversation; he
merely answered her question, and read on. At length, quite
exhausted by the attempt to be amused with her own book, which
she had only chosen because it was the second volume of his, she
gave a great yawn and said, ‘How pleasant it is to spend an evening
in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!
How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book!—When I
have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an
excellent library.’
No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her
book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest of some
amusement; when hearing her brother mentioning a ball to Miss
Bennet, she turned suddenly towards him and said,
‘By the bye, Charles, are you really serious in meditating a
dance at Netherfield?—I would advise you, before you determine
on it, to consult the wishes of the present party; I am much
mistaken if there are not some among us to whom a ball would be
rather a punishment than a pleasure.’
‘If you mean Darcy,’ cried her brother, ‘he may go to bed, if he
chuses, before it begins—but as for the ball, it is quite a settled
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thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough I shall
send round my cards.’
‘I should like balls infinitely better,’ she replied, ‘if they were
carried on in a different manner; but there is something
insufferably tedious in the usual process of such a meeting. It
would surely be much more rational if conversation instead of
dancing made the order of the day.’
‘Much more rational, my dear Caroline, I dare say but it would
not be near so much like a ball.’
Miss Bingley made no answer; and soon afterwards got up and
walked about the room. Her figure was elegant, and she walked
well;—but Darcy, at whom it was all aimed, was still inflexibly
studious. In the desperation of her feelings she resolved on one
effort more; and, turning to Elizabeth, said,
‘Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade you to follow my example,
and take a turn about the room.—I assure you it is very refreshing
after sitting so long in one attitude.’
Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed to it immediately. Miss
Bingley succeeded no less in the real object of her civility; Mr.
Darcy looked up. He was as much awake to the novelty of attention
in that quarter as Elizabeth herself could be, and unconsciously
closed his book. He was directly invited to join their party, but he
declined it, observing, that he could imagine but two motives for
their chusing to walk up and down the room together, with either
of which motives his joining them would interfere. ‘What could he
mean? she was dying to know what could be his meaning’—and
asked Elizabeth whether she could at all understand him?
‘Not at all,’ was her answer; ‘but depend upon it, he means to be
severe on us, and our surest way of disappointing him, will be to
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ask nothing about it.’
Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr.
Darcy in any thing, and persevered therefore in requiring an
explanation of his two motives.
‘I have not the smallest objection to explaining them,’ said he, as
soon as she allowed him to speak. ‘You either chuse this method of
passing the evening because you are in each other’s confidence
and have secret affairs to discuss, or because you are conscious
that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking;—if
the first, I should be completely in your way;—and if the second, I
can admire you much better as I sit by the fire.’
‘Oh! shocking!’ cried Miss Bingley. ‘I never heard any thing so
abominable. How shall we punish him for such a speech?’
‘Nothing so easy, if you have but the inclination,’ said Elizabeth.
‘We can all plague and punish one another. Teaze him—laugh at
him.—Intimate as you are, you must know how it is to be done.’
‘But upon my honour I do not. I do assure you that my intimacy
has not yet taught me that. Teaze calmness of temper and presence
of mind! No, no—I feel he may defy us there. And as to laughter,
we will not expose ourselves, if you please, by attempting to laugh
without a subject. Mr. Darcy may hug himself.’
‘Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed at!’ cried Elizabeth. ‘That is an
uncommon advantage, and uncommon I hope it will continue, for
it would be a great loss to me to have many such acquaintance. I
dearly love a laugh.’
‘Miss Bingley,’ said he, ‘has given me credit for more than can
be. The wisest and the best of men, nay, the wisest and best of their
actions, may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object
in life is a joke.’
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‘Certainly,’ replied Elizabeth—‘there are such people, but I hope
I am not one of them. I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good.
Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I
own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.—But these, I suppose,
are precisely what you are without.’
‘Perhaps that is not possible for any one. But it has been the
study of my life to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a
strong understanding to ridicule.’
‘Such as vanity and pride.’
‘Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride—where there is a
real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good
Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile.
‘Your examination of Mr. Darcy is over, I presume,’ said Miss
Bingley;—‘and pray what is the result?’
‘I am perfectly convinced by it that Mr. Darcy has no defect. He
owns it himself without disguise.’
‘No’—said Darcy, ‘I have made no such pretension. I have faults
enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I
dare not vouch for.—It is I believe too little yielding—certainly too
little for the convenience of the world. I cannot forget the follies
and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offences against
myself. My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to
move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful.—My
good opinion once lost is lost for ever.’
‘That is a failing indeed!’—cried Elizabeth. ‘Implacable
resentment is a shade in a character. But you have chosen your
fault well.—I really cannot laugh at it. You are safe from me.’
‘There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some
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particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education
can overcome.’
‘And your defect is a propensity to hate every body.’
‘And yours,’ he replied with a smile, ‘is wilfully to misunderstand
‘Do let us have a little music,’—cried Miss Bingley, tired of a
conversation in which she had no share.—‘Louisa, you will not
mind my waking Mr. Hurst.’
Her sister made not the smallest objection, and the pianoforté
was opened, and Darcy, after a few moments recollection, was not
sorry for it. He began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too
much attention.
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n consequence of an agreement between the sisters, Elizabeth
wrote the next morning to her mother, to beg that the
carriage might be sent for them in the course of the day. But
Mrs. Bennet, who had calculated on her daughters remaining at
Netherfield till the following Tuesday, which would exactly finish
Jane’s week, could not bring herself to receive them with pleasure
before. Her answer, therefore, was not propitious, at least not to
Elizabeth’s wishes, for she was impatient to get home. Mrs.
Bennet sent them word that they could not possibly have the
carriage before Tuesday; and in her postscript it was added, that if
Mr. Bingley and his sister pressed them to stay longer, she could
spare them very well.—Against staying longer, however, Elizabeth
was positively resolved—nor did she much expect it would be
asked; and fearful, on the contrary, as being considered as
intruding themselves needlessly long, she urged Jane to borrow
Mr. Bingley’s carriage immediately, and at length it was settled
that their original design of leaving Netherfield that morning
should be mentioned, and the request made.
The communication excited many professions of concern; and
enough was said of wishing them to stay at least till the following
day to work on Jane; and till the morrow, their going was deferred.
Miss Bingley was then sorry that she had proposed the delay, for
her jealousy and dislike of one sister much exceeded her affection
for the other.
The master of the house heard with real sorrow that they were
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to go so soon, and repeatedly tried to persuade Miss Bennet that it
would not be safe for her—that she was not enough recovered; but
Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right.
To Mr. Darcy it was welcome intelligence—Elizabeth had been
at Netherfield long enough. She attracted him more than he
liked—and Miss Bingley was uncivil to her, and more teazing than
usual to himself. He wisely resolved to be particularly careful that
no sign of admiration should now escape him, nothing that could
elevate her with the hope of influencing his felicity; sensible that if
such an idea had been suggested, his behaviour during the last day
must have material weight in confirming or crushing it. Steady to
his purpose, he scarcely spoke ten words to her through the whole
of Saturday, and though they were at one time left by themselves
for half an hour, he adhered most conscientiously to his book, and
would not even look at her.
On Sunday, after morning service, the separation, so agreeable
to almost all, took place. Miss Bingley’s civility to Elizabeth
increased at last very rapidly, as well as her affection for Jane; and
when they parted, after assuring the latter of the pleasure it would
always give her to see her either at Longbourn or Netherfield, and
embracing her most tenderly, she even shook hands with the
former.—Elizabeth took leave of the whole party in the liveliest
They were not welcomed home very cordially by their mother.
Mrs Bennet wondered at their coming, and thought them very
wrong to give so much trouble, and was sure Jane would have
caught cold again.—But their father, though very laconic in his
expressions of pleasure, was really glad to see them; he had felt
their importance in the family circle. The evening conversation,
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when they were all assembled, had lost much of its animation, and
almost all its sense, by the absence of Jane and Elizabeth.
They found Mary, as usual, deep in the study of thorough bass
and human nature; and had some new extracts to admire, and
some new observations of thread-bare morality to listen to.
Catherine and Lydia had information for them of a different sort.
Much had been done, and much had been said in the regiment
since the preceding Wednesday; several of the officers had dined
lately with their uncle, a private had been flogged, and it had
actually been hinted that Colonel Forster was going to be married.
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hope, my dear,’ said Mr. Bennet to his wife, as they were
at breakfast the next morning, ‘that you have ordered a
good dinner to-day, because I have reason to expect an
addition to our family party.’
‘Who do you mean, my dear? I know of nobody that is coming I
am sure, unless Charlotte Lucas should happen to call in, and I
hope my dinners are good enough for her. I do not believe she
often sees such at home.’
‘The person of whom I speak, is a gentleman and a stranger.’
Mrs. Bennet’s eyes sparkled.—‘A gentleman and a stranger! It is
Mr. Bingley I am sure. Why Jane—you never dropt a word of this;
you sly thing! Well, I am sure I shall be extremely glad to see Mr.
Bingley.—But—good lord! how unlucky! there is not a bit of fish to
be got to-day. Lydia, my love, ring the bell. I must speak to Hill,
this moment.’
‘It is not Mr. Bingley,’ said her husband; ‘it is a person whom I
never saw in the whole course of my life.’
This roused a general astonishment; and he had the pleasure of
being eagerly questioned by his wife and five daughters at once.
After amusing himself some time with their curiosity, he thus
explained. ‘About a month ago I received this letter, and about a
fortnight ago I answered it, for I thought it a case of some delicacy,
and requiring early attention. It is from my cousin, Mr. Collins,
who, when I am dead, may turn you all out of this house as soon as
he pleases.’
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‘Oh! my dear,’ cried his wife, ‘I cannot bear to hear that
mentioned. Pray do not talk of that odious man. I do think it is the
hardest thing in the world, that your estate should be entailed
away from your own children; and I am sure if I had been you, I
should have tried long ago to do something or other about it.’
Jane and Elizabeth attempted to explain to her the nature of an
entail. They had often attempted it before, but it was a subject on
which Mrs. Bennet was beyond the reach of reason; and she
continued to rail bitterly against the cruelty of settling an estate
away from a family of five daughters, in favour of a man whom
nobody cared anything about.
‘It certainly is a most iniquitous affair,’ said Mr. Bennet, ‘and
nothing can clear Mr. Collins from the guilt of inheriting
Longbourn. But if you will listen to his letter, you may perhaps be
a little softened by his manner of expressing himself.’
‘No, that I am sure I shall not; and I think it was very
impertinent of him to write to you at all, and very hypocritical. I
hate such false friends. Why could not he keep on quarrelling with
you, as his father did before him?’
‘Why, indeed, he does seem to have had some filial scruples on
that head, as you will hear.’
Hunsford, near Westerham, Kent,
15th October.
‘Dear Sir,
‘The disagreement subsisting between yourself and my late
honoured father, always gave me much uneasiness, and since I
have had the misfortune to lose him, I have frequently wished to
heal the breach; but for some time I was kept back by my own
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doubts, fearing lest it might seem disrespectful to his memory for
me to be on good terms with any one, with whom it had always
pleased him to be at variance.—‘There, Mrs. Bennet.’—My mind
however is now made up on the subject, for having received
ordination at Easter, I have been so fortunate as to be
distinguished by the patronage of the Right Honourable Lady
Catherine de Bourgh, widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, whose
bounty and beneficence has preferred me to the valuable rectory of
this parish, where it shall be my earnest endeavour to demean
myself with grateful respect towards her Ladyship, and be ever
ready to perform those rites and ceremonies which are instituted
by the Church of England. As a clergyman, moreover, I feel it my
duty to promote and establish the blessing of peace in all families
within the reach of my influence; and on these grounds I flatter
myself that my present overtures of good-will are highly
commendable, and that the circumstance of my being next in the
entail of Longbourn estate, will be kindly overlooked on your side,
and not lead you to reject the offered olive branch. I cannot be
otherwise than concerned at being the means of injuring your
amiable daughters, and beg leave to apologise for it, as well as to
assure you of my readiness to make them every possible amends,—
but of this hereafter. If you should have no objection to receive me
into your house, I propose myself the satisfaction of waiting on you
and your family, Monday, November 18th, by four o’clock, and
shall probably trespass on your hospitality till the Saturday
se’night following, which I can do without any inconvenience, as
Lady Catherine is far from objecting to my occasional absence on a
Sunday, provided that some other clergyman is engaged to do the
duty of the day. I remain, dear sir, with respectful compliments to
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your lady and daughters, your well-wisher and friend,
William Collins.’
‘At four o’clock, therefore, we may expect this peace-making
gentleman,’ said Mr. Bennet, as he folded up the letter. ‘He seems
to be a most conscientious and polite young man, upon my word;
and I doubt not will prove a valuable acquaintance, especially if
Lady Catherine should be so indulgent as to let him come to us
‘There is some sense in what he says about the girls however;
and if he is disposed to make them any amends, I shall not be the
person to discourage him.’
‘Though it is difficult,’ said Jane, ‘to guess in what way he can
mean to make us the atonement he thinks our due, the wish is
certainly to his credit.’
Elizabeth was chiefly struck with his extraordinary deference
for Lady Catherine, and his kind intention of christening,
marrying, and burying his parishioners whenever it were required.
‘He must be an oddity, I think,’ said she. ‘I cannot make him
out.—There is something very pompous in his stile.—And what can
he mean by apologizing for being next in the entail?—We cannot
suppose he would help it, if he could.—Can he be a sensible man,
‘No, my dear; I think not. I have great hopes of finding him quite
the reverse. There is a mixture of servility and self-importance in
his letter, which promises well. I am impatient to see him.’
‘In point of composition,’ said Mary, ‘his letter does not seem
defective. The idea of the olive branch perhaps is not wholly new,
yet I think it is well expressed.’
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To Catherine and Lydia, neither the letter nor its writer were in
any degree interesting. It was next to impossible that their cousin
should come in a scarlet coat, and it was now some weeks since
they had received pleasure from the society of a man in any other
colour. As for their mother, Mr. Collins’s letter had done away
much of her ill-will, and she was preparing to see him with a
degree of composure, which astonished her husband and
Mr. Collins was punctual to his time, and was received with
great politeness by the whole family. Mr. Bennet indeed said little;
but the ladies were ready enough to talk, and Mr. Collins seemed
neither in need of encouragement, nor inclined to be silent himself.
He was a tall, heavy looking young man of five and twenty. His air
was grave and stately, and his manners were very formal. He had
not been long seated before he complimented Mrs. Bennet on
having so fine a family of daughters, said he had heard much of
their beauty, but that, in this instance, fame had fallen short of the
truth; and added, that he did not doubt her seeing them all in due
time well disposed of in marriage. This gallantry was not much to
the taste of some of his hearers, but Mrs. Bennet, who quarrelled
with no compliments, answered most readily,
‘You are very kind, sir, I am sure; and I wish with all my heart it
may prove so; for else they will be destitute enough. Things are
settled so oddly.’
‘You allude perhaps to the entail of this estate.’
‘Ah! sir, I do indeed. It is a grievous affair to my poor girls, you
must confess. Not that I mean to find fault with you, for such things
I know are all chance in this world. There is no knowing how
estates will go when once they come to be entailed.’
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‘I am very sensible, madam, of the hardship to my fair
cousins,—and could say much on the subject, but that I am
cautious of appearing forward and precipitate. But I can assure the
young ladies that I come prepared to admire them. At present I
will not say more, but perhaps when we are better acquainted—’
He was interrupted by a summons to dinner; and the girls
smiled on each other. They were not the only objects of Mr.
Collins’s admiration. The hall, the dining-room, and all its
furniture were examined and praised; and his commendation of
every thing would have touched Mrs. Bennet’s heart, but for the
mortifying supposition of his viewing it all as his own future
property. The dinner too in its turn was highly admired; and he
begged to know to which of his fair cousins, the excellence of its
cookery was owing. But here he was set right by Mrs. Bennet, who
assured him with some asperity that they were very well able to
keep a good cook, and that her daughters had nothing to do in the
kitchen. He begged pardon for having displeased her. In a softened
tone she declared herself not at all offended; but he continued to
apologise for about a quarter of an hour.
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uring dinner, Mr. Bennet scarcely spoke at all; but when
the servants were withdrawn, he thought it time to have
some conversation with his guest, and therefore started
a subject in which he expected him to shine, by observing that he
seemed very fortunate in his patroness. Lady Catherine de
Bourgh’s attention to his wishes, and consideration for his
comfort, appeared very remarkable. Mr. Bennet could not have
chosen better. Mr. Collins was eloquent in her praise. The subject
elevated him to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a
most important aspect he protested that he had never in his life
witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank—such affability and
condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady
Catherine. She had been graciously pleased to approve of both the
discourses, which he had already had the honour of preaching
before her. She had also asked him twice to dine at Rosings, and
had sent for him only the Saturday before, to make up her pool of
quadrille in the evening. Lady Catherine was reckoned proud by
many people he knew, but he had never seen any thing but
affability in her. She had always spoken to him as she would to
any other gentleman; she made not the smallest objection to his
joining in the society of the neighbourhood, nor to his leaving his
parish occasionally for a week or two, to visit his relations. She
had even condescended to advise him to marry as soon as he
could, provided he chose with discretion; and had once paid him a
visit in his humble parsonage; where she had perfectly approved
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all the alterations he had been making, and had even vouchsafed
to suggest some herself, some shelves in the closets up stairs.’
‘That is all very proper and civil, I am sure,’ said Mrs. Bennet,
‘and I dare say she is a very agreeable woman. It is a pity that great
ladies in general are not more like her. Does she live near you, sir?’
‘The garden in which stands my humble abode, is separated
only by a lane from Rosings Park, her ladyship’s residence.’
‘I think you said she was a widow, sir? has she any family?’
‘She has one only daughter, the heiress of Rosings, and of very
extensive property.’
‘Ah!’ cried Mrs. Bennet, shaking her head, ‘then she is better off
than many girls. And what sort of young lady is she? is she
‘She is a most charming young lady indeed. Lady Catherine
herself says that in point of true beauty, Miss De Bourgh is far
superior to the handsomest of her sex; because there is that in her
features which marks the young woman of distinguished birth. She
is unfortunately of a sickly constitution, which has prevented her
making that progress in many accomplishments, which she could
not otherwise have failed of; as I am informed by the lady who
superintended her education, and who still resides with them. But
she is perfectly amiable, and often condescends to drive by my
humble abode in her little phaeton and ponies.’
‘Has she been presented? I do not remember her name among
the ladies at court.’
‘Her indifferent state of health unhappily prevents her being in
town; and by that means, as I told Lady Catherine myself one day,
has deprived the British court of its brightest ornament. Her
ladyship seemed pleased with the idea, and you may imagine that I
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am happy on every occasion to offer those little delicate
compliments which are always acceptable to ladies. I have more
than once observed to Lady Catherine, that her charming daughter
seemed born to be a duchess, and that the most elevated rank,
instead of giving her consequence, would be adorned by her.—
These are the kind of little things which please her ladyship, and it
is a sort of attention which I conceive myself peculiarly bound to
‘You judge very properly,’ said Mr. Bennet, ‘and it is happy for
you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I
ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of
the moment, or are the result of previous study?’
‘They arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though
I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such
little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary
occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as
Mr. Bennet’s expectations were fully answered. His cousin was
as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest
enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute
composure of countenance, and except in an occasional glance at
Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.
By tea-time however the dose had been enough, and Mr. Bennet
was glad to take his guest into the drawing-room again, and when
tea was over, glad to invite him to read aloud to the ladies. Mr.
Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but on
beholding it, (for every thing announced it to be from a circulating
library,) he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he
never read novels.—Kitty stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed.—
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Other books were produced, and after some deliberation he chose
Fordyce’s Sermons. Lydia gaped as he opened the volume, and
before he had, with very monotonous solemnity, read three pages,
she interrupted him with,
‘Do you know, mama, that my uncle Philips talks of turning
away Richard, and if he does, Colonel Forster will hire him. My
aunt told me so herself on Saturday. I shall walk to Meryton tomorrow
to hear more about it, and to ask when Mr. Denny comes
back from town.’
Lydia was bid by her two eldest sisters to hold her tongue; but
Mr. Collins, much offended, laid aside his book, and said,
‘I have often observed how little young ladies are interested by
books of a serious stamp, though written solely for their benefit. It
amazes me, I confess;—for certainly, there can be nothing so
advantageous to them as instruction. But I will no longer
importune my young cousin.’
Then turning to Mr. Bennet, he offered himself as his antagonist
at backgammon. Mr. Bennet accepted the challenge, observing
that he acted very wisely in leaving the girls to their own trifling
amusements. Mrs. Bennet and her daughters apologised most
civilly for Lydia’s interruption, and promised that it should not
occur again, if he would resume his book; but Mr. Collins, after
assuring them that he bore his young cousin no ill will, and should
never resent her behaviour as any affront, seated himself at
another table with Mr. Bennet, and prepared for backgammon.
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r. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of
nature had been but little assisted by education or
society; the greatest part of his life having been spent
under the guidance of an illiterate and miserly father; and though
he belonged to one of the universities, he had merely kept the
necessary terms, without forming at it any useful acquaintance.
The subjection in which his father had brought him up, had given
him originally great humility of manner, but it was now a good
deal counteracted by the self-conceit of a weak head, living in
retirement, and the consequential feelings of early and
unexpected prosperity. A fortunate chance had recommended him
to Lady Catherine de Bourgh when the living of Hunsford was
vacant; and the respect which he felt for her high rank, and his
veneration for her as his patroness, mingling with a very good
opinion of himself, of his authority as a clergyman, and his rights
as a rector, made him altogether a mixture of pride and
obsequiousness, self-importance and humility.
Having now a good house and very sufficient income, he
intended to marry; and in seeking a reconciliation with the
Longbourn family he had a wife in view, as he meant to chuse one
of the daughters, if he found them as handsome and amiable as
they were represented by common report. This was his plan of
amends—of atonement—for inheriting their father’s estate; and he
thought it an excellent one, full of eligibility and suitableness, and
excessively generous and disinterested on his own part.
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His plan did not vary on seeing them.—Miss Bennet’s lovely
face confirmed his views, and established all his strictest notions of
what was due to seniority; and for the first evening she was his
settled choice. The next morning, however, made an alteration; for
in a quarter of an hour’s tête-à-tête with Mrs. Bennet before
breakfast, a conversation beginning with his parsonage-house, and
leading naturally to the avowal of his hopes, that a mistress for it
might be found at Longbourn, produced from her, amid very
complaisant smiles and general encouragement, a caution against
the very Jane he had fixed on.—‘As to her younger daughters she
could not take upon her to say—she could not positively answer—
but she did not know of any prepossession;—her eldest daughter,
she must just mention—she felt it incumbent on her to hint, was
likely to be very soon engaged.’
Mr. Collins had only to change from Jane to Elizabeth—and it
was soon done—done while Mrs. Bennet was stirring the fire.
Elizabeth, equally next to Jane in birth and beauty, succeeded her
of course.
Mrs. Bennet treasured up the hint, and trusted that she might
soon have two daughters married; and the man whom she could
not bear to speak of the day before, was now high in her good
Lydia’s intention of walking to Meryton was not forgotten; every
sister except Mary agreed to go with her; and Mr. Collins was to
attend them, at the request of Mr. Bennet, who was most anxious
to get rid of him, and have his library to himself; for thither Mr.
Collins had followed him after breakfast, and there he would
continue, nominally engaged with one of the largest folios in the
collection, but really talking to Mr. Bennet, with little cessation, of
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his house and garden at Hunsford. Such doings discomposed Mr.
Bennet exceedingly. In his library he had been always sure of
leisure and tranquillity; and though prepared, as he told Elizabeth,
to meet with folly and conceit in every other room in the house, he
was used to be free from them there; his civility, therefore, was
most prompt in inviting Mr. Collins to join his daughters in their
walk; and Mr. Collins, being in fact much better fitted for a walker
than a reader, was extremely well pleased to close his large book,
and go.
In pompous nothings on his side, and civil assents on that of his
cousins, their time passed till they entered Meryton. The attention
of the younger ones was then no longer to be gained by him. Their
eyes were immediately wandering up in the street in quest of the
officers, and nothing less than a very smart bonnet indeed, or a
really new muslin in a shop window, could recall them.
But the attention of every lady was soon caught by a young man,
whom they had never seen before, of most gentlemanlike
appearance, walking with an officer on the other side of the way.
The officer was the very Mr. Denny, concerning whose return from
London Lydia came to inquire, and he bowed as they passed. All
were struck with the stranger’s air, all wondered who he could be,
and Kitty and Lydia, determined if possible to find out, led the way
across the street, under pretence of wanting something in an
opposite shop, and fortunately had just gained the pavement when
the two gentlemen turning back had reached the same spot. Mr.
Denny addressed them directly, and entreated permission to
introduce his friend, Mr. Wickham, who had returned with him the
day before from town, and he was happy to say had accepted a
commission in their corps. This was exactly as it should be; for the
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young man wanted only regimentals to make him completely
charming. His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the
best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very
pleasing address. The introduction was followed up on his side by
a happy readiness of conversation—a readiness at the same time
perfectly correct and unassuming; and the whole party were still
standing and talking together very agreeably, when the sound of
horses drew their notice, and Darcy and Bingley were seen riding
down the street. On distinguishing the ladies of the group, the two
gentlemen came directly towards them, and began the usual
civilities. Bingley was the principal spokesman, and Miss Bennet
the principal object. He was then, he said, on his way to Longbourn
on purpose to inquire after her. Mr. Darcy corroborated it with a
bow, and was beginning to determine not to fix his eyes on
Elizabeth, when they were suddenly arrested by the sight of the
stranger, and Elizabeth happening to see the countenance of both
as they looked at each other, was all astonishment at the effect of
the meeting. Both changed colour, one looked white, the other red.
Mr. Wickham, after a few moments, touched his hat—a salutation
which Mr. Darcy just deigned to return. What could be the
meaning of it?—It was impossible to imagine; it was impossible not
to long to know.
In another minute Mr. Bingley, but without seeming to have
noticed what passed, took leave and rode on with his friend.
Mr. Denny and Mr. Wickham walked with the young ladies to
the door of Mr. Philips’s house, and then made their bows, in spite
of Miss Lydia’s pressing entreaties that they would come in, and
even in spite of Mrs. Philips’ throwing up the parlour window, and
loudly seconding the invitation.
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Mrs. Philips was always glad to see her nieces, and the two
eldest, from their recent absence, were particularly welcome, and
she was eagerly expressing her surprise at their sudden return
home, which, as their own carriage had not fetched them, she
should have known nothing about, if she had not happened to see
Mr. Jones’s shop boy in the street, who had told her that they were
not to send any more draughts to Netherfield because the Miss
Bennets were come away, when her civility was claimed towards
Mr. Collins by Jane’s introduction of him. She received him with
her very best politeness, which he returned with as much more,
apologising for his intrusion, without any previous acquaintance
with her, which he could not help flattering himself however might
be justified by his relationship to the young ladies who introduced
him to her notice. Mrs. Philips was quite awed by such an excess of
good breeding; but her contemplation of one stranger was soon put
an end to by exclamations and inquiries about the other, of whom,
however, she could only tell her nieces what they already knew,
that Mr. Denny had brought him from London, and that he was to
have a lieutenant’s commission in the —shire. She had been
watching him the last hour, she said, as he walked up and down
the street, and had Mr. Wickham appeared Kitty and Lydia would
certainly have continued the occupation, but unluckily no one
passed the windows now except a few of the officers, who in
comparison with the stranger, were become ‘stupid, disagreeable
fellows.’ Some of them were to dine with the Philipses the next
day, and their aunt promised to make her husband call on Mr.
Wickham, and give him an invitation also, if the family from
Longbourn would come in the evening. This was agreed to, and
Mrs. Philips protested that they would have a nice comfortable
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noisy game of lottery tickets, and a little bit of hot supper
afterwards. The prospect of such delights was very cheering, and
they parted in mutual good spirits. Mr. Collins repeated his
apologies in quitting the room, and was assured with unwearying
civility that they were perfectly needless.
As they walked home, Elizabeth related to Jane what she had
seen pass between the two gentlemen; but though Jane would have
defended either or both, had they appeared to be wrong, she could
no more explain such behaviour than her sister.
Mr. Collins on his return highly gratified Mrs. Bennet by
admiring Mrs. Philips’s manners and politeness. He protested that
except Lady Catherine and her daughter, he had never seen a
more elegant woman; for she had not only received him with the
utmost civility, but had even pointedly included him in her
invitation for the next evening, although utterly unknown to her
before. Something he supposed might be attributed to his
connection with them, but yet he had never met with so much
attention in the whole course of his life.
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s no objection was made to the young people’s
engagement with their aunt, and all Mr. Collins’s scruples
of leaving Mr. and Mrs. Bennet for a single evening
during his visit were most steadily resisted, the coach conveyed
him and his five cousins at a suitable hour to Meryton; and the
girls had the pleasure of hearing, as they entered the drawingroom,
that Mr. Wickham had accepted their uncle’s invitation, and
was then in the house.
When this information was given, and they had all taken their
seats, Mr. Collins was at leisure to look around him and admire,
and he was so much struck with the size and furniture of the
apartment, that he declared he might almost have supposed
himself in the small summer breakfast parlour at Rosings; a
comparison that did not at first convey much gratification; but
when Mrs. Philips understood from him what Rosings was, and
who was its proprietor, when she had listened to the description of
only one of Lady Catherine’s drawing-rooms, and found that the
chimney-piece alone had cost eight hundred pounds, she felt all
the force of the compliment, and would hardly have resented a
comparison with the housekeeper’s room.
In describing to her all the grandeur of Lady Catherine and her
mansion, with occasional digressions in praise of his own humble
abode, and the improvements it was receiving, he was happily
employed until the gentlemen joined them; and he found in Mrs.
Philips a very attentive listener, whose opinion of his consequence
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increased with what she heard, and who was resolving to retail it
all among her neighbours as soon as she could. To the girls, who
could not listen to their cousin, and who had nothing to do but to
wish for an instrument, and examine their own indifferent
imitations of china on the mantlepiece, the interval of waiting
appeared very long. It was over at last however. The gentlemen did
approach; and when Mr. Wickham walked into the room, Elizabeth
felt that she had neither been seeing him before, nor thinking of
him since, with the smallest degree of unreasonable admiration.
The officers of the —shire were in general a very creditable,
gentlemanlike set, and the best of them were of the present party;
but Mr. Wickham was as far beyond them all in person,
countenance, air, and walk, as they were superior to the broadfaced
stuffy uncle Philips, breathing port wine, who followed them
into the room.
Mr. Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every
female eye was turned, and Elizabeth was the happy woman by
whom he finally seated himself; and the agreeable manner in
which he immediately fell into conversation, though it was only on
its being a wet night, and on the probability of a rainy season,
made her feel that the commonest, dullest, most threadbare topic
might be rendered interesting by the skill of the speaker.
With such rivals for the notice of the fair, as Mr. Wickham and
the officers, Mr. Collins seemed likely to sink into insignificance; to
the young ladies he certainly was nothing; but he had still at
intervals a kind listener in Mrs. Philips, and was, by her
watchfulness, most abundantly supplied with coffee and muffin.
When the card tables were placed, he had an opportunity of
obliging her in return, by sitting down to whist.
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‘I know little of the game, at present,’ said he, ‘but I shall be glad
to improve myself, for in my situation of life—’ Mrs. Philips was
very thankful for his compliance, but could not wait for his reason.
Mr. Wickham did not play at whist, and with ready delight was
he received at the other table between Elizabeth and Lydia. At first
there seemed danger of Lydia’s engrossing him entirely for she
was a most determined talker; but being likewise extremely fond of
lottery tickets, she soon grew too much interested in the game, too
eager in making bets and exclaiming after prizes, to have attention
for any one in particular. Allowing for the common demands of the
game, Mr. Wickham was therefore at leisure to talk to Elizabeth,
and she was very willing to hear him, though what she chiefly
wished to hear she could not hope to be told, the history of his
acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. She dared not even mention that
gentleman. Her curiosity however was unexpectedly relieved. Mr.
Wickham began the subject himself. He inquired how far
Netherfield was from Meryton; and, after receiving her answer,
asked in an hesitating manner how long Mr. Darcy had been
staying there.
‘About a month,’ said Elizabeth; and then, unwilling to let the
subject drop, added, ‘He is a man of very large property in
Derbyshire, I understand.’
‘Yes,’ replied Wickham;—‘his estate there is a noble one. A clear
ten thousand per annum. You could not have met with a person
more capable of giving you certain information on that head than
myself—for I have been connected with his family in a particular
manner from my infancy.’
Elizabeth could not but look surprised.
‘You may well be surprised, Miss Bennet, at such an assertion,
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after seeing, as you probably might, the very cold manner of our
meeting yesterday.—Are you much acquainted with Mr. Darcy?’
‘As much as I ever wish to be,’ cried Elizabeth warmly,—‘I have
spent four days in the same house with him, and I think him very
‘I have no right to give my opinion,’ said Wickham, ‘as to his
being agreeable or otherwise. I am not qualified to form one. I have
known him too long and to well to be a fair judge. It is impossible
for me to be impartial. But I believe your opinion of him would in
general astonish—and perhaps you would not express it quite so
strongly anywhere else.—Here you are in your own family.’
‘Upon my word I say no more here than I might say in any house
in the neighbourhood, except Netherfield. He is not at all liked in
Hertfordshire. Every body is disgusted with his pride. You will not
find him more favourably spoken of by any one.’
‘I cannot pretend to be sorry,’ said Wickham, after a short
interruption, ‘that he or that any man should not be estimated
beyond their deserts; but with him I believe it does not often
happen. The world is blinded by his fortune and consequence, or
frightened by his high and imposing manners, and sees him only as
he chuses to be seen.’
‘I should take him, even on my slight acquaintance, to be an illtempered
man.’ Wickham only shook his head.
‘I wonder,’ said he, at the next opportunity of speaking,
‘whether he is likely to be in this country much longer.’
‘I do not at all know; but I heard nothing of his going away when
I was at Netherfield. I hope your plans in favour of the —shire will
not be affected by his being in the neighbourhood.’
‘Oh! no—it is not for me to be driven away by Mr. Darcy. If he
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wishes to avoid seeing me, he must go. We are not on friendly
terms, and it always gives me pain to meet him, but I have no
reason for avoiding him but what I might proclaim to all the world;
a sense of very great ill usage, and most painful regrets at his being
what he is. His father, Miss Bennet, the late Mr. Darcy, was one of
the best men that ever breathed, and the truest friend I ever had;
and I can never be in company with this Mr. Darcy without being
grieved to the soul by a thousand tender recollections. His
behaviour to myself has been scandalous; but I verily believe I
could forgive him any thing and every thing, rather than his
disappointing the hopes and disgracing the memory of his father.’
Elizabeth found the interest of the subject increase, and listened
with all her heart; but the delicacy of it prevented farther inquiry.
Mr. Wickham began to speak on more general topics, Meryton,
the neighbourhood, the society, appearing highly pleased with all
that he had yet seen, and speaking of the latter especially, with
gentle but very intelligible gallantry.
‘It was the prospect of constant society, and good society,’ he
added, ‘which was my chief inducement to enter the —shire. I
knew it to be a most respectable, agreeable corps, and my friend
Denny tempted me farther by his account of their present quarters,
and the very great attentions and excellent acquaintance Meryton
had procured them. Society, I own, is necessary to me. I have been
a disappointed man, and my spirits will not bear solitude. I must
have employment and society. A military life is not what I was
intended for, but circumstances have now made it eligible. The
church ought to have been my profession—I was brought up for the
church, and I should at this time have been in possession of a most
valuable living, had it pleased the gentleman we were speaking of
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just now.’
‘Yes—the late Mr. Darcy bequeathed me the next presentation
of the best living in his gift. He was my godfather, and excessively
attached to me. I cannot do justice to his kindness. He meant to
provide for me amply, and thought he had done it; but when the
living fell, it was given elsewhere.’
‘Good heavens!’ cried Elizabeth; ‘but how could that be?—How
could his will be disregarded?—Why did not you seek legal
‘There was just such an informality in the terms of the bequest
as to give me no hope from law. A man of honour could not have
doubted the intention, but Mr. Darcy chose to doubt it—or to treat
it as a merely conditional recommendation, and to assert that I had
forfeited all claim to it by extravagance, imprudence, in short any
thing or nothing. Certain it is, that the living became vacant two
years ago, exactly as I was of an age to hold it, and that it was given
to another man; and no less certain is it, that I cannot accuse
myself of having really done any thing to deserve to lose it. I have a
warm, unguarded temper, and I may perhaps have sometimes
spoken my opinion of him, and to him, too freely. I can recall
nothing worse. But the fact is, that we are very different sort of
men, and that he hates me.’
‘This is quite shocking!—He deserves to be publicly disgraced.’
‘Some time or other he will be—but it shall not be by me. Till I
can forget his father, I can never defy or expose him.’
Elizabeth honoured him for such feelings, and thought him
handsomer than ever as he expressed them.
‘But what,’ said she, after a pause, ‘can have been his motive?—
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what can have induced him to behave so cruelly?’
‘A thorough, determined dislike of me—a dislike which I cannot
but attribute in some measure to jealousy. Had the late Mr. Darcy
liked me less, his son might have borne with me better; but his
father’s uncommon attachment to me, irritated him I believe very
early in life. He had not a temper to bear the sort of competition in
which we stood—the sort of preference which was often given me.’
‘I had not thought Mr. Darcy so bad as this—though I have
never liked him, I had not thought so very ill of him—I had
supposed him to be despising his fellow-creatures in general, but
did not suspect him of descending to such malicious revenge, such
injustice, such inhumanity as this!’
After a few minutes reflection, however, she continued,. ‘I do
remember his boasting one day, at Netherfield, of the implacability
of his resentments, of his having an unforgiving temper. His
disposition must be dreadful.’
‘I will not trust myself on the subject,’ replied Wickham, ‘I can
hardly be just to him.’
Elizabeth was again deep in thought, and after a time
exclaimed, ‘To treat in such a manner, the godson, the friend, the
favourite of his father!’—She could have added, ‘A young man too,
like you, whose very countenance may vouch for your being
amiable’—but she contented herself with ‘And one, too, who had
probably been his own companion from childhood, connected
together, as I think you said, in the closest manner!’
‘We were born in the same parish, within the same park, the
greatest part of our youth was passed together; inmates of the
same house, sharing the same amusements, objects of the same
parental care. My father began life in the profession which your
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uncle, Mr. Philips, appears to do so much credit to—but he gave up
every thing to be of use to the late Mr Darcy, and devoted all his
time to the care of the Pemberley property. He was most highly
esteemed by Mr. Darcy, a most intimate, confidential friend. Mr.
Darcy often acknowledged himself to be under the greatest
obligations to my father’s active superintendance, and when
immediately before my father’s death, Mr. Darcy gave him a
voluntary promise of providing for me, I am convinced that he felt
it to be as much a debt of gratitude to him, as of affection to myself.’
‘How strange!’ cried Elizabeth. ‘How abominable!—I wonder
that the very pride of this Mr. Darcy has not made him just to
you!—If from no better motive, that he should not have been too
proud to be dishonest,—for dishonesty I must call it.’
‘It is wonderful,’—replied Wickham,—‘for almost all his actions
may be traced to pride;—and pride has often been his best friend.
It has connected him nearer with virtue than any other feeling. But
we are none of us consistent; and in his behaviour to me, there
were stronger impulses even than pride.’
‘Can such abominable pride as his, have ever done him good?’
‘Yes. It has often led him to be liberal and generous,—to give his
money freely, to display hospitality, to assist his tenants, and
relieve the poor. Family pride, and filial pride, for he is very proud
of what his father was, have done this. Not to appear to disgrace
his family, to degenerate from the popular qualities, or lose the
influence of the Pemberley House, is a powerful motive. He has
also brotherly pride, which with some brotherly affection, makes
him a very kind and careful guardian of his sister; and you will
hear him generally cried up as the most attentive and best of
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‘What sort of a girl is Miss Darcy?’
He shook his head.—‘I wish I could call her amiable. It gives me
pain to speak ill of a Darcy. But she is too much like her brother,—
very, very proud.—As a child, she was affectionate and pleasing,
and extremely fond of me; and I have devoted hours and hours to
her amusement. But she is nothing to me now. She is a handsome
girl, about fifteen or sixteen, and I understand highly
accomplished. Since her father’s death, her home has been
London, where a lady lives with her, and superintends her
After many pauses and many trials of other subjects, Elizabeth
could not help reverting once more to the first, and saying,
‘I am astonished at his intimacy with Mr. Bingley! How can Mr.
Bingley, who seems good humour itself, and is, I really believe,
truly amiable, be in friendship with such a man? How can they suit
each other?—Do you know Mr. Bingley?’
‘Not at all.’
‘He is a sweet tempered, amiable, charming man. He cannot
know what Mr. Darcy is.’
‘Probably not;—but Mr. Darcy can please where he chuses. He
does not want abilities. He can be a conversible companion if he
thinks it worth his while. Among those who are at all his equals in
consequence, he is a very different man from what he is to the less
prosperous. His pride never deserts him; but with the rich, he is
liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational, honourable, and perhaps
agreeable,—allowing something for fortune and figure.’
The whist party soon afterwards breaking up, the players
gathered round the other table, and Mr. Collins took his station
between his cousin Elizabeth and Mrs. Philips.—The usual
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inquiries as to his success were made by the latter. It had not been
very great; he had lost every point; but when Mrs. Philips began to
express her concern thereupon, he assured her with much earnest
gravity that it was not of the least importance, that he considered
the money as a mere trifle, and begged she would not make herself
‘I know very well, madam,’ said he, ‘that when persons sit down
to a card table, they must take their chance of these things,—and
happily I am not in such circumstances as to make five shillings
any object. There are undoubtedly many who could not say the
same, but thanks to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, I am removed far
beyond the necessity of regarding little matters.’
Mr. Wickham’s attention was caught; and after observing Mr.
Collins for a few moments, he asked Elizabeth in a low voice
whether her relation were very intimately acquainted with the
family of de Bourgh.
‘Lady Catherine de Bourgh,’ she replied, ‘has very lately given
him a living. I hardly know how Mr. Collins was first introduced to
her notice, but he certainly has not known her long.’
‘You know of course that Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady
Anne Darcy were sisters; consequently that she is aunt to the
present Mr. Darcy.’
‘No, indeed, I did not.—I knew nothing at all of Lady
Catherine’s connections. I never heard of her existence till the day
before yesterday.’
‘Her daughter, Miss de Bourgh, will have a very large fortune,
and it is believed that she and her cousin will unite the two
This information made Elizabeth smile, as she thought of poor
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Miss Bingley. Vain indeed must be all her attentions, vain and
useless her affection for his sister and her praise of himself, if he
were already self-destined to another.
‘Mr. Collins,’ said she, ‘speaks highly both of Lady Catherine
and her daughter; but from some particulars that he has related of
her ladyship, I suspect his gratitude misleads him, and that in spite
of her being his patroness, she is an arrogant, conceited woman.’
‘I believe her to be both in a great degree,’ replied Wickham; ‘I
have not seen her for many years, but I very well remember that I
never liked her, and that her manners were dictatorial and
insolent. She has the reputation of being remarkably sensible and
clever: but I rather believe she derives part of her abilities from her
rank and fortune, part from her authoritative manner, and the rest
from the pride of her nephew, who chuses that every one
connected with him should have an understanding of the first
Elizabeth allowed that he had given a very rational account of it,
and they continued talking together with mutual satisfaction till
supper put an end to cards; and gave the rest of the ladies their
share of Mr. Wickham’s attentions. There could be no conversation
in the noise of Mrs. Philips’s supper party, but his manners
recommended him to every body. Whatever he said, was said well;
and whatever he did, done gracefully. Elizabeth went away with
her head full of him. She could think of nothing but of Mr.
Wickham, and of what he had told her, all the way home; but there
was not time for her even to mention his name as they went, for
neither Lydia nor Mr. Collins were once silent. Lydia talked
incessantly of lottery tickets, of the fish she had lost and the fish
she had won, and Mr. Collins, in describing the civility of Mr. and
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Mrs. Philips, protesting that he did not in the least regard his
losses at whist, enumerating all the dishes at supper, and
repeatedly fearing that he crouded his cousins, had more to say
than he could well manage before the carriage stopped at
Longbourn House.
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lizabeth related to Jane the next day, what had passed
between Mr. Wickham and herself. Jane listened with
astonishment and concern;—she knew not how to believe
that Mr. Darcy could be so unworthy of Mr. Bingley’s regard; and
yet, it was not in her nature to question the veracity of a young
man of such amiable appearance as Wickham.—The possibility of
his having really endured such unkindness, was enough to interest
all her tender feelings; and nothing therefore remained to be done,
but to think well of them both, to defend the conduct of each, and
throw into the account of accident or mistake, whatever could not
be otherwise explained.
‘They have both,’ said she, ‘been deceived, I dare say, in some
way or other, of which we can form no idea. Interested people have
perhaps misrepresented each to the other. It is, in short,
impossible for us to conjecture the causes or circumstances which
may have alienated them, without actual blame on either side.’
‘Very true, indeed;—and now, my dear Jane, what have you got
to say in behalf of the interested people who have probably been
concerned in the business?—Do clear them too, or we shall be
obliged to think ill of somebody.’
‘Laugh as much as you chuse, but you will not laugh me out of
my opinion. My dearest Lizzy, do but consider in what a
disgraceful light it places Mr. Darcy, to be treating his father’s
favourite in such a manner,—one, whom his father had promised
to provide for.—It is impossible. No man of common humanity, no
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man who had any value for his character, could be capable of it.
Can his most intimate friends be so excessively deceived in him?
oh! no.’
‘I can much more easily believe Mr. Bingley’s being imposed on,
than that Mr. Wickham should invent such a history of himself as
he gave me last night; names, facts, every thing mentioned without
ceremony.—If it be not so, let Mr. Darcy contradict it. Besides,
there was truth in his looks.’
‘It is difficult indeed—it is distressing.—One does not know
what to think.’
‘I beg your pardon;—one knows exactly what to think.’
But Jane could think with certainty on only one point,—that Mr.
Bingley, if he had been imposed on, would have much to suffer
when the affair became public.
The two young ladies were summoned from the shrubbery
where this conversation passed, by the arrival of some of the very
persons of whom they had been speaking; Mr. Bingley and his
sisters came to give their personal invitation for the long expected
ball at Netherfield, which was fixed for the following Tuesday. The
two ladies were delighted to see their dear friend again, called it an
age since they had met, and repeatedly asked what she had been
doing with herself since their separation. To the rest of the family
they paid little attention; avoiding Mrs. Bennet as much as
possible, saying not much to Elizabeth, and nothing at all to the
others. They were soon gone again, rising from their seats with an
activity which took their brother by surprise, and hurrying off as if
eager to escape from Mrs. Bennet’s civilities.
The prospect of the Netherfield ball was extremely agreeable to
every female of the family. Mrs. Bennet chose to consider it as
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given in compliment to her eldest daughter, and was particularly
flattered by receiving the invitation from Mr. Bingley himself;
instead of a ceremonious card. Jane pictured to herself a happy
evening in the society of her two friends, and the attention of their
brother; and Elizabeth thought with pleasure of dancing a great
deal with Mr. Wickham, and of seeing a confirmation of every thing
in Mr. Darcy’s looks and behaviour. The happiness anticipated by
Catherine and Lydia, depended less on any single event, or any
particular person, for though they each, like Elizabeth, meant to
dance half the evening with Mr. Wickham, he was by no means the
only partner who could satisfy them, and a ball was at any rate, a
ball. And even Mary could assure her family that she had no
disinclination for it.
‘While I can have my mornings to myself,’ said she, ‘it is
enough.—I think it no sacrifice to join occasionally in evening
engagements. Society has claims on us all; and I profess myself one
of those who consider intervals of recreation and amusement as
desirable for every body.’
Elizabeth’s spirits were so high on the occasion, that though she
did not often speak unnecessarily to Mr. Collins, she could not help
asking him whether he intended to accept Mr. Bingley’s invitation,
and if he did, whether he would think it proper to join in the
evening’s amusement; and she was rather surprised to find that he
entertained no scruple whatever on that head, and was very far
from dreading a rebuke either from the Archbishop, or Lady
Catherine de Bourgh, by venturing to dance.
‘I am by no means of opinion, I assure you,’ said he, ‘that a ball
of this kind, given by a young man of character, to respectable
people, can have any evil tendency; and I am so far from objecting
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to dancing myself that I shall hope to be honoured with the hands
of all my fair cousins in the course of the evening, and I take this
opportunity of soliciting yours, Miss Elizabeth, for the two first
dances especially,—a preference which I trust my cousin Jane will
attribute to the right cause, and not to any disrespect for her.’
Elizabeth felt herself completely taken in. She had fully
proposed being engaged by Wickham for those very dances:—and
to have Mr. Collins instead! her liveliness had been never worse
timed. There was no help for it however. Mr. Wickham’s happiness
and her own was per force delayed a little longer, and Mr. Collins’s
proposal accepted with as good a grace as she could. She was not
the better pleased with his gallantry, from the idea it suggested of
something more.—It now first struck her, that she was selected
from among her sisters as worthy of being the mistress of Hunsford
Parsonage, and of assisting to form a quadrille table at Rosings, in
the absence of more eligible visitors. The idea soon reached to
conviction, as she observed his increasing civilities toward herself,
and heard his frequent attempt at a compliment on her wit and
vivacity; and though more astonished than gratified herself, by this
effect of her charms, it was not long before her mother gave her to
understand that the probability of their marriage was exceedingly
agreeable to her. Elizabeth however did not chuse to take the hint,
being well aware that a serious dispute must be the consequence of
any reply. Mr. Collins might never make the offer, and till he did, it
was useless to quarrel about him.
If there had not been a Netherfield ball to prepare for and talk
of, the younger Miss Bennets would have been in a pitiable state at
this time, for from the day of the invitation, to the day of the ball,
there was such a succession of rain as prevented their walking to
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Meryton once. No aunt, no officers, no news could be sought
after;—the very shoe-roses for Netherfield were got by proxy. Even
Elizabeth might have found some trial of her patience in weather,
which totally suspended the improvement of her acquaintance
with Mr. Wickham; and nothing less than a dance on Tuesday,
could have made such a Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday,
endurable to Kitty and Lydia.
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ill Elizabeth entered the drawing-room at Netherfield and
looked in vain for Mr. Wickham among the cluster of red
coats there assembled, a doubt of his being present had
never occurred to her. The certainty of meeting him had not been
checked by any of those recollections that might not unreasonably
have alarmed her. She had dressed with more than usual care,
and prepared in the highest spirits for the conquest of all that
remained unsubdued of his heart, trusting that it was not more
than might be won in the course of the evening. But in an instant
arose the dreadful suspicion of his being purposely omitted for Mr.
Darcy’s pleasure in the Bingleys’ invitation to the officers; and
though this was not exactly the case, the absolute fact of his
absence was pronounced by his friend Mr. Denny, to whom Lydia
eagerly applied, and who told them that Wickham had been
obliged to go to town on business the day before, and was not yet
returned; adding, with a significant smile,
‘I do not imagine his business would have called him away just
now, if he had not wished to avoid a certain gentleman here.’
This part of his intelligence, though unheard by Lydia, was
caught by Elizabeth, and as it assured her that Darcy was not less
answerable for Wickham’s absence than if her first surmise had
been just, every feeling of displeasure against the former was so
sharpened by immediate disappointment, that she could hardly
reply with tolerable civility to the polite inquiries which he directly
afterwards approached to make.—Attention, forbearance, patience
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with Darcy, was injury to Wickham. She was resolved against any
sort of conversation with him, and turned away with a degree of ill
humour, which she could not wholly surmount even in speaking to
Mr. Bingley, whose blind partiality provoked her.
But Elizabeth was not formed for ill humour; and though every
prospect of her own was destroyed for the evening, it could not
dwell long on her spirits; and having told all her griefs to Charlotte
Lucas, whom she had not seen for a week, she was soon able to
make a voluntary transition to the oddities of her cousin, and to
point him out to her particular notice. The two first dances,
however, brought a return of distress; they were dances of
mortification. Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn, apologising
instead of attending, and often moving wrong without being aware
of it, gave her all the shame and misery which a disagreeable
partner for a couple of dances can give. The moment of her release
from him was ecstasy.
She danced next with an officer, and had the refreshment of
talking of Wickham, and of hearing that he was universally liked.
When those dances were over she returned to Charlotte Lucas, and
was in conversation with her, when she found herself suddenly
addressed by Mr. Darcy, who took her so much by surprise in his
application for her hand, that, without knowing what she did, she
accepted him. He walked away again immediately, and she was left
to fret over her own want of presence of mind; Charlotte tried to
console her.
‘I dare say you will find him very agreeable.’
‘Heaven forbid!—That would be the greatest misfortune of all!—
To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate!—Do not
wish me such an evil.’
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When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy
approached to claim her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning
her in a whisper not to be a simpleton and allow her fancy for
Wickham to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man of
ten times his consequence. Elizabeth made no answer, and took
her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived
in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her
neighbours’ looks their equal amazement in beholding it. They
stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to
imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and
at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it
would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to
talk, she made some slight observation on the dance. He replied,
and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes she addressed
him a second time with
‘It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy.—I talked about
the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size
of the room, or the number of couples.’
He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say
should be said.
‘Very well.—That reply will do for the present.—Perhaps by and
bye I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than
public ones.—But now we may be silent.’
‘Do you talk by rule then, while you are dancing?’
‘Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look
odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together, and yet for the
advantage of some, conversation ought to be so arranged as that
they may have the trouble of saying as little as possible.’
‘Are you consulting your own feelings in the present case, or do
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you imagine that you are gratifying mine?’
‘Both,’ replied Elizabeth archly; ‘for I have always seen a great
similarity in the turn of our minds.—We are each of an unsocial,
taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say
something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to
posterity with all the eclat of a proverb.’
‘This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I
am sure,’ said he. ‘How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to
say.—You think it a faithful portrait undoubtedly.’
‘I must not decide on my own performance.’
He made no answer, and they were again silent till they had
gone down the dance, when he asked her if she and her sisters did
not very often walk to Meryton. She answered in the affirmative,
and, unable to resist the temptation, added, ‘When you met us
there the other day, we had just been forming a new acquaintance.
The effect was immediate. A deeper shade of hauteur overspread
his features, but he said not a word, and Elizabeth, though
blaming herself for her own weakness, could not go on. At length
Darcy spoke, and in a constrained manner said,
‘Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may
ensure his making friends—whether he may be equally capable of
retaining them, is less certain.’
‘He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship,’ replied
Elizabeth with emphasis, ‘and in a manner which he is likely to
suffer from all his life.’
Darcy made no answer, and seemed desirous of changing the
subject. At that moment Sir William Lucas appeared close to them,
meaning to pass through the set to the other side of the room; but
on perceiving Mr. Darcy he stopt with a bow of superior courtesy
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to compliment him on his dancing and his partner.
‘I have been most highly gratified indeed, my dear Sir. Such
very superior dancing is not often seen. It is evident that you
belong to the first circles. Allow me to say, however, that your fair
partner does not disgrace you, and that I must hope to have this
pleasure often repeated, especially when a certain desirable event,
my dear Miss Eliza, (glancing at her sister and Bingley,) shall take
place. What congratulations will then flow in! I appeal to Mr.
Darcy:—but let me not interrupt you, Sir.—You will not thank me
for detaining you from the bewitching converse of that young lady,
whose bright eyes are also upbraiding me.’
The latter part of this address was scarcely heard by Darcy; but
Sir William’s allusion to his friend seemed to strike him forcibly,
and his eyes were directed with a very serious expression towards
Bingley and Jane, who were dancing together. Recovering himself,
however, shortly, he turned to his partner, and said,
‘Sir William’s interruption has made me forget what we were
talking of.’
‘I do not think we were speaking at all. Sir William could not
have interrupted any two people in the room who had less to say
for themselves.—We have tried two or three subjects already
without success, and what we are to talk of next I cannot imagine.’
‘What think you of books?’ said he, smiling.
‘Books—Oh! no.—I am sure we never read the same, or not with
the same feelings.’
‘I am sorry you think so; but if that be the case, there can at
least be no want of subject.—We may compare our different
‘No—I cannot talk of books in a ball-room; my head is always
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full of something else.’
‘The present always occupies you in such scenes—does it?’ said
he, with a look of doubt.
‘Yes, always,’ she replied, without knowing what she said, for
her thoughts had wandered far from the subject, as soon
afterwards appeared by her suddenly exclaiming, ‘I remember
hearing you once say, Mr. Darcy, that you hardly ever forgave, that
your resentment once created was unappeasable. You are very
cautious, I suppose, as to its being created.’
‘I am,’ said he, with a firm voice.
‘And never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice?’
‘I hope not.’
‘It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their
opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first.’
‘May I ask to what these questions tend?’
‘Merely to the illustration of your character,’ said she,
endeavouring to shake off her gravity. ‘I am trying to make it out.’
‘And what is your success?’
She shook her head. ‘I do not get on at all. I hear such different
accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly.’
‘I can readily believe,’ answered he gravely, ‘that report may
vary greatly with respect to me; and I could wish, Miss Bennet,
that you were not to sketch my character at the present moment,
as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no
credit on either.’
‘But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have
another opportunity.’
‘I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours,’ he coldly
replied. She said no more, and they went down the other dance
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and parted in silence; on each side dissatisfied, though not to an
equal degree, for in Darcy’s breast there was a tolerable powerful
feeling towards her, which soon procured her pardon, and directed
all his anger against another.
They had not long separated when Miss Bingley came towards
her, and with an expression of civil disdain thus accosted her,
‘So, Miss Eliza, I hear you are quite delighted with George
Wickham!—Your sister has been talking to me about him, and
asking me a thousand questions; and I find that the young man
forgot to tell you, among his other communications, that he was the
son of old Wickham, the late Mr. Darcy’s steward. Let me
recommend you, however, as a friend, not to give implicit
confidence to all his assertions; for as to Mr. Darcy’s using him ill,
it is perfectly false; for, on the contrary, he has been always
remarkably kind to him, though George Wickham has treated Mr.
Darcy, in a most infamous manner. I do not know the particulars,
but I know very well that Mr. Darcy is not in the least to blame,
that he cannot bear to hear George Wickham mentioned, and that
though my brother thought he could not well avoid including him
in his invitation to the officers, he was excessively glad to find that
he had taken himself out of the way. His coming into the country at
all, is a most insolent thing indeed, and I wonder how he could
presume to do it. I pity you, Miss Eliza, for this discovery of your
favourite’s guilt; but really considering his descent, one could not
expect much better.’
‘His guilt and his descent appear by your account to be the
same,’ said Elizabeth angrily; ‘for I have heard you accuse him of
nothing worse than of being the son of Mr. Darcy’s steward, and of
that, I can assure you, he informed me himself.’
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‘I beg your pardon,’ replied Miss Bingley, turning away with a
sneer. ‘Excuse my interference.—It was kindly meant.’
‘Insolent girl!’ said Elizabeth to herself.—‘You are much
mistaken if you expect to influence me by such a paltry attack as
this. I see nothing in it but your own wilful ignorance and the
malice of Mr. Darcy.’ She then sought her eldest sister, who had
undertaken to make inquiries on the same subject of Bingley. Jane
met her with a smile of such sweet complacency, a glow of such
happy expression, as sufficiently marked how well she was
satisfied with the occurrences of the evening.
Elizabeth instantly read her feelings, and at that moment
solicitude for Wickham, resentment against his enemies, and every
thing else gave way before the hope of Jane’s being in the fairest
way for happiness.
‘I want to know,’ said she, with a countenance no less smiling
than her sister’s, ‘what you have learnt about Mr. Wickham. But
perhaps you have been too pleasantly engaged to think of any third
person; in which case you may be sure of my pardon.’
‘No,’ replied Jane, ‘I have not forgotten him; but I have nothing
satisfactory to tell you. Mr. Bingley does not know the whole of his
history, and is quite ignorant of the circumstances which have
principally offended Mr. Darcy; but he will vouch for the good
conduct, the probity and honour of his friend, and is perfectly
convinced that Mr. Wickham has deserved much less attention
from Mr. Darcy than he has received; and I am sorry to say that by
his account as well as his sister’s, Mr. Wickham is by no means a
respectable young man. I am afraid he has been very imprudent,
and has deserved to lose Mr. Darcy’s regard.’
‘Mr. Bingley does not know Mr. Wickham himself?’
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‘No; he never saw him till the other morning at Meryton.’
‘This account then is what he has received from Mr. Darcy. I am
perfectly satisfied. But what does he say of the living?’
‘He does not exactly recollect the circumstances, though he has
heard them from Mr. Darcy more than once, but he believes that it
was left to him conditionally only.’
‘I have not a doubt of Mr. Bingley’s sincerity,’ said Elizabeth
warmly; ‘but you must excuse my not being convinced by
assurances only. Mr. Bingley’s defence of his friend was a very able
one I dare say, but since he is unacquainted with several parts of
the story, and has learnt the rest from that friend himself, I shall
venture still to think of both gentlemen as I did before.’
She then changed the discourse to one more gratifying to each,
and on which there could be no difference of sentiment. Elizabeth
listened with delight to the happy, though modest hopes which
Jane entertained of Bingley’s regard, and said all in her power to
heighten her confidence in it. On their being joined by Mr. Bingley
himself, Elizabeth withdrew to Miss Lucas; to whose inquiry after
the pleasantness of her last partner she had scarcely replied,
before Mr. Collins came up to them and told her with great
exultation that he had just been so fortunate as to make a most
important discovery.
‘I have found out,’ said he, ‘by a singular accident, that there is
now in the room a near relation of my patroness. I happened to
overhear the gentleman himself mentioning to the young lady who
does the honours of this house the names of his cousin Miss de
Bourgh, and of her mother Lady Catherine. How wonderfully
these sort of things occur! Who would have thought of my meeting
with—perhaps—a nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in this
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assembly!—I am most thankful that the discovery is made in time
for me to pay my respects to him, which I am now going to do, and
trust he will excuse my not having done it before. My total
ignorance of the connection must plead my apology.’
‘You are not going to introduce yourself to Mr. Darcy?’
‘Indeed I am. I shall intreat his pardon for not having done it
earlier. I believe him to be Lady Catherine’s nephew. It will be in
my power to assure him that her ladyship was quite well yesterday
Elizabeth tried hard to dissuade him from such a scheme;
assuring him that Mr. Darcy would consider his addressing him
without introduction as an impertinent freedom, rather than a
compliment to his aunt; that it was not in the least necessary there
should be any notice on either side, and that if it were, it must
belong to Mr. Darcy, the superior in consequence, to begin the
acquaintance.—Mr. Collins listened to her with the determined air
of following his own inclination, and when she ceased speaking,
replied thus,
‘My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world
of your excellent judgment in all matters within the scope of your
understanding, but permit me to say that there must be a wide
difference between the established forms of ceremony amongst the
laity, and those which regulate the clergy; for give me leave to
observe that I consider the clerical office as equal in point of
dignity with the highest rank in the kingdom—provided that a
proper humility of behaviour is at the same time maintained. You
must therefore allow me to follow the dictates of my conscience on
this occasion, which leads me to perform what I look on as a point
of duty. Pardon me for neglecting to profit by your advice, which
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on every other subject shall be my constant guide, though in the
case before us I consider myself more fitted by education and
habitual study to decide on what is right than a young lady like
yourself.’ And with a low bow he left her to attack Mr. Darcy,
whose reception of his advances she eagerly watched, and whose
astonishment at being so addressed was very evident. Her cousin
prefaced his speech with a solemn bow, and though she could not
hear a word of it, she felt as if hearing it all, and saw in the motion
of his lips the words ‘apology,’ ‘Hunsford,’ and ‘Lady Catherine de
Bourgh.’—It vexed her to see him expose himself to such a man.
Mr. Darcy was eyeing him with unrestrained wonder, and when at
last Mr. Collins allowed him time to speak, replied with an air of
distant civility. Mr. Collins, however, was not discouraged from
speaking again, and Mr. Darcy’s contempt seemed abundantly
increasing with the length of his second speech, and at the end of it
he only made him a slight bow, and moved another way. Mr.
Collins then returned to Elizabeth.
‘I have no reason, I assure you,’ said he, ‘to be dissatisfied with
my reception. Mr. Darcy seemed much pleased with the attention.
He answered me with the utmost civility, and even paid me the
compliment of saying, that he was so well convinced of Lady
Catherine’s discernment as to be certain she could never bestow a
favour unworthily. It was really a very handsome thought. Upon
the whole, I am much pleased with him.’
As Elizabeth had no longer any interest of her own to pursue,
she turned her attention almost entirely on her sister and Mr.
Bingley, and the train of agreeable reflections which her
observations gave birth to, made her perhaps almost as happy as
Jane. She saw her in idea settled in that very house in all the
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felicity which a marriage of true affection could bestow; and she
felt capable under such circumstances, of endeavouring even to
like Bingley’s two sisters. Her mother’s thoughts she plainly saw
were bent the same way, and she determined not to venture near
her, lest she might hear too much. When they sat down to supper,
therefore, she considered it a most unlucky perverseness which
placed them within one of each other; and deeply was she vexed to
find that her mother was talking to that one person (Lady Lucas)
freely, openly, and of nothing else but of her expectation that Jane
would be soon married to Mr Bingley. It was an animating subject,
and Mrs. Bennet seemed incapable of fatigue while enumerating
the advantages of the match. His being such a charming young
man, and so rich, and living but three miles from them, were the
first points of self-gratulation; and then it was such a comfort to
think how fond the two sisters were of Jane, and to be certain that
they must desire the connection as much as she could do. It was,
moreover, such a promising thing for her younger daughters, as
Jane’s marrying so greatly must throw them in the way of other
rich men; and lastly, it was so pleasant at her time of life to be able
to consign her single daughters to the care of their sister, that she
might not be obliged to go into company more than she liked. It
was necessary to make this circumstance a matter of pleasure,
because on such occasions it is the etiquette, but no one was less
likely than Mrs. Bennet to find comfort in staying at home at any
period of her life. She concluded with many good wishes that Lady
Lucas might soon be equally fortunate, though evidently and
triumphantly believing there was no chance of it.
In vain did Elizabeth endeavour to check the rapidity of her
mother’s words, or persuade her to describe her felicity in a less
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audible whisper; for to her inexpressible vexation, she could
perceive that the chief of it was overheard by Mr. Darcy, who sat
opposite to them. Her mother only scolded her for being
‘What is Mr. Darcy to me, pray, that I should be afraid of him? I
am sure we owe him no such particular civility as to be obliged to
say nothing he may not like to hear.’
‘For heaven’s sake, madam, speak lower. What advantage can it
be to you to offend Mr. Darcy?—You will never recommend
yourself to his friend by so doing.’
Nothing that she could say, however, had any influence. Her
mother would talk of her views in the same intelligible tone.
Elizabeth blushed and blushed again with shame and vexation.
She could not help frequently glancing her eye at Mr. Darcy,
though every glance convinced her of what she dreaded; for
though he was not always looking at her mother, she was
convinced that his attention was invariably fixed by her. The
expression of his face changed gradually from indignant contempt
to a composed and steady gravity.
At length however Mrs. Bennet had no more to say; and Lady
Lucas, who had been long yawning at the repetition of delights
which she saw no likelihood of sharing, was left to the comforts of
cold ham and chicken. Elizabeth now began to revive. But not long
was the interval of tranquillity; for when supper was over, singing
was talked of, and she had the mortification of seeing Mary, after
very little entreaty, preparing to oblige the company. By many
significant looks and silent entreaties, did she endeavour to
prevent such a proof of complaisance,—but in vain; Mary would
not understand them; such an opportunity of exhibiting was
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delightful to her, and she began her song. Elizabeth’s eyes were
fixed on her with most painful sensations; and she watched her
progress through the several stanzas with an impatience which
was very ill rewarded at their close; for Mary, on receiving amongst
the thanks of the table, the hint of a hope that she might be prevailed
on to favour them again, after the pause of half a minute
began another. Mary’s powers were by no means fitted for such a
display; her voice was weak, and her manner affected.—Elizabeth
was in agonies. She looked at Jane, to see how she bore it; but Jane
was very composedly talking to Bingley. She looked at his two
sisters, and saw them making signs of derision at each other, and
at Darcy, who continued however impenetrably grave. She looked
at her father to entreat his interference, lest Mary should be
singing all night. He took the hint, and when Mary had finished her
second song, said aloud,
‘That will do extremely well, child. You have delighted us long
enough. Let the other young ladies have time to exhibit.’
Mary, though pretending not to hear, was somewhat
disconcerted; and Elizabeth sorry for her, and sorry for her father’s
speech, was afraid her anxiety had done no good.—Others of the
party were now applied to.
‘If I,’ said Mr. Collins, ‘were so fortunate as to be able to sing, I
should have great pleasure, I am sure, in obliging the company
with an air; for I consider music as a very innocent diversion, and
perfectly compatible with the profession of a clergyman.—I do not
mean however to assert that we can be justified in devoting too
much of our time to music, for there are certainly other things to
be attended to. The rector of a parish has much to do.—In the first
place, he must make such an agreement for tythes as may be
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beneficial to himself and not offensive to his patron. He must write
his own sermons; and the time that remains will not be too much
for his parish duties, and the care and improvement of his
dwelling, which he cannot be excused from making as comfortable
as possible. And I do not think it of light importance that he should
have attentive and conciliatory manners towards every body,
especially towards those to whom he owes his preferment. I cannot
acquit him of that duty; nor could I think well of the man who
should omit an occasion of testifying his respect towards any body
connected with the family.’ And with a bow to Mr Darcy, he
concluded his speech, which had been spoken so loud as to be
heard by half the room.—Many stared.—Many smiled; but no one
looked more amused than Mr. Bennet himself, while his wife
seriously commended Mr. Collins for having spoken so sensibly,
and observed in a half-whisper to Lady Lucas, that he was a
remarkably clever, good kind of young man.
To Elizabeth it appeared, that had her family made an
agreement to expose themselves as much as they could during the
evening, it would have been impossible for them to play their parts
with more spirit, or finer success; and happy did she think it for
Bingley and her sister that some of the exhibition had escaped his
notice, and that his feelings were not of a sort to be much
distressed by the folly which he must have witnessed. That his two
sisters and Mr. Darcy, however, should have such an opportunity
of ridiculing her relations was bad enough, and she could not
determine whether the silent contempt of the gentleman, or the
insolent smiles of the ladies, were more intolerable.
The rest of the evening brought her little amusement. She was
teazed by Mr. Collins, who continued most perseveringly by her
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side, and though he could not prevail with her to dance with him
again, put it out of her power to dance with others. In vain did she
entreat him to stand up with somebody else, and offer to introduce
him to any young lady in the room. He assured her that as to
dancing, he was perfectly indifferent to it; that his chief object was
by delicate attentions to recommend himself to her, and that he
should therefore make a point of remaining close to her the whole
evening. There was no arguing upon such a project. She owed her
greatest relief to her friend Miss Lucas, who often joined them, and
good-naturedly engaged Mr. Collins’s conversation to herself.
She was at least free from the offence of Mr. Darcy’s farther
notice; though often standing within a very short distance of her,
quite disengaged, he never came near enough to speak. She felt it
to be the probable consequence of her allusions to Mr. Wickham,
and rejoiced in it.
The Longbourn party were the last of all the company to depart;
and by a manoeuvre of Mrs. Bennet had to wait for their carriages
a quarter of an hour after every body else was gone, which gave
them time to see how heartily they were wished away by some of
the family. Mrs. Hurst and her sister scarcely opened their mouths
except to complain of fatigue, and were evidently impatient to have
the house to themselves. They repulsed every attempt of Mrs.
Bennet at conversation, and by so doing, threw a languor over the
whole party, which was very little relieved by the long speeches of
Mr. Collins, who was complimenting Mr. Bingley and his sisters on
the elegance of their entertainment, and the hospitality and
politeness which had marked their behaviour to their guests.
Darcy said nothing at all. Mr. Bennet, in equal silence, was
enjoying the scene. Mr. Bingley and Jane were standing together, a
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little detached from the rest, and talked only to each other.
Elizabeth preserved as steady a silence as either Mrs. Hurst or
Miss Bingley; and even Lydia was too much fatigued to utter more
than the occasional exclamation of ‘Lord, how tired I am!’
accompanied by a violent yawn.
When at length they arose to take leave, Mrs. Bennet was most
pressingly civil in her hope of seeing the whole family soon at
Longbourn; and addressed herself particularly to Mr. Bingley, to
assure him how happy he would make them, by eating a family
dinner with them at any time, without the ceremony of a formal
invitation. Bingley was all grateful pleasure, and he readily
engaged for taking the earliest opportunity of waiting on her, after
his return from London, whither he was obliged to go the next day
for a short time.
Mrs. Bennet was perfectly satisfied; and quitted the house
under the delightful persuasion that, allowing for the necessary
preparations of settlements, new carriages and wedding clothes,
she should undoubtedly see her daughter settled at Netherfield, in
the course of three or four months. Of having another daughter
married to Mr. Collins, she thought with equal certainty, and with
considerable, though not equal, pleasure. Elizabeth was the least
dear to her of all her children; and though the man and the match
were quite good enough for her, the worth of each was eclipsed by
Mr. Bingley and Netherfield.
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he next day opened a new scene at Longbourn. Mr.
Collins made his declaration in form. Having resolved to
do it without loss of time, as his leave of absence extended
only to the following Saturday, and having no feelings of diffidence
to make it distressing to himself even at the moment, he set about
it in a very orderly manner, with all the observances which he
supposed a regular part of the business. On finding Mrs. Bennet,
Elizabeth, and one of the younger girls together, soon after
breakfast, he addressed the mother in these words,
‘May I hope, Madam, for your interest with your fair daughter
Elizabeth, when I solicit for the honour of a private audience with
her in the course of this morning?’
Before Elizabeth had time for any thing but a blush of surprise,
Mrs. Bennet instantly answered,
‘Oh dear!—Yes—certainly! I am sure Lizzy will be very happy—
I am sure she can have no objection.—Come, Kitty, I want you up
stairs.’ And gathering her work together, she was hastening away,
when Elizabeth called out,
‘Dear Ma’am, do not go.—I beg you will not go.—Mr Collins
must excuse me.—He can have nothing to say to me that any body
need not hear. I am going away myself.’
No, no, nonsense, Lizzy.—I desire you will stay where you are.’
And upon Elizabeth’s seeming really, with vexed and embarrassed
looks, about to escape, she added, ‘Lizzy, I insist upon your staying
and hearing Mr. Collins.’
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Elizabeth would not oppose such an injunction—and a
moment’s consideration making her also sensible that it would be
wisest to get it over as soon and as quietly as possible, she sat down
again, and tried to conceal by incessant employment the feelings
which were divided between distress and diversion. Mrs Bennet
and Kitty walked off, and as soon as they were gone Mr Collins
‘Believe me, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that your modesty, so far
from doing you any disservice, rather adds to your other
perfections. You would have been less amiable in my eyes had
there not been this little unwillingness; but allow me to assure you
that I have your respected mother’s permission for this address.
You can hardly doubt the purport of my discourse, however your
natural delicacy may lead you to dissemble; my attentions have
been too marked to be mistaken. Almost as soon as I entered the
house I singled you out as the companion of my future life. But
before I am run away with by my feelings on this subject, perhaps
it will be advisable for me to state my reasons for marrying and
moreover for coming into Hertfordshire with the design of
selecting a wife, as I certainly did.’
The idea of Mr. Collins, with all his solemn composure, being
run away with by his feelings, made Elizabeth so near laughing
that she could not use the short pause he allowed in any attempt to
stop him farther, and he continued:
‘My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing
for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the
example of matrimony in his parish. Secondly, that I am convinced
it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly—which
perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular
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advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have
the honour of calling patroness. Twice has she condescended to
give me her opinion (unasked too!) on this subject; and it was but
the very Saturday night before I left Hunsford—between our pools
at quadrille, while Mrs. Jenkinson was arranging Miss de Bourgh’s
foot-stool, that she said, “Mr. Collins, you must marry. A clergyman
like you must marry.—Chuse properly, chuse a gentlewoman for
my sake; and for your own, let her be an active, useful sort of
person, not brought up high, but able to make a small income go a
good way. This is my advice. Find such a woman as soon as you
can, bring her to Hunsford, and I will visit her.” Allow me, by the
way, to observe, my fair cousin, that I do not reckon the notice and
kindness of Lady Catherine de Bourgh as among the least of the
advantages in my power to offer. You will find her manners beyond
any thing I can describe; and your wit and vivacity I think must be
acceptable to her, especially when tempered with the silence and
respect which her rank will inevitably excite. Thus much for my
general intention in favour of matrimony; it remains to be told why
my views were directed to Longbourn instead of my own
neighbourhood, where I assure you there are many amiable young
women. But the fact is, that being, as I am, to inherit this estate
after the death of your honoured father, (who, however, may live
many years longer,) I could not satisfy myself without resolving to
chuse a wife from among his daughters, that the loss to them might
be as little as possible, when the melancholy event takes place—
which, however, as I have already said, may not be for several
years. This has been my motive, my fair cousin, and I flatter myself
it will not sink me in your esteem. And now nothing remains for
me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence
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of my affection. To fortune I am perfectly indifferent, and shall
make no demand of that nature on your father, since I am well
aware that it could not be complied with; and that one thousand
pounds in the 4 per cents. which will not be yours till after your
mother’s decease, is all that you may ever be entitled to. On that
head, therefore, I shall be uniformly silent; and you may assure
yourself that no ungenerous reproach shall ever pass my lips when
we are married.’
It was absolutely necessary to interrupt him now.
‘You are too hasty, Sir,’ she cried. ‘You forget that I have made
no answer. Let me do it without farther loss of time. Accept my
thanks for the compliment you are paying me. I am very sensible of
the honour of your proposals, but it is impossible for me to do
otherwise than decline them.’
‘I am not now to learn,’ replied Mr. Collins, with a formal wave
of the hand, ‘that it is usual with young ladies to reject the
addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he
first applies for their favour; and that sometimes the refusal is
repeated a second or even a third time. I am therefore by no means
discouraged by what you have just said, and shall hope to lead you
to the altar ere long.’
‘Upon my word, Sir,’ cried Elizabeth, ‘your hope is rather an
extraordinary one after my declaration. I do assure you that I am
not one of those young ladies (if such young ladies there are) who
are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being
asked a second time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal.—You
could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last
woman in the world who would make you so.—Nay, were your
friend Lady Catherine to know me, I am persuaded she would find
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me in every respect ill qualified for the situation.
‘Were it certain that Lady Catherine would think so,’ said Mr.
Collins very gravely—‘but I cannot imagine that her ladyship
would at all disapprove of you. And you may be certain that when I
have the honour of seeing her again I shall speak in the highest
terms of your modesty, economy, and other amiable qualifications.’
‘Indeed, Mr. Collins, all praise of me will be unnecessary. You
must give me leave to judge for myself, and pay me the compliment
of believing what I say. I wish you very happy and very rich, and by
refusing your hand, do all in my power to prevent your being
otherwise. In making me the offer, you must have satisfied the
delicacy of your feelings with regard to my family, and may take
possession of Longbourn estate whenever it falls, without any selfreproach.
This matter may be considered, therefore, as finally
settled.’ And rising as she thus spoke, she would have quitted the
room, had not Mr. Collins thus addressed her,
‘When I do myself the honour of speaking to you next on this
subject I shall hope to receive a more favourable answer than you
have now given me; though I am far from accusing you of cruelty at
present, because I know it to be the established custom of your sex
to reject a man on the first application, and perhaps you have even
now said as much to encourage my suit as would be consistent
with the true delicacy of the female character.’
‘Really, Mr. Collins,’ cried Elizabeth with some warmth, ‘you
puzzle me exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear to
you in the form of encouragement, I know not how to express my
refusal in such a way as may convince you of its being one.’
‘You must give me leave to flatter myself, my dear cousin, that
your refusal of my addresses is merely words of course. My reasons
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for believing it are briefly these:—It does not appear to me that my
hand is unworthy your acceptance, or that the establishment I can
offer would be any other than highly desirable. My situation in life,
my connections with the family of De Bourgh, and my relationship
to your own, are circumstances highly in my favour; and you
should take it into farther consideration that in spite of your
manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of
marriage may ever be made you. Your portion is unhappily so
small that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness
and amiable qualifications. As I must therefore conclude that you
are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall chuse to attribute it
to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the
usual practice of elegant females.’
‘I do assure you, Sir, that I have no pretension whatever to that
kind of elegance which consists in tormenting a respectable man. I
would rather be paid the compliment of being believed sincere. I
thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in
your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely impossible. My
feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not
consider me now as an elegant female intending to plague you, but
as a rational creature speaking the truth from her heart.’
‘You are uniformly charming!’ cried he, with an air of awkward
gallantry; ‘and I am persuaded that when sanctioned by the
express authority of both your excellent parents, my proposals will
not fail of being acceptable.’
To such perseverance in wilful self-deception Elizabeth would
make no reply, and immediately and in silence withdrew;
determined, that if he persisted in considering her repeated
refusals as flattering encouragement, to apply to her father, whose
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negative might be uttered in such a manner as must be decisive,
and whose behaviour at least could not be mistaken for the
affectation and coquetry of an elegant female.
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r. Collins was not left long to the silent contemplation
of his successful love; for Mrs. Bennet, having dawdled
about in the vestibule to watch for the end of the
conference, no sooner saw Elizabeth open the door and with quick
step pass her towards the staircase, than she entered the
breakfast-room, and congratulated both him and herself in warm
terms on the happy prospect of their nearer connection. Mr.
Collins received and returned these felicitations with equal
pleasure, and then proceeded to relate the particulars of their
interview, with the result of which he trusted he had every reason
to be satisfied, since the refusal which his cousin had stedfastly
given him would naturally flow from her bashful modesty and the
genuine delicacy of her character.
This information, however, startled Mrs. Bennet;—she would
have been glad to be equally satisfied that her daughter had meant
to encourage him by protesting against his proposals, but she
dared not to believe it, and could not help saying so.
‘But depend upon it, Mr. Collins,’ she added, ‘that Lizzy shall be
brought to reason. I will speak to her about it myself directly. She
is a very headstrong foolish girl, and does not know her own
interest; but I will make her know it.’
‘Pardon me for interrupting you, Madam,’ cried Mr. Collins;
‘but if she is really headstrong and foolish, I know not whether she
would altogether be a very desirable wife to a man in my situation,
who naturally looks for happiness in the marriage state. If
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therefore she actually persists in rejecting my suit, perhaps it were
better not to force her into accepting me, because if liable to such
defects of temper, she could not contribute much to my felicity.’
‘Sir, you quite misunderstand me,’ said Mrs. Bennet, alarmed.
‘Lizzy is only headstrong in such matters as these. In every thing
else she is as good natured a girl as ever lived. I will go directly to
Mr. Bennet, and we shall very soon settle it with her, I am sure.’
She would not give him time to reply, but hurrying instantly to
her husband, called out as she entered the library,
‘Oh! Mr. Bennet, you are wanted immediately; we are all in an
uproar. You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins, for she
vows she will not have him, and if you do not make haste he will
change his mind and not have her.’
Mr. Bennet raised his eyes from his book as she entered, and
fixed them on her face with a calm unconcern which was not in
the least altered by her communication.
‘I have not the pleasure of understanding you,’ said he, when
she had finished her speech. ‘Of what are you talking?’
‘Of Mr. Collins and Lizzy. Lizzy declares she will not have Mr.
Collins, and Mr. Collins begins to say that he will not have Lizzy.’
‘And what am I to do on the occasion?—It seems an hopeless
‘Speak to Lizzy about it yourself. Tell her that you insist upon
her marrying him.’
‘Let her be called down. She shall hear my opinion.’
Mrs. Bennet rang the bell, and Miss Elizabeth was summoned
to the library.
‘Come here, child,’ cried her father as she appeared. ‘I have
sent for you on an affair of importance. I understand that Mr.
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Collins has made you an offer of marriage. Is it true?’ Elizabeth
replied that it was. ‘Very well—and this offer of marriage you have
‘I have, Sir.’
‘Very well. We now come to the point. Your mother insists upon
your accepting it. Is not it so, Mrs. Bennet?’
‘Yes, or I will never see her again.’
‘An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day
you must be a stranger to one of your parents.—Your mother will
never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will
never see you again if you do.’
Elizabeth could not but smile at such a conclusion of such a
beginning; but Mrs. Bennet, who had persuaded herself that her
husband regarded the affair as she wished, was excessively
‘What do you mean, Mr. Bennet, by talking in this way? You
promised me to insist upon her marrying him.’
‘My dear,’ replied her husband, ‘I have two small favours to
request. First, that you will allow me the free use of my
understanding on the present occasion; and secondly, of my room.
I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as may be.’
Not yet, however, in spite of her disappointment in her
husband, did Mrs. Bennet give up the point. She talked to
Elizabeth again and again; coaxed and threatened her by turns.
She endeavoured to secure Jane in her interest, but Jane with all
possible mildness declined interfering;—and Elizabeth sometimes
with real earnestness and sometimes with playful gaiety replied to
her attacks. Though her manner varied however, her
determination never did.
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Mr. Collins, meanwhile, was meditating in solitude on what had
passed. He thought too well of himself to comprehend on what
motive his cousin could refuse him; and though his pride was hurt,
he suffered in no other way. His regard for her was quite
imaginary; and the possibility of her deserving her mother’s
reproach prevented his feeling any regret.
While the family were in this confusion, Charlotte Lucas came
to spend the day with them. She was met in the vestibule by
Lydia, who, flying to her, cried in a half whisper, ‘I am glad you are
come, for there is such fun here!—What do you think has
happened this morning?—Mr. Collins has made an offer to Lizzy,
and she will not have him.’
Charlotte had hardly time to answer, before they were joined by
Kitty, who came to tell the same news, and no sooner had they
entered the breakfast-room, where Mrs. Bennet was alone, than
she likewise began on the subject, calling on Miss Lucas for her
compassion, and entreating her to persuade her friend Lizzy to
comply with the wishes of all her family. ‘Pray do, my dear Miss
Lucas,’ she added in a melancholy tone, ‘for nobody is on my side,
nobody takes part with me, I am cruelly used, nobody feels for my
poor nerves.’
Charlotte’s reply was spared by the entrance of Jane and
‘Aye, there she comes,’ continued Mrs. Bennet, ‘looking as
unconcerned as may be, and caring no more for us than if we were
at York, provided she can have her own way.—But I tell you what,
Miss Lizzy, if you take it into your head to go on refusing every
offer of marriage in this way, you will never get a husband at all—
and I am sure I do not know who is to maintain you when your
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father is dead.—I shall not be able to keep you—and so I warn
you.—I have done with you from this very day.—I told you in the
library, you know, that I should never speak to you again, and you
will find me as good as my word. I have no pleasure in talking to
undutiful children.—Not that I have much pleasure indeed in
talking to any body. People who suffer as I do from nervous
complaints can have no great inclination for talking. Nobody can
tell what I suffer!—But it is always so. Those who do not complain
are never pitied.’
Her daughters listened in silence to this effusion, sensible that
any attempt to reason with or sooth her would only increase the
irritation. She talked on, therefore, without interruption from any
of them till they were joined by Mr. Collins, who entered with an
air more stately than usual, and on perceiving whom, she said to
the girls,
‘Now, I do insist upon it, that you, all of you, hold your tongues,
and let Mr. Collins and me have a little conversation together.’
Elizabeth passed quietly out of the room, Jane and Kitty
followed, but Lydia stood her ground, determined to hear all she
could; and Charlotte, detained first by the civility of Mr. Collins,
whose inquiries after herself and all her family were very minute,
and then by a little curiosity, satisfied herself with walking to the
window and pretending not to hear. In a doleful voice Mrs. Bennet
thus began the projected conversation.—‘Oh! Mr. Collins!’—
‘My dear Madam,’ replied he, ‘let us be for ever silent on this
point. Far be it from me,’ he presently continued in a voice that
marked his displeasure, ‘to resent the behaviour of your daughter.
Resignation to inevitable evils is the duty of us all; the peculiar
duty of a young man who has been so fortunate as I have been in
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early preferment; and I trust I am resigned. Perhaps not the less
so from feeling a doubt of my positive happiness had my fair
cousin honoured me with her hand; for I have often observed that
resignation is never so perfect as when the blessing denied begins
to lose somewhat of its value in our estimation. You will not, I
hope, consider me as shewing any disrespect to your family, my
dear Madam, by thus withdrawing my pretensions to your
daughter’s favour, without having paid yourself and Mr. Bennet
the compliment of requesting you to interpose your authority in
my behalf. My conduct may I fear be objectionable in having
accepted my dismission from your daughter’s lips instead of your
own. But we are all liable to error. I have certainly meant well
through the whole affair. My object has been to secure an amiable
companion for myself, with due consideration for the advantage of
all your family, and if my manner has been at all reprehensible, I
here beg leave to apologise.’
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he discussion of Mr. Collins’s offer was now nearly at an
end, and Elizabeth had only to suffer from the
uncomfortable feelings necessarily attending it, and
occasionally from some peevish allusion of her mother. As for the
gentleman himself, his feelings were chiefly expressed, not by
embarrassment or dejection, or by trying to avoid her, but by
stiffness of manner and resentful silence. He scarcely ever spoke
to her, and the assiduous attentions which he had been so sensible
of himself, were transferred for the rest of the day to Miss Lucas,
whose civility in listening to him, was a seasonable relief to them
all, and especially to her friend.
The morrow produced no abatement of Mrs. Bennet’s ill
humour or ill health. Mr. Collins was also in the same state of
angry pride. Elizabeth had hoped that his resentment might
shorten his visit, but his plan did not appear in the least affected
by it. He was always to have gone on Saturday, and to Saturday he
still meant to stay.
After breakfast, the girls walked to Meryton to inquire if Mr.
Wickham were returned, and to lament over his absence from the
Netherfield ball. He joined them on their entering the town and
attended them to their aunt’s, where his regret and vexation, and
the concern of every body was well talked over.—To Elizabeth,
however, he voluntarily acknowledged that the necessity of his
absence had been self imposed.
‘I found,’ said he, ‘as the time drew near, that I had better not
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meet Mr. Darcy;—that to be in the same room, the same party
with him for so many hours together, might be more than I could
bear, and that scenes might arise unpleasant to more than myself.’
She highly approved his forbearance, and they had leisure for a
full discussion of it, and for all the commendation which they
civilly bestowed on each other, as Wickham and another officer
walked back with them to Longbourn, and during the walk, he
particularly attended to her. His accompanying them was a double
advantage; she felt all the compliment it offered to herself, and it
was most acceptable as an occasion of introducing him to her
father and mother.
Soon after their return, a letter was delivered to Miss Bennet; it
came from Netherfield, and was opened immediately. The
envelope contained a sheet of elegant, little, hot pressed paper,
well covered with a lady’s fair, flowing hand; and Elizabeth saw
her sister’s countenance change as she read it, and saw her
dwelling intently on some particular passages. Jane recollected
herself soon, and putting the letter away, tried to join with her
usual cheerfulness in the general conversation; but Elizabeth felt
an anxiety on the subject which drew off her attention even from
Wickham; and no sooner had he and his companion taken leave,
than a glance from Jane invited her to follow her up stairs. When
they had gained their own room, Jane taking out the letter, said,
‘This is from Caroline Bingley; what it contains, has surprised
me a good deal. The whole party have left Netherfield by this time,
and are on their way to town; and without any intention of coming
back again. You shall hear what she says.’
She then read the first sentence aloud, which comprised the
information of their having just resolved to follow their brother to
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town directly, and of their meaning to dine that day in Grosvenor
street, where Mr. Hurst had a house. The next was in these words.
‘I do not pretend to regret any thing I shall leave in Hertfordshire,
except your society, my dearest friend; but we will hope at some
future period, to enjoy many returns of the delightful intercourse
we have known, and in the mean while may lessen the pain of
separation by a very frequent and most unreserved
correspondence. I depend on you for that.’ To these high flown
expressions, Elizabeth listened with all the insensibility of distrust;
and though the suddenness of their removal surprised her, she
saw nothing in it really to lament; it was not to be supposed that
their absence from Netherfield would prevent Mr. Bingley’s being
there; and as to the loss of their society, she was persuaded that
Jane must soon cease to regard it, in the enjoyment of his.
‘It is unlucky,’ said she, after a short pause, ‘that you should not
be able to see your friends before they leave the country. But may
we not hope that the period of future happiness to which Miss
Bingley looks forward, may arrive earlier than she is aware, and
that the delightful intercourse you have known as friends, will be
renewed with yet greater satisfaction as sisters?—Mr. Bingley will
not be detained in London by them.’
‘Caroline decidedly says that none of the party will return into
Hertfordshire this winter. I will read it to you—
‘When my brother left us yesterday, he imagined that the
business which took him to London, might be concluded in three
or four days, but as we are certain it cannot be so, and at the same
time convinced that when Charles gets to town, he will be in no
hurry to leave it again, we have determined on following him
thither, that he may not be obliged to spend his vacant hours in a
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comfortless hotel. Many of my acquaintance are already there for
the winter; I wish I could hear that you, my dearest friend, had any
intention of making one in the croud, but of that I despair. I
sincerely hope your Christmas in Hertfordshire may abound in the
gaieties which that season generally brings, and that your beaux
will be so numerous as to prevent your feeling the loss of the three,
of whom we shall deprive you.’
‘It is evident by this,’ added Jane, ‘that he comes back no more
this winter.’
‘It is only evident that Miss Bingley does not mean he should.’
‘Why will you think so? It must be his own doing.—He is his
own master. But you do not know all. I will read you the passage
which particularly hurts me. I will have no reserves from you.’ ‘Mr.
Darcy is impatient to see his sister, and to confess the truth, we are
scarcely less eager to meet her again. I really do not think
Georgiana Darcy has her equal for beauty, elegance, and
accomplishments; and the affection she inspires in Louisa and
myself, is heightened into something still more interesting, from
the hope we dare to entertain of her being hereafter our sister. I
do not know whether I ever before mentioned to you my feelings
on this subject, but I will not leave the country without confiding
them, and I trust you will not esteem them unreasonable. My
brother admires her greatly already, he will have frequent
opportunity now of seeing her on the most intimate footing, her
relations all wish the connection as much as his own, and a sister’s
partiality is not misleading me, I think, when I call Charles most
capable of engaging any woman’s heart. With all these
circumstances to favour an attachment and nothing to prevent it,
am I wrong, my dearest Jane, in indulging the hope of an event
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which will secure the happiness of so many?’
‘What think you of this sentence, my dear Lizzy?’—said Jane as
she finished it. ‘Is it not clear enough?—Does it not expressly
declare that Caroline neither expects nor wishes me to be her
sister; that she is perfectly convinced of her brother’s indifference,
and that if she suspects the nature of my feelings for him, she
means (most kindly!) to put me on my guard? Can there be any
other opinion on the subject?’
‘Yes, there can; for mine is totally different.—Will you hear it?’
‘Most willingly.’
‘You shall have it in few words. Miss Bingley sees that her
brother is in love with you, and wants him to marry Miss Darcy.
She follows him to town in the hope of keeping him there, and
tries to persuade you that he does not care about you.’
Jane shook her head.
‘Indeed, Jane, you ought to believe me.—No one who has ever
seen you together, can doubt his affection. Miss Bingley I am sure
cannot. She is not such a simpleton. Could she have seen half as
much love in Mr. Darcy for herself, she would have ordered her
wedding clothes. But the case is this. We are not rich enough, or
grand enough for them; and she is the more anxious to get Miss
Darcy for her brother, from the notion that when there has been
one intermarriage, she may have less trouble in achieving a
second; in which there is certainly some ingenuity, and I dare say
it would succeed, if Miss de Bourgh were out of the way. But, my
dearest Jane, you cannot seriously imagine that because Miss
Bingley tells you her brother greatly admires Miss Darcy, he is in
the smallest degree less sensible of your merit than when he took
leave of you on Tuesday, or that it will be in her power to persuade
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him that instead of being in love with you, he is very much in love
with her friend.’
‘If we thought alike of Miss Bingley,’ replied Jane, ‘your
representation of all this, might make me quite easy. But I know
the foundation is unjust. Caroline is incapable of wilfully deceiving
any one; and all that I can hope in this case is, that she is deceived
‘That is right.—You could not have started a more happy idea,
since you will not take comfort in mine. Believe her to be deceived
by all means. You have now done your duty by her, and must fret
no longer.’
‘But, my dear sister, can I be happy, even supposing the best, in
accepting a man whose sisters and friends are all wishing him to
marry elsewhere?’
‘You must decide for yourself,’ said Elizabeth, ‘and if upon
mature deliberation, you find that the misery of disobliging his two
sisters is more than equivalent to the happiness of being his wife, I
advise you by all means to refuse him.’
‘How can you talk so?’—said Jane faintly smiling,—‘You must
know that though I should be exceedingly grieved at their
disapprobation, I could not hesitate.’
‘I did not think you would;—and that being the case, I cannot
consider your situation with much compassion.’
‘But if he returns no more this winter, my choice will never be
required. A thousand things may arise in six months!’
The idea of his returning no more Elizabeth treated with the
utmost contempt. It appeared to her merely the suggestion of
Caroline’s interested wishes, and she could not for a moment
suppose that those wishes, however openly or artfully spoken,
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could influence a young man so totally independent of every one.
She represented to her sister as forcibly as possible what she
felt on the subject, and had soon the pleasure of seeing its happy
effect. Jane’s temper was not desponding, and she was gradually
led to hope, though the diffidence of affection sometimes
overcame the hope, that Bingley would return to Netherfield and
answer every wish of her heart.
They agreed that Mrs. Bennet should only hear of the
departure of the family, without being alarmed on the score of the
gentleman’s conduct; but even this partial communication gave
her a great deal of concern, and she bewailed it as exceedingly
unlucky that the ladies should happen to go away, just as they
were all getting so intimate together. After lamenting it however at
some length, she had the consolation of thinking that Mr. Bingley
would be soon down again and soon dining at Longbourn, and the
conclusion of all was the comfortable declaration that, though he
had been invited only to a family dinner she would take care to
have two full courses.
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he Bennets were engaged to dine with the Lucases, and
again during the chief of the day, was Miss Lucas so kind
as to listen to Mr. Collins. Elizabeth took an opportunity
of thanking her. ‘It keeps him in good humour,’ said she, ‘and I am
more obliged to you than I can express.’ Charlotte assured her
friend of her satisfaction in being useful, and that it amply repaid
her for the little sacrifice of her time. This was very amiable, but
Charlotte’s kindness extended farther than Elizabeth had any
conception of;—its object was nothing less, than to secure her
from any return of Mr. Collins’s addresses, by engaging them
towards herself. Such was Miss Lucas’s scheme; and appearances
were so favourable that when they parted at night, she would have
felt almost sure of success if he had not been to leave
Hertfordshire so very soon. But here, she did injustice to the fire
and independence of his character, for it led him to escape out of
Longbourn House the next morning with admirable slyness, and
hasten to Lucas Lodge to throw himself at her feet. He was
anxious to avoid the notice of his cousins, from a conviction that if
they saw him depart, they could not fail to conjecture his design,
and he was not willing to have the attempt known till its success
could be known likewise; for though feeling almost secure, and
with reason, for Charlotte had been tolerably encouraging, he was
comparatively diffident since the adventure of Wednesday. His
reception however was of the most flattering kind. Miss Lucas
perceived him from an upper window as he walked towards the
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house, and instantly set out to meet him accidentally in the lane.
But little had she dared to hope that so much love and eloquence
awaited her there.
In as short a time as Mr. Collins’s long speeches would allow,
every thing was settled between them to the satisfaction of both;
and as they entered the house, he earnestly entreated her to name
the day that was to make him the happiest of men; and though
such a solicitation must be waved for the present, the lady felt no
inclination to trifle with his happiness. The stupidity with which
he was favoured by nature, must guard his courtship from any
charm that could make a woman wish for its continuance; and
Miss Lucas, who accepted him solely from the pure and
disinterested desire of an establishment, cared not how soon that
establishment were gained.
Sir William and Lady Lucas were speedily applied to for their
consent; and it was bestowed with a most joyful alacrity. Mr.
Collins’s present circumstances made it a most eligible match for
their daughter, to whom they could give little fortune; and his
prospects of future wealth were exceedingly fair. Lady Lucas
began directly to calculate with more interest than the matter had
ever excited before, how many years longer Mr. Bennet was likely
to live; and Sir William gave it as his decided opinion, that
whenever Mr. Collins should be in possession of the Longbourn
estate, it would be highly expedient that both he and his wife
should make their appearance at St. James’s. The whole family in
short were properly overjoyed on the occasion. The younger girls
formed hopes of coming out a year or two sooner than they might
otherwise have done; and the boys were relieved from their
apprehension of Charlotte’s dying an old maid. Charlotte herself
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was tolerably composed. She had gained her point, and had time
to consider of it. Her reflections were in general satisfactory. Mr.
Collins to be sure was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society
was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary. But
still he would be her husband.—Without thinking highly either of
men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was
the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of
small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be
their pleasantest preservative from want. This preservative she
had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having
ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it. The least
agreeable circumstance in the business, was the surprise it must
occasion to Elizabeth Bennet, whose friendship she valued beyond
that of any other person. Elizabeth would wonder, and probably
would blame her; and though her resolution was not to be shaken,
her feelings must be hurt by such disapprobation. She resolved to
give her the information herself, and therefore charged Mr. Collins
when he returned to Longbourn to dinner, to drop no hint of what
had passed before any of the family. A promise of secrecy was of
course very dutifully given, but it could not be kept without
difficulty; for the curiosity excited by his long absence, burst forth
in such very direct questions on his return, as required some
ingenuity to evade, and he was at the same time exercising great
self-denial, for he was longing to publish his prosperous love.
As he was to begin his journey too early on the morrow to see
any of the family, the ceremony of leave-taking was performed
when the ladies moved for the night; and Mrs. Bennet with great
politeness and cordiality said how happy they should be to see him
at Longbourn again, whenever his other engagements might allow
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him to visit them.
‘My dear Madam,’ he replied, ‘this invitation is particularly
gratifying, because it is what I have been hoping to receive; and
you may be very certain that I shall avail myself of it as soon as
They were all astonished; and Mr. Bennet, who could by no
means wish for so speedy a return, immediately said,
‘But is there not danger of Lady Catherine’s disapprobation
here, my good sir?—You had better neglect your relations, than
run the risk of offending your patroness.
‘My dear sir,’ replied Mr. Collins, ‘I am particularly obliged to
you for this friendly caution, and you may depend upon my not
taking so material a step without her ladyship’s concurrence.’
‘You cannot be too much on your guard. Risk any thing rather
than her displeasure; and if you find it likely to be raised by your
coming to us again, which I should think exceedingly probable,
stay quietly at home, and be satisfied that we shall take no
‘Believe me, my dear sir, my gratitude is warmly excited by
such affectionate attention; and depend upon it, you will speedily
receive from me a letter of thanks for this, as well as for every
other mark of your regard during my stay in Hertfordshire. As for
my fair cousins, though my absence may not be long enough to
render it necessary, I shall now take the liberty of wishing them
health and happiness, not excepting my cousin Elizabeth.’
With proper civilities the ladies then withdrew; all of them
equally surprised to find that he meditated a quick return. Mrs.
Bennet wished to understand by it that he thought of paying his
addresses to one of her younger girls, and Mary might have been
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prevailed on to accept him. She rated his abilities much higher
than any of the others; there was a solidity in his reflections which
often struck her, and though by no means so clever as herself, she
thought that if encouraged to read and improve himself by such an
example as her’s, he might become a very agreeable companion.
But on the following morning, every hope of this kind was done
away. Miss Lucas called soon after breakfast, and in a private
conference with Elizabeth related the event of the day before.
The possibility of Mr. Collins’s fancying himself in love with her
friend had once occurred to Elizabeth within the last day or two;
but that Charlotte could encourage him, seemed almost as far
from possibility as that she could encourage him herself, and her
astonishment was consequently so great as to overcome at first the
bounds of decorum, and she could not help crying out,
‘Engaged to Mr. Collins! my dear Charlotte,—impossible!’
The steady countenance which Miss Lucas had commanded in
telling her story, gave way to a momentary confusion here on
receiving so direct a reproach; though, as it was no more than she
expected, she soon regained her composure, and calmly replied,
‘Why should you be surprised, my dear Eliza?—Do you think it
incredible that Mr. Collins should be able to procure any woman’s
good opinion, because he was not so happy as to succeed with
But Elizabeth had now recollected herself, and making a strong
effort for it, was able to assure her with tolerable firmness that the
prospect of their relationship was highly grateful to her, and that
she wished her all imaginable happiness.
‘I see what you are feeling,’ replied Charlotte,—‘you must be
surprised, very much surprised,—so lately as Mr. Collins was
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wishing to marry you. But when you have had time to think it all
over, I hope you will be satisfied with what I have done. I am not
romantic you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home;
and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connections, and situation
in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as
fair, as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.’
Elizabeth quietly answered ‘Undoubtedly;’—and after an
awkward pause, they returned to the rest of the family. Charlotte
did not stay much longer, and Elizabeth was then left to reflect on
what she had heard. It was a long time before she became at all
reconciled to the idea of so unsuitable a match. The strangeness of
Mr. Collins’s making two offers of marriage within three days, was
nothing in comparison of his being now accepted. She had always
felt that Charlotte’s opinion of matrimony was not exactly like her
own, but she could not have supposed it possible that when called
into action, she would have sacrificed every better feeling to
worldly advantage. Charlotte the wife of Mr. Collins, was a most
humiliating picture!—And to the pang of a friend disgracing
herself and sunk in her esteem, was added the distressing
conviction that it was impossible for that friend to be tolerably
happy in the lot she had chosen.
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lizabeth was sitting with her mother and sisters, reflecting
on what she had heard, and doubting whether she
were authorised to mention it, when Sir William Lucas
himself appeared, sent by his daughter to announce her
engagement to the family. With many compliments to them, and
much self-gratulation on the prospect of a connection between the
houses, he unfolded the matter,—to an audience not merely
wondering, but incredulous: for Mrs. Bennet, with more
perseverance than politeness, protested he must be entirely
mistaken, and Lydia, always unguarded and often uncivil,
boisterously exclaimed,
‘Good Lord! Sir William, how can you tell such a story?—Do
not you know that Mr. Collins wants to marry Lizzy?’
Nothing less than the complaisance of a courtier could have
borne without anger such treatment: but Sir William’s good
breeding carried him through it all; and though he begged leave to
be positive as to the truth of his information, he listened to all their
impertinence with the most forbearing courtesy.
Elizabeth, feeling it incumbent on her to relieve him from so
unpleasant a situation, now put herself forward to confirm his
account, by mentioning her prior knowledge of it from Charlotte
herself; and endeavoured to put a stop to the exclamations of her
mother and sisters, by the earnestness of her congratulations to
Sir William, in which she was readily joined by Jane, and by
making a variety of remarks on the happiness that might be
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expected from the match, the excellent character of Mr. Collins,
and the convenient distance of Hunsford from London.
Mrs. Bennet was in fact too much overpowered to say a great
deal while Sir William remained; but no sooner had he left them
than her feelings found a rapid vent. In the first place, she
persisted in disbelieving the whole of the matter; secondly, she
was very sure that Mr. Collins had been taken in; thirdly, she
trusted that they would never be happy together; and fourthly,
that the match might be broken off. Two inferences, however,
were plainly deduced from the whole; one, that Elizabeth was the
real cause of all the mischief; and the other, that she herself had
been barbarously used by them all; and on these two points she
principally dwelt during the rest of the day. Nothing could console
and nothing appease her.—Nor did that day wear out her resentment.
A week elapsed before she could see Elizabeth without
scolding her, a month passed away before she could speak to Sir
William or Lady Lucas without being rude, and many months
were gone before she could at all forgive their daughter.
Mr. Bennet’s emotions were much more tranquil on the
occasion, and such as he did experience he pronounced to be of a
most agreeable sort; for it gratified him, he said, to discover that
Charlotte Lucas, whom he had been used to think tolerably
sensible, was as foolish as his wife, and more foolish than his
Jane confessed herself a little surprised at the match; but she
said less of her astonishment than of her earnest desire for their
happiness; nor could Elizabeth persuade her to consider it as
improbable. Kitty and Lydia were far from envying Miss Lucas,
for Mr. Collins was only a clergyman; and it affected them in no
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other way than as a piece of news to spread at Meryton.
Lady Lucas could not be insensible of triumph on being able to
retort on Mrs. Bennet the comfort of having a daughter well
married; and she called at Longbourn rather oftener than usual to
say how happy she was, though Mrs. Bennet’s sour looks and illnatured
remarks might have been enough to drive happiness
Between Elizabeth and Charlotte there was a restraint which
kept them mutually silent on the subject; and Elizabeth felt
persuaded that no real confidence could ever subsist between
them again. Her disappointment in Charlotte made her turn with
fonder regard to her sister, of whose rectitude and delicacy she
was sure her opinion could never be shaken, and for whose
happiness she grew daily more anxious, as Bingley had now been
gone a week, and nothing was heard of his return.
Jane had sent Caroline an early answer to her letter, and was
counting the days till she might reasonably hope to hear again.
The promised letter of thanks from Mr. Collins arrived on
Tuesday, addressed to their father, and written with all the
solemnity of gratitude which a twelvemonth’s abode in the family
might have prompted. After discharging his conscience on that
head, he proceeded to inform them, with many rapturous
expressions, of his happiness in having obtained the affection of
their amiable neighbour, Miss Lucas, and then explained that it
was merely with the view of enjoying her society that he had been
so ready to close with their kind wish of seeing him again at
Longbourn, whither he hoped to be able to return on Monday
fortnight; for Lady Catherine, he added, so heartily approved his
marriage, that she wished it to take place as soon as possible,
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which he trusted would be an unanswerable argument with his
amiable Charlotte to name an early day for making him the
happiest of men.
Mr. Collins’s return into Hertfordshire was no longer a matter
of pleasure to Mrs. Bennet. On the contrary she was as much
disposed to complain of it as her husband.—It was very strange
that he should come to Longbourn instead of to Lucas Lodge; it
was also very inconvenient and exceedingly troublesome.—She
hated having visitors in the house while her health was so
indifferent, and lovers were of all people the most disagreeable.
Such were the gentle murmurs of Mrs. Bennet, and they gave way
only to the greater distress of Mr. Bingley’s continued absence.
Neither Jane nor Elizabeth were comfortable on this subject.
Day after day passed away without bringing any other tidings of
him than the report which shortly prevailed in Meryton of his
coming no more to Netherfield the whole winter; a report which
highly incensed Mrs. Bennet, and which she never failed to
contradict as a most scandalous falsehood.
Even Elizabeth began to fear—not that Bingley was indifferent—
but that his sisters would be successful in keeping him
away. Unwilling as she was to admit an idea so destructive of
Jane’s happiness, and so dishonourable to the stability of her
lover, she could not prevent its frequently recurring. The united
efforts of his two unfeeling sisters and of his overpowering friend,
assisted by the attractions of Miss Darcy and the amusements of
London, might be too much, she feared, for the strength of his
As for Jane, her anxiety under this suspence was, of course,
more painful than Elizabeth’s; but whatever she felt she was
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desirous of concealing, and between herself and Elizabeth,
therefore, the subject was never alluded to. But as no such
delicacy restrained her mother, an hour seldom passed in which
she did not talk of Bingley, express her impatience for his arrival,
or even require Jane to confess that if he did not come back, she
should think herself very ill used. It needed all Jane’s steady
mildness to bear these attacks with tolerable tranquillity.
Mr. Collins returned most punctually on the Monday fortnight,
but his reception at Longbourn was not quite so gracious as it had
been on his first introduction. He was too happy, however, to need
much attention; and luckily for the others, the business of lovemaking
relieved them from a great deal of his company. The chief
of every day was spent by him at Lucas Lodge, and he sometimes
returned to Longbourn only in time to make an apology for his
absence before the family went to bed.
Mrs. Bennet was really in a most pitiable state. The very
mention of any thing concerning the match threw her into an
agony of ill humour, and wherever she went she was sure of
hearing it talked of. The sight of Miss Lucas was odious to her. As
her successor in that house, she regarded her with jealous
abhorrence. Whenever Charlotte came to see them she concluded
her to be anticipating the hour of possession; and whenever she
spoke in a low voice to Mr. Collins, was convinced that they were
talking of the Longbourn estate, and resolving to turn herself and
her daughters out of the house, as soon as Mr. Bennet were dead.
She complained bitterly of all this to her husband.
‘Indeed, Mr. Bennet,’ said she, ‘it is very hard to think that
Charlotte Lucas should ever be mistress of this house, that I
should be forced to make way for her, and live to see her take my
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place in it!’
‘My dear, do not give way to such gloomy thoughts. Let us hope
for better things. Let us flatter ourselves that I may be the
This was not very consoling to Mrs. Bennet, and, therefore,
instead of making any answer, she went on as before,
‘I cannot bear to think that they should have all this estate. If it
was not for the entail I should not mind it.’
‘What should not you mind?’
‘I should not mind any thing at all.’
‘Let us be thankful that you are preserved from a state of such
‘I never can be thankful, Mr. Bennet, for any thing about the
entail. How any one could have the conscience to entail away an
estate from one’s own daughters I cannot understand; and all for
the sake of Mr. Collins too!—Why should he have it more than
anybody else?’
‘I leave it to yourself to determine,’ said Mr. Bennet.
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iss Bingley’s letter arrived, and put an end to doubt.
The very first sentence conveyed the assurance of their
being all settled in London for the winter, and
concluded with her brother’s regret at not having had time to pay
his respects to his friends in Hertfordshire before he left the
Hope was over, entirely over; and when Jane could attend to
the rest of the letter, she found little, except the professed affection
of the writer, that could give her any comfort. Miss Darcy’s praise
occupied the chief of it. Her many attractions were again dwelt on,
and Caroline boasted joyfully of their increasing intimacy, and
ventured to predict the accomplishment of the wishes which had
been unfolded in her former letter. She wrote also with great
pleasure of her brother’s being an inmate of Mr. Darcy’s house,
and mentioned with raptures, some plans of the latter with regard
to new furniture.
Elizabeth, to whom Jane very soon communicated the chief of
all this, heard it in silent indignation. Her heart was divided
between concern for her sister, and resentment against all the
others. To Caroline’s assertion of her brother’s being partial to
Miss Darcy she paid no credit. That he was really fond of Jane, she
doubted no more than she had ever done; and much as she had
always been disposed to like him, she could not think without
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anger, hardly without contempt, on that easiness of temper, that
want of proper resolution which now made him the slave of his
designing friends, and led him to sacrifice his own happiness to
the caprice of their inclinations. Had his own happiness, however,
been the only sacrifice, he might have been allowed to sport with it
in what ever manner he thought best; but her sister’s was involved
in it, as she thought he must be sensible himself. It was a subject,
in short, on which reflection would be long indulged, and must be
unavailing. She could think of nothing else, and yet whether
Bingley’s regard had really died away, or were suppressed by his
friends’ interference; whether he had been aware of Jane’s
attachment, or whether it had escaped his observation; whichever
were the case, though her opinion of him must be materially
affected by the difference, her sister’s situation remained the
same, her peace equally wounded.
A day or two passed before Jane had courage to speak of her
feelings to Elizabeth; but at last on Mrs. Bennet’s leaving them
together, after a longer irritation than usual about Netherfield and
its master, she could not help saying,
‘Oh! that my dear mother had more command over herself; she
can have no idea of the pain she gives me by her continual
reflections on him. But I will not repine. It cannot last long. He will
be forgot, and we shall all be as we were before.’
Elizabeth looked at her sister with incredulous solicitude, but
said nothing.
‘You doubt me,’ cried Jane, slightly colouring; ‘indeed you have
no reason. He may live in my memory as the most amiable man of
my acquaintance, but that is all. I have nothing either to hope or
fear, and nothing to reproach him with. Thank God! I have not
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that pain. A little time therefore.—I shall certainly try to get the
With a stronger voice she soon added, ‘I have this comfort
immediately, that it has not been more than an error of fancy on
my side, and that it has done no harm to any one but myself.’
‘My dear Jane!’ exclaimed Elizabeth, ‘you are too good. Your
sweetness and disinterestedness are really angelic; I do not know
what to say to you. I feel as if I had never done you justice, or loved
you as you deserve.’
Miss Bennet eagerly disclaimed all extraordinary merit, and
threw back the praise on her sister’s warm affection.
‘Nay,’ said Elizabeth, ‘this is not fair. You wish to think all the
world respectable, and are hurt if I speak ill of any body. I only
want to think you perfect, and you set yourself against it. Do not
be afraid of my running into any excess, of my encroaching on
your privilege of universal good will. You need not. There are few
people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well.
The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and
every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human
characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the
appearance of either merit or sense. I have met with two instances
lately; one I will not mention; the other is Charlotte’s marriage. It
is unaccountable! in every view it is unaccountable!’
‘My dear Lizzy, do not give way to such feelings as these. They
will ruin your happiness. You do not make allowance enough for
difference of situation and temper. Consider Mr. Collins’s
respectability, and Charlotte’s prudent, steady character.
Remember that she is one of a large family; that as to fortune, it is
a most eligible match; and be ready to believe, for every body’s
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sake, that she may feel something like regard and esteem for our
‘To oblige you, I would try to believe almost any thing, but no
one else could be benefited by such a belief as this; for were I
persuaded that Charlotte had any regard for him, I should only
think worse of her understanding, than I now do of her heart. My
dear Jane, Mr. Collins is a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded,
silly man; you know he is, as well as I do; and you must feel, as
well as I do, that the woman who marries him, cannot have a
proper way of thinking. You shall not defend her, though it is
Charlotte Lucas. You shall not, for the sake of one individual,
change the meaning of principle and integrity, nor endeavour to
persuade yourself or me, that selfishness is prudence, and
insensibility of danger, security for happiness.’
‘I must think your language too strong in speaking of both,’
replied Jane, ‘and I hope you will be convinced of it, by seeing
them happy together. But enough of this. You alluded to
something else. You mentioned two instances. I cannot
misunderstand you, but I intreat you, dear Lizzy, not to pain me
by thinking that person to blame, and saying your opinion of him is
sunk. We must not be so ready to fancy ourselves intentionally
injured. We must not expect a lively young man to be always so
guarded and circumspect. It is very often nothing but our own
vanity that deceives us. Women fancy admiration means more
than it does.’
‘And men take care that they should.’
‘If it is designedly done, they cannot be justified; but I have no
idea of there being so much design in the world as some persons
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‘I am far from attributing any part of Mr. Bingley’s conduct to
design,’ said Elizabeth; ‘but without scheming to do wrong, or to
make others unhappy, there may be error, and there may be
misery. Thoughtlessness, want of attention to other people’s
feelings, and want of resolution, will do the business.’
‘And do you impute it to either of those?’
‘Yes; to the last. But if I go on, I shall displease you by saying
what I think of persons you esteem. Stop me whilst you can.’
‘You persist, then, in supposing his sisters influence him.’
‘Yes, in conjunction with his friend.’
‘I cannot believe it. Why should they try to influence him? They
can only wish his happiness, and if he is attached to me, no other
woman can secure it.’
‘Your first position is false. They may wish many things besides
his happiness; they may wish his increase of wealth and
consequence; they may wish him to marry a girl who has all the
importance of money, great connections, and pride.’
‘Beyond a doubt, they do wish him to chuse Miss Darcy,’ replied
Jane; ‘but this may be from better feelings than you are supposing.
They have known her much longer than they have known me; no
wonder if they love her better. But, whatever may be their own
wishes, it is very unlikely they should have opposed their
brother’s. What sister would think herself at liberty to do it, unless
there were something very objectionable? If they believed him
attached to me, they would not try to part us; if he were so, they
could not succeed. By supposing such an affection, you make
every body acting unnaturally and wrong, and me most unhappy.
Do not distress me by the idea. I am not ashamed of having been
mistaken—or, at least, it is slight, it is nothing in comparison of
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what I should feel in thinking ill of him or his sisters. Let me take
it in the best light, in the light in which it may be understood.’
Elizabeth could not oppose such a wish; and from this time Mr.
Bingley’s name was scarcely ever mentioned between them.
Mrs. Bennet still continued to wonder and repine at his
returning no more, and though a day seldom passed in which
Elizabeth did not account for it clearly, there seemed little chance
of her ever considering it with less perplexity. Her daughter
endeavoured to convince her of what she did not believe herself,
that his attentions to Jane had been merely the effect of a common
and transient liking, which ceased when he saw her no more; but
though the probability of the statement was admitted at the time,
she had the same story to repeat every day. Mrs. Bennet’s best
comfort was, that Mr. Bingley must be down again in the summer.
Mr. Bennet treated the matter differently. ‘So, Lizzy,’ said he
one day, ‘your sister is crossed in love I find. I congratulate her.
Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love a little now
and then. It is something to think of, and gives her a sort of
distinction among her companions. When is your turn to come?
You will hardly bear to be long outdone by Jane. Now is your time.
Here are officers enough at Meryton to disappoint all the young
ladies in the country. Let Wickham be your man. He is a pleasant
fellow, and would jilt you creditably.’
‘Thank you, Sir, but a less agreeable man would satisfy me. We
must not all expect Jane’s good fortune.’
‘True,’ said Mr. Bennet, ‘but it is a comfort to think that,
whatever of that kind may befall you, you have an affectionate
mother who will always make the most of it.’
Mr. Wickham’s society was of material service in dispelling the
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gloom, which the late perverse occurrences had thrown on many
of the Longbourn family. They saw him often, and to his other
recommendations was now added that of general unreserve. The
whole of what Elizabeth had already heard, his claims on Mr.
Darcy, and all that he had suffered from him, was now openly
acknowledged and publicly canvassed; and every body was
pleased to think how much they had always disliked Mr. Darcy
before they had known any thing of the matter.
Miss Bennet was the only creature who could suppose there
might be any extenuating circumstance in the case, unknown to
the society of Hertfordshire; her mild and steady candour always
pleaded for allowances, and urged the possibility of mistakes—but
by everybody else Mr. Darcy was condemned as the worst of men.
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fter a week spent in professions of love and schemes of
felicity, Mr. Collins was called from his amiable Charlotte
by the arrival of Saturday. The pain of separation,
however, might be alleviated on his side, by preparations for the
reception of his bride, as he had reason to hope, that shortly after
his next return into Hertfordshire, the day would be fixed that was
to make him the happiest of men. He took leave of his relations at
Longbourn with as much solemnity as before; wished his fair
cousins health and happiness again, and promised their father
another letter of thanks.
On the following Monday, Mrs. Bennet had the pleasure of
receiving her brother and his wife, who came as usual to spend the
Christmas at Longbourn. Mr. Gardiner was a sensible,
gentlemanlike man, greatly superior to his sister as well by nature
as education. The Netherfield ladies would have had difficulty in
believing that a man who lived by trade, and within view of his
own warehouses, could have been so well bred and agreeable.
Mrs. Gardiner, who was several years younger than Mrs. Bennet
and Mrs. Philips, was an amiable, intelligent, elegant woman, and
a great favourite with all her Longbourn nieces. Between the two
eldest and herself especially, there subsisted a very particular
regard. They had frequently been staying with her in town.
The first part of Mrs. Gardiner’s business on her arrival, was to
distribute her presents and describe the newest fashions. When
this was done, she had a less active part to play. It became her
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turn to listen. Mrs. Bennet had many grievances to relate, and
much to complain of. They had all been very ill-used since she last
saw her sister. Two of her girls had been on the point of marriage,
and after all there was nothing in it.
‘I do not blame Jane,’ she continued, ‘for Jane would have got
Mr. Bingley, if she could. But, Lizzy! Oh, sister! it is very hard to
think that she might have been Mr. Collins’s wife by this time, had
not it been for her own perverseness. He made her an offer in this
very room, and she refused him. The consequence of it is, that
Lady Lucas will have a daughter married before I have, and that
Longbourn estate is just as much entailed as ever. The Lucases
are very artful people indeed, sister. They are all for what they can
get. I am sorry to say it of them, but so it is. It makes me very
nervous and poorly, to be thwarted so in my own family, and to
have neighbours who think of themselves before anybody else.
However, your coming just at this time is the greatest of comforts,
and I am very glad to hear what you tell us, of long sleeves.’
Mrs. Gardiner, to whom the chief of this news had been given
before, in the course of Jane and Elizabeth’s correspondence with
her, made her sister a slight answer, and in compassion to her
nieces turned the conversation.
When alone with Elizabeth afterwards, she spoke more on the
subject. ‘It seems likely to have been a desirable match for Jane,’
said she. ‘I am sorry it went off. But these things happen so often!
A young man, such as you describe Mr. Bingley, so easily falls in
love with a pretty girl for a few weeks, and when accident
separates them, so easily forgets her, that these sort of
inconstancies are very frequent.’
‘An excellent consolation in its way,’ said Elizabeth, ‘but it will
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not do for us. We do not suffer by accident. It does not often
happen that the interference of friends will persuade a young man
of independent fortune to think no more of a girl, whom he was
violently in love with only a few days before.’
‘But that expression of “violently in love” is so hackneyed, so
doubtful, so indefinite, that it gives me very little idea. It is as often
applied to feelings which arise from an half-hour’s acquaintance,
as to a real, strong attachment. Pray, how violent was Mr.
Bingley’s love?’
‘I never saw a more promising inclination. He was growing
quite inattentive to other people, and wholly engrossed by her.
Every time they met, it was more decided and remarkable. At his
own ball he offended two or three young ladies, by not asking
them to dance, and I spoke to him twice myself, without receiving
an answer. Could there be finer symptoms? Is not general
incivility the very essence of love?’
‘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
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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
‘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
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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
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Darcy formerly spoken of as a very proud, ill-natured boy.
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rs. 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
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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
‘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
Mr. Collins returned into Hertfordshire soon after it had been
quitted by the Gardiners and Jane; but as he took up his abode
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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 to Hunsford.’
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
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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 Grosvenorstreet.’
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
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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
Elizabeth shook her head over this letter. It convinced her, that
accident only could discover to Mr. Bingley her sister’s being in
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
‘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
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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.
‘Your’s, &c.’
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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
All this was acknowledged to Mrs. Gardiner; and after relating
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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.
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ith 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
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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.
It was a journey of only twenty-four miles, and they began it so
early as to be in Gracechurch-street by noon. As they drove to Mr.
Gardiner’s door, Jane was at a drawing-room window watching
their arrival; when they entered the passage she was there to
welcome them, and Elizabeth, looking earnestly in her face, was
pleased to see it healthful and lovely as ever. On the stairs were a
troop of little boys and girls, whose eagerness for their cousin’s
appearance would not allow them to wait in the drawing-room,
and whose shyness, as they had not seen her for a twelvemonth,
prevented their coming lower. All was joy and kindness. The day
passed most pleasantly away; the morning in bustle and shopping,
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and the evening at one of the theatres.
Elizabeth then contrived to sit by her aunt. Their first subject
was her sister; and she was more grieved than astonished to hear,
in reply to her minute enquiries, that though Jane always
struggled to support her spirits, there were periods of dejection. It
was reasonable, however, to hope, that they would not continue
long. Mrs. Gardiner gave her the particulars also of Miss Bingley’s
visit in Gracechurch-street, and repeated conversations occurring
at different times between Jane and herself, which proved that the
former had, from her heart, given up the acquaintance.
Mrs. Gardiner then rallied her niece on Wickham’s desertion,
and complimented her on bearing it so well.
‘But, my dear Elizabeth,’ she added, ‘what sort of girl is Miss
King? I should be sorry to think our friend mercenary.’
‘Pray, my dear aunt, what is the difference in matrimonial
affairs, between the mercenary and the prudent motive? Where
does discretion end, and avarice begin? Last Christmas you were
afraid of his marrying me, because it would be imprudent; and
now, because he is trying to get a girl with only ten thousand
pounds, you want to find out that he is mercenary.’
‘If you will only tell me what sort of girl Miss King is, I shall
know what to think.’
‘She is a very good kind of girl, I believe. I know no harm of
‘But he paid her not the smallest attention, till her grandfather’s
death made her mistress of this fortune.’
‘No—why should he? If it was not allowable for him to gain my
affections, because I had no money, what occasion could there be
for making love to a girl whom he did not care about, and who was
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equally poor?’
‘But there seems indelicacy in directing his attentions towards
her, so soon after this event.’
‘A man in distressed circumstances has not time for all those
elegant decorums which other people may observe. If she does not
object to it, why should he?’
‘Her not objecting, does not justify him. It only shews her being
deficient in something herself—sense or feeling.’
‘Well,’ cried Elizabeth, ‘have it as you choose. He shall be
mercenary, and she shall be foolish.’
‘No, Lizzy, that is what I do not choose. I should be sorry, you
know, to think ill of a young man who has lived so long in
‘Oh! if that is all, I have a very poor opinion of young men who
live in Derbyshire; and their intimate friends who live in
Hertfordshire are not much better. I am sick of them all. Thank
Heaven! I am going to-morrow where I shall find a man who has
not one agreeable quality, who has neither manner nor sense to
recommend him. Stupid men are the only ones worth knowing,
after all.’
‘Take care, Lizzy; that speech savours strongly of disappointment.’
Before they were separated by the conclusion of the play, she
had the unexpected happiness of an invitation to accompany her
uncle and aunt in a tour of pleasure which they proposed taking in
the summer.
‘We have not quite determined how far it shall carry us,’ said
Mrs. Gardiner, ‘but perhaps to the Lakes.’
No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and
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her acceptance of the invitation was most ready and grateful. ‘My
dear, dear aunt,’ she rapturously cried, ‘what delight! what felicity!
You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and
spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of
transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be
like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea
of any thing. We will know where we have gone—we will recollect
what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers, shall not be
jumbled together in our imaginations; nor, when we attempt to
describe any particular scene, will we begin quarrelling about its
relative situation. Let our first effusions be less insupportable than
those of the generality of travellers.’
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very object in the next day’s journey was new and
interesting to Elizabeth; and her spirits were in a state for
enjoyment; for she had seen her sister looking so well as
to banish all fear for her health, and the prospect of her northern
tour was a constant source of delight.
When they left the high road for the lane to Hunsford, every eye
was in search of the Parsonage, and every turning expected to
bring it in view. The paling of Rosings Park was their boundary on
one side. Elizabeth smiled at the recollection of all that she had
heard of its inhabitants.
At length the Parsonage was discernible. The garden sloping to
the road, the house standing in it, the green pales and the laurel
hedge, every thing declared they were arriving. Mr. Collins and
Charlotte appeared at the door, and the carriage stopped at the
small gate, which led by a short gravel walk to the house, amidst
the nods and smiles of the whole party. In a moment they were all
out of the chaise, rejoicing at the sight of each other. Mrs. Collins
welcomed her friend with the liveliest pleasure, and Elizabeth was
more and more satisfied with coming, when she found herself so
affectionately received. She saw instantly that her cousin’s
manners were not altered by his marriage; his formal civility was
just what it had been, and he detained her some minutes at the
gate to hear and satisfy his enquiries after all her family. They
were then, with no other delay than his pointing out the neatness
of the entrance, taken into the house; and as soon as they were in
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the parlour, he welcomed them a second time with ostentatious
formality to his humble abode, and punctually repeated all his
wife’s offers of refreshment.
Elizabeth was prepared to see him in his glory; and she could
not help fancying that in displaying the good proportion of the
room, its aspect and its furniture, he addressed himself
particularly to her, as if wishing to make her feel what she had lost
in refusing him. But though every thing seemed neat and
comfortable, she was not able to gratify him by any sigh of
repentance; and rather looked with wonder at her friend that she
could have so cheerful an air, with such a companion. When Mr.
Collins said any thing of which his wife might reasonably be
ashamed, which certainly was not unseldom, she involuntarily
turned her eye on Charlotte. Once or twice she could discern a
faint blush; but in general Charlotte wisely did not hear. After
sitting long enough to admire every article of furniture in the
room, from the sideboard to the fender, to give an account of their
journey and of all that had happened in London, Mr. Collins
invited them to take a stroll in the garden, which was large and
well laid out, and to the cultivation of which he attended himself.
To work in his garden was one of his most respectable pleasures;
and Elizabeth admired the command of countenance with which
Charlotte talked of the healthfulness of the exercise, and owned
she encouraged it as much as possible. Here, leading the way
through every walk and cross walk, and scarcely allowing them an
interval to utter the praises he asked for, every view was pointed
out with a minuteness which left beauty entirely behind. He could
number the fields in every direction, and could tell how many
trees there were in the most distant clump. But of all the views
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which his garden, or which the country, or the kingdom could
boast, none were to be compared with the prospect of Rosings,
afforded by an opening in the trees that bordered the park nearly
opposite the front of his house. It was a handsome modern
building, well situated on rising ground.
From his garden, Mr. Collins would have led them round his
two meadows, but the ladies not having shoes to encounter the
remains of a white frost, turned back; and while Sir William
accompanied him, Charlotte took her sister and friend over the
house, extremely well pleased, probably, to have the opportunity
of shewing it without her husband’s help. It was rather small, but
well built and convenient; and every thing was fitted up and
arranged with a neatness and consistency of which Elizabeth gave
Charlotte all the credit. When Mr. Collins could be forgotten, there
was really a great air of comfort throughout, and by Charlotte’s
evident enjoyment of it, Elizabeth supposed he must be often
She had already learnt that Lady Catherine was still in the
country. It was spoken of again while they were at dinner, when
Mr. Collins joining in, observed,
‘Yes, Miss Elizabeth, you will have the honour of seeing Lady
Catherine de Bourgh on the ensuing Sunday at church, and I need
not say you will be delighted with her. She is all affability and
condescension, and I doubt not but you will be honoured with
some portion of her notice when service is over. I have scarcely
any hesitation in saying that she will include you and my sister
Maria in every invitation with which she honours us during your
stay here. Her behaviour to my dear Charlotte is charming. We
dine at Rosings twice every week, and are never allowed to walk
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home. Her ladyship’s carriage is regularly ordered for us. I should
say, one of her ladyship’s carriages, for she has several.’
‘Lady Catherine is a very respectable, sensible woman indeed,’
added Charlotte, ‘and a most attentive neighbour.’
‘Very true, my dear, that is exactly what I say. She is the sort of
woman whom one cannot regard with too much deference.’
The evening was spent chiefly in talking over Hertfordshire
news, and telling again what had been already written; and when
it closed, Elizabeth in the solitude of her chamber had to meditate
upon Charlotte’s degree of contentment, to understand her
address in guiding, and composure in bearing with her husband,
and to acknowledge that it was all done very well. She had also to
anticipate how her visit would pass, the quiet tenor of their usual
employments, the vexatious interruptions of Mr. Collins, and the
gaieties of their intercourse with Rosings. A lively imagination
soon settled it all.
About the middle of the next day, as she was in her room
getting ready for a walk, a sudden noise below seemed to speak
the whole house in confusion; and after listening a moment, she
heard somebody running up stairs in a violent hurry, and calling
loudly after her. She opened the door, and met Maria in the
landing place, who, breathless with agitation, cried out,
‘Oh, my dear Eliza! pray make haste and come into the diningroom,
for there is such a sight to be seen! I will not tell you what it
is. Make haste, and come down this moment.’
Elizabeth asked questions in vain; Maria would tell her nothing
more, and down they ran into the dining-room, which fronted the
lane, in quest of this wonder; it was two ladies stopping in a low
phaeton at the garden gate.
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‘And is this all?’ cried Elizabeth. ‘I expected at least that the
pigs were got into the garden, and here is nothing but Lady
Catherine and her daughter!’
‘La! my dear,’ said Maria quite shocked at the mistake, ‘it is not
Lady Catherine. The old lady is Mrs. Jenkinson, who lives with
them. The other is Miss De Bourgh. Only look at her. She is quite
a little creature. Who would have thought she could be so thin and
‘She is abominably rude to keep Charlotte out of doors in all
this wind. Why does she not come in?’
‘Oh! Charlotte says, she hardly ever does. It is the greatest of
favours when Miss De Bourgh comes in.
‘I like her appearance,’ said Elizabeth, struck with other ideas.
‘She looks sickly and cross.—Yes, she will do for him very well.
She will make him a very proper wife.’
Mr. Collins and Charlotte were both standing at the gate in
conversation with the ladies; and Sir William, to Elizabeth’s high
diversion, was stationed in the doorway, in earnest contemplation
of the greatness before him, and constantly bowing whenever Miss
De Bourgh looked that way.
At length there was nothing more to be said; the ladies drove
on, and the others returned into the house. Mr. Collins no sooner
saw the two girls than he began to congratulate them on their
good fortune, which Charlotte explained by letting them know that
the whole party was asked to dine at Rosings the next day.
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r. Collins’s triumph in consequence of this invitation
was complete. The power of displaying the grandeur of
his patroness to his wondering visitors, and of letting
them see her civility towards himself and his wife, was exactly
what he had wished for; and that an opportunity of doing it should
be given so soon, was such an instance of Lady Catherine’s
condescension as he knew not how to admire enough.
‘I confess,’ said he, ‘that I should not have been at all surprised
by her Ladyship’s asking us on Sunday to drink tea and spend the
evening at Rosings. I rather expected, from my knowledge of her
affability, that it would happen. But who could have foreseen such
an attention as this? Who could have imagined that we should
receive an invitation to dine there (an invitation moreover
including the whole party) so immediately after your arrival!’
‘I am the less surprised at what has happened,’ replied Sir
William, ‘from that knowledge of what the manners of the great
really are, which my situation in life has allowed me to acquire.
About the Court, such instances of elegant breeding are not
Scarcely any thing was talked of the whole day or next
morning, but their visit to Rosings. Mr. Collins was carefully
instructing them in what they were to expect, that the sight of
such rooms, so many servants, and so splendid a dinner might not
wholly overpower them.
When the ladies were separating for the toilette, he said to
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‘Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about your
apparel. Lady Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of
dress in us, which becomes herself and daughter. I would advise
you merely to put on whatever of your clothes is superior to the
rest, there is no occasion for any thing more. Lady Catherine will
not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to
have the distinction of rank preserved.’
While they were dressing, he came two or three times to their
different doors, to recommend their being quick, as Lady
Catherine very much objected to be kept waiting for her dinner.—
Such formidable accounts of her Ladyship, and her manner of
living, quite frightened Maria Lucas, who had been little used to
company, and she looked forward to her introduction at Rosings,
with as much apprehension, as her father had done to his
presentation at St. James’s.
As the weather was fine, they had a pleasant walk of about half
a mile across the park.—Every park has its beauty and its
prospects; and Elizabeth saw much to be pleased with, though she
could not be in such raptures as Mr. Collins expected the scene to
inspire, and was but slightly affected by his enumeration of the
windows in front of the house, and his relation of what the glazing
altogether had originally cost Sir Lewis De Bourgh.
When they ascended the steps to the hall, Maria’s alarm was
every moment increasing, and even Sir William did not look
perfectly calm.—Elizabeth’s courage did not fail her. She had
heard nothing of Lady Catherine that spoke her aweful from any
extraordinary talents or miraculous virtue, and the mere
stateliness of money and rank, she thought she could witness
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without trepidation.
From the entrance hall, of which Mr. Collins pointed out, with a
rapturous air, the fine proportion and finished ornaments, they
followed the servants through an anti-chamber, to the room where
Lady Catherine, her daughter, and Mrs. Jenkinson were sitting.—
Her Ladyship, with great condescension, arose to receive them;
and as Mrs. Collins had settled it with her husband that the office
of introduction should be her’s, it was performed in a proper
manner, without any of those apologies and thanks which he
would have thought necessary.
In spite of having been at St. James’s, Sir William was so
completely awed, by the grandeur surrounding him, that he had
but just courage enough to make a very low bow, and take his seat
without saying a word; and his daughter, frightened almost out of
her senses, sat on the edge of her chair, not knowing which way to
look. Elizabeth found herself quite equal to the scene, and could
observe the three ladies before her composedly.—Lady Catherine
was a tall, large woman, with strongly-marked features, which
might once have been handsome. Her air was not conciliating, nor
was her manner of receiving them, such as to make her visitors
forget their inferior rank. She was not rendered formidable by
silence; but whatever she said, was spoken in so authoritative a
tone, as marked her self-importance, and brought Mr. Wickham
immediately to Elizabeth’s mind; and from the observation of the
day altogether, she believed Lady Catherine to be exactly what he
had represented.
When, after examining the mother, in whose countenance and
deportment she soon found some resemblance of Mr. Darcy, she
turned her eyes on the daughter, she could almost have joined in
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Maria’s astonishment, at her being so thin, and so small. There
was neither in figure nor face, any likeness between the ladies.
Miss De Bourgh was pale and sickly; her features, though not
plain, were insignificant; and she spoke very little, except in a low
voice, to Mrs. Jenkinson, in whose appearance there was nothing
remarkable, and who was entirely engaged in listening to what she
said, and placing a screen in the proper direction before her eyes.
After sitting a few minutes, they were all sent to one of the
windows, to admire the view, Mr. Collins attending them to point
out its beauties, and Lady Catherine kindly informing them that it
was much better worth looking at in the summer.
The dinner was exceedingly handsome, and there were all the
servants, and all the articles of plate which Mr. Collins had
promised; and, as he had likewise foretold, he took his seat at the
bottom of the table, by her ladyship’s desire, and looked as if he
felt that life could furnish nothing greater.—He carved, and ate,
and praised with delighted alacrity; and every dish was
commended, first by him, and then by Sir William, who was now
enough recovered to echo whatever his son in law said, in a
manner which Elizabeth wondered Lady Catherine could bear.
But Lady Catherine seemed gratified by their excessive
admiration, and gave most gracious smiles, especially when any
dish on the table proved a novelty to them. The party did not
supply much conversation. Elizabeth was ready to speak
whenever there was an opening, but she was seated between
Charlotte and Miss De Bourgh—the former of whom was engaged
in listening to Lady Catherine, and the latter said not a word to
her all dinner time. Mrs. Jenkinson was chiefly employed in
watching how little Miss De Bourgh ate, pressing her to try some
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other dish, and fearing she were indisposed. Maria thought
speaking out of the question, and the gentlemen did nothing but
eat and admire.
When the ladies returned to the drawing room, there was little
to be done but to hear Lady Catherine talk, which she did without
any intermission till coffee came in, delivering her opinion on
every subject in so decisive a manner as proved that she was not
used to have her judgment controverted. She enquired into
Charlotte’s domestic concerns familiarly and minutely, and gave
her a great deal of advice, as to the management of them all; told
her how every thing ought to be regulated in so small a family as
her’s, and instructed her as to the care of her cows and her
poultry. Elizabeth found that nothing was beneath this great
Lady’s attention, which could furnish her with an occasion of
dictating to others. In the intervals of her discourse with Mrs.
Collins, she addressed a variety of questions to Maria and
Elizabeth, but especially to the latter, of whose connections she
knew the least, and who she observed to Mrs. Collins, was a very
genteel, pretty kind of girl. She asked her at different times, how
many sisters she had, whether they were older or younger than
herself, whether any of them were likely to be married, whether
they were handsome, where they had been educated, what
carriage her father kept, and what had been her mother’s maiden
name?—Elizabeth felt all the impertinence of her questions, but
answered them very composedly.—Lady Catherine then observed,
‘Your father’s estate is entailed on Mr. Collins, I think. For your
sake,’ turning to Charlotte, ‘I am glad of it; but otherwise I see no
occasion for entailing estates from the female line.—It was not
thought necessary in Sir Lewis de Bourgh’s family.—Do you play
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and sing, Miss Bennet?’
‘A little.’
‘Oh! Then—some time or other we shall be happy to hear you.
Our instrument is a capital one, probably superior to— You shall
try it some day.—Do your sisters play and sing?’
‘One of them does.’
‘Why did not you all learn?—You ought all to have learned. The
Miss Webbs all play, and their father has not so good an income as
your’s.—Do you draw?’
‘No, not at all.’
‘What, none of you?’
‘Not one.’
‘That is very strange. But I suppose you had no opportunity.
Your mother should have taken you to town every spring for the
benefit of masters.’
‘My mother would have had no objection, but my father hates
‘Has your governess left you?’
‘We never had any governess.’
‘No governess! How was that possible? Five daughters brought
up at home without a governess!—I never heard of such a thing.
Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education.’
Elizabeth could hardly help smiling, as she assured her that
had not been the case.
‘Then, who taught you? who attended to you? Without a
governess you must have been neglected.’
‘Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us
as wished to learn, never wanted the means. We were always
encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary.
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Those who chose to be idle, certainly might.’
‘Aye, no doubt; but that is what a governess will prevent, and if
I had known your mother, I should have advised her most
strenuously to engage one. I always say that nothing is to be done
in education without steady and regular instruction, and nobody
but a governess can give it. It is wonderful how many families I
have been the means of supplying in that way. I am always glad to
get a young person well placed out. Four nieces of Mrs. Jenkinson
are most delightfully situated through my means; and it was but
the other day, that I recommended another young person, who
was merely accidentally mentioned to me, and the family are quite
delighted with her. Mrs. Collins, did I tell you of Lady Metcalfe’s
calling yesterday to thank me? She finds Miss Pope a treasure.
“Lady Catherine,” said she, “you have given me a treasure.” Are
any of your younger sisters out, Miss Bennet?’
‘Yes, Ma’am, all.’
‘All!—What, all five out at once? Very odd!—And you only the
second.—The younger ones out before the elder are married!—
Your younger sisters must be very young?’
‘Yes, my youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps she is full young to be
much in company. But really, Ma’am, I think it would be very hard
upon younger sisters, that they should not have their share of
society and amusement because the elder may not have the means
or inclination to marry early.—The last born has as good a right to
the pleasures of youth, as the first. And to be kept back on such a
motive!—I think it would not be very likely to promote sisterly
affection or delicacy of mind.’
‘Upon my word,’ said her Ladyship, ‘you give your opinion very
decidedly for so young a person.—Pray, what is your age?’
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‘With three younger sisters grown up,’ replied Elizabeth
smiling, ‘your Ladyship can hardly expect me to own it.’
Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a
direct answer; and Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first
creature who had ever dared to trifle with so much dignified
‘You cannot be more than twenty, I am sure,—therefore you
need not conceal your age.’
‘I am not one and twenty.’
When the gentlemen had joined them, and tea was over, the
card tables were placed. Lady Catherine, Sir William, and Mr. and
Mrs. Collins sat down to quadrille; and as Miss De Bourgh chose
to play at cassino, the two girls had the honour of assisting Mrs.
Jenkinson to make up her party. Their table was superlatively
stupid. Scarcely a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the
game, except when Mrs. Jenkinson expressed her fears of Miss De
Bourgh’s being too hot or too cold, or having too much or too little
light. A great deal more passed at the other table. Lady Catherine
was generally speaking—stating the mistakes of the three others,
or relating some anecdote of herself. Mr. Collins was employed in
agreeing to every thing her Ladyship said, thanking her for every
fish he won, and apologising if he thought he won too many. Sir
William did not say much. He was storing his memory with
anecdotes and noble names.
When Lady Catherine and her daughter had played as long as
they chose, the tables were broke up, the carriage was offered to
Mrs. Collins, gratefully accepted, and immediately ordered. The
party then gathered round the fire to hear Lady Catherine
determine what weather they were to have on the morrow. From
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these instructions they were summoned by the arrival of the
coach, and with many speeches of thankfulness on Mr. Collins’s
side, and as many bows on Sir William’s, they departed. As soon as
they had driven from the door, Elizabeth was called on by her
cousin, to give her opinion of all that she had seen at Rosings,
which, for Charlotte’s sake, she made more favourable than it
really was. But her commendation, though costing her some
trouble, could by no means satisfy Mr. Collins, and he was very
soon obliged to take her Ladyship’s praise into his own hands.
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ir William staid only a week at Hunsford; but his visit was
long enough to convince him of his daughter’s being most
comfortably settled, and of her possessing such a husband
and such a neighbour as were not often met with. While Sir
William was with them, Mr. Collins devoted his mornings to
driving him out in his gig, and shewing him the country but when
he went away, the whole family returned to their usual
employments, and Elizabeth was thankful to find that they did not
see more of her cousin by the alteration, for the chief of the time
between breakfast and dinner was now passed by him either at
work in the garden, or in reading and writing, and looking out of
window in his own book room, which fronted the road. The room
in which the ladies sat was backwards. Elizabeth at first had
rather wondered that Charlotte should not prefer the dining
parlour for common use; it was a better sized room, and had a
pleasanter aspect; but she soon saw that her friend had an
excellent reason for what she did, for Mr. Collins would
undoubtedly have been much less in his own apartment, had they
sat in one equally lively; and she gave Charlotte credit for the
From the drawing room they could distinguish nothing in the
lane, and were indebted to Mr. Collins for the knowledge of what
carriages went along, and how often especially Miss De Bourgh
drove by in her phaeton, which he never failed coming to inform
them of, though it happened almost every day. She not
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unfrequently stopped at the Parsonage, and had a few minutes’
conversation with Charlotte, but was scarcely ever prevailed on to
get out.
Very few days passed in which Mr. Collins did not walk to
Rosings, and not many in which his wife did not think it necessary
to go likewise; and till Elizabeth recollected that there might be
other family livings to be disposed of, she could not understand
the sacrifice of so many hours. Now and then, they were honoured
with a call from her Ladyship, and nothing escaped her
observation that was passing in the room during these visits. She
examined into their employments, looked at their work, and
advised them to do it differently; found fault with the arrangement
of the furniture, or detected the housemaid in negligence; and if
she accepted any refreshment, seemed to do it only for the sake of
finding out that Mrs. Collins’s joints of meat were too large for her
Elizabeth soon perceived that though this great lady was not in
the commission of the peace for the county, she was a most active
magistrate in her own parish, the minutest concerns of which
were carried to her by Mr. Collins; and whenever any of the
cottagers were disposed to be quarrelsome, discontented or too
poor, she sallied forth into the village to settle their differences,
silence their complaints, and scold them into harmony and plenty.
The entertainment of dining at Rosings was repeated about
twice a week; and, allowing for the loss of Sir William, and there
being only one card table in the evening, every such
entertainment was the counterpart of the first. Their other
engagements were few; as the style of living of the neighbourhood
in general, was beyond the Collinses’ reach. This however was no
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evil to Elizabeth, and upon the whole she spent her time
comfortably enough; there were half hours of pleasant
conversation with Charlotte, and the weather was so fine for the
time of year, that she had often great enjoyment out of doors. Her
favourite walk, and where she frequently went while the others
were calling on Lady Catherine, was along the open grove which
edged that side of the park, where there was a nice sheltered path,
which no one seemed to value but herself, and where she felt
beyond the reach of Lady Catherine’s curiosity.
In this quiet way, the first fortnight of her visit soon passed
away. Easter was approaching, and the week preceding it, was to
bring an addition to the family at Rosings, which in so small a
circle must be important. Elizabeth had heard soon after her
arrival, that Mr. Darcy was expected there in the course of a few
weeks, and though there were not many of her acquaintance
whom she did not prefer, his coming would furnish one
comparatively new to look at in their Rosings parties, and she
might be amused in seeing how hopeless Miss Bingley’s designs
on him were, by his behaviour to his cousin, for whom he was
evidently destined by Lady Catherine; who talked of his coming
with the greatest satisfaction, spoke of him in terms of the highest
admiration, and seemed almost angry to find that he had already
been frequently seen by Miss Lucas and herself.
His arrival was soon known at the Parsonage, for Mr. Collins
was walking the whole morning within view of the lodges opening
into Hunsford Lane, in order to have the earliest assurance of it;
and after making his bow as the carriage turned into the Park,
hurried home with the great intelligence. On the following
morning he hastened to Rosings to pay his respects. There were
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two nephews of Lady Catherine to require them, for Mr. Darcy
had brought with him a Colonel Fitzwilliam, the younger son of
his uncle, Lord — and to the great surprise of all the party, when
Mr. Collins returned the gentlemen accompanied him. Charlotte
had seen them from her husband’s room, crossing the road, and
immediately running into the other, told the girls what an honour
they might expect, adding,
‘I may thank you, Eliza, for this piece of civility. Mr. Darcy
would never have come so soon to wait upon me.’
Elizabeth had scarcely time to disclaim all right to the
compliment, before their approach was announced by the doorbell,
and shortly afterwards the three gentlemen entered the room.
Colonel Fitzwilliam, who led the way, was about thirty, not
handsome, but in person and address most truly the gentleman.
Mr. Darcy looked just as he had been used to look in
Hertfordshire, paid his compliments, with his usual reserve, to
Mrs. Collins; and whatever might be his feelings towards her
friend, met her with every appearance of composure. Elizabeth
merely curtseyed to him, without saying a word.
Colonel Fitzwilliam entered into conversation directly with the
readiness and ease of a well-bred man, and talked very pleasantly;
but his cousin, after having addressed a slight observation on the
house and garden to Mrs. Collins, sat for some time without
speaking to any body. At length, however, his civility was so far
awakened as to enquire of Elizabeth after the health of her family.
She answered him in the usual way, and after a moment’s pause,
‘My eldest sister has been in town these three months. Have
you never happened to see her there?’
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She was perfectly sensible that he never had; but she wished to
see whether he would betray any consciousness of what had
passed between the Bingleys and Jane; and she thought he looked
a little confused as he answered that he had never been so
fortunate as to meet Miss Bennet. The subject was pursued no
farther, and the gentlemen soon afterwards went away.
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olonel Fitzwilliam’s manners were very much admired at
the parsonage, and the ladies all felt that he must add
considerably to the pleasure of their engagements at
Rosings. It was some days, however, before they received any
invitation thither, for while there were visitors in the house, they
could not be necessary; and it was not till Easter-day, almost a
week after the gentlemen’s arrival, that they were honoured by
such an attention, and then they were merely asked on leaving
church to come there in the evening. For the last week they had
seen very little of either Lady Catherine or her daughter. Colonel
Fitzwilliam had called at the parsonage more than once during the
time, but Mr. Darcy they had only seen at church.
The invitation was accepted of course, and at a proper hour
they joined the party in Lady Catherine’s drawing room. Her
ladyship received them civilly, but it was plain that their company
was by no means so acceptable as when she could get nobody else;
and she was, in fact, almost engrossed by her nephews, speaking
to them, especially to Darcy, much more than to any other person
in the room.
Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed really glad to see them; any thing
was a welcome relief to him at Rosings; and Mrs. Collins’s pretty
friend had moreover caught his fancy very much. He now seated
himself by her, and talked so agreeably of Kent and Hertfordshire,
of travelling and staying at home, of new books and music, that
Elizabeth had never been half so well entertained in that room
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before; and they conversed with so much spirit and flow, as to
draw the attention of Lady Catherine herself, as well as of Mr.
Darcy. His eyes had been soon and repeatedly turned towards
them with a look of curiosity; and that her ladyship after a while
shared the feeling, was more openly acknowledged, for she did not
scruple to call out,
‘What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam? What is it you are
talking of? What are you telling Miss Bennet? Let me hear what it
‘We are speaking of music, Madam,’ said he, when no longer
able to avoid a reply.
‘Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my
delight. I must have my share in the conversation, if you are
speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose,
who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better
natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great
proficient. And so would Anne, if her health had allowed her to
apply. I am confident that she would have performed delightfully.
How does Georgiana get on, Darcy?’
Mr. Darcy spoke with affectionate praise of his sister’s
‘I am very glad to hear such a good account of her,’ said Lady
Catherine; ‘and pray tell her from me, that she cannot expect to
excel, if she does not practise a great deal.’
‘I assure you, Madam,’ he replied, ‘that she does not need such
advice. She practises very constantly.’
‘So much the better. It cannot be done too much; and when I
next write to her, I shall charge her not to neglect it on any
account. I often tell young ladies, that no excellence in music is to
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be acquired, without constant practise. I have told Miss Bennet
several times, that she will never play really well, unless she
practises more; and though Mrs. Collins has no instrument, she is
very welcome, as I have often told her, to come to Rosings every
day, and play on the pianoforté in Mrs. Jenkinson’s room. She
would be in nobody’s way, you know, in that part of the house.’
Mr Darcy looked a little ashamed of his aunt’s ill breeding and
made no answer.
When coffee was over, Colonel Fitzwilliam reminded Elizabeth
of having promised to play to him; and she sat down directly to the
instrument. He drew a chair near her. Lady Catherine listened to
half a song, and then talked, as before, to her other nephew; till
the latter walked away from her, and moving with his usual
deliberation towards the pianoforté, stationed himself so as to
command a full view of the fair performer’s countenance.
Elizabeth saw what he was doing, and at the first convenient
pause, turned to him with an arch smile, and said,
‘You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state
to hear me? But I will not be alarmed though your sister does play
so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to
be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with
every attempt to intimidate me.’
‘I shall not say that you are mistaken,’ he replied, ‘because you
could not really believe me to entertain any design of alarming
you; and I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long
enough to know, that you find great enjoyment in occasionally
professing opinions which in fact are not your own.’
Elizabeth laughed heartily at this picture of herself, and said to
Colonel Fitzwilliam, ‘Your cousin will give you a very pretty notion
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of me, and teach you not to believe a word I say. I am particularly
unlucky in meeting with a person so well able to expose my real
character, in a part of the world, where I had hoped to pass myself
off with some degree of credit. Indeed, Mr. Darcy, it is very
ungenerous in you to mention all that you knew to my
disadvantage in Hertfordshire—and, give me leave to say, very
impolitic too—for it is provoking me to retaliate, and such things
may come out, as will shock your relations to hear.’
‘I am not afraid of you,’ said he, smilingly.
‘Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of,’ cried Colonel
Fitzwilliam. ‘I should like to know how he behaves among
‘You shall hear then—but prepare yourself for something very
dreadful. The first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire,
you must know, was at a ball—and at this ball, what do you think
he did? He danced only four dances! I am sorry to pain you—but
so it was. He danced only four dances, though gentlemen were
scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady
was sitting down in want of a partner. Mr. Darcy, you cannot deny
the fact.’
‘I had not at that time the honour of knowing any lady in the
assembly beyond my own party.’
‘True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball room. Well,
Colonel Fitzwilliam, what do I play next? My fingers wait your
‘Perhaps,’ said Darcy, ‘I should have judged better, had I sought
an introduction, but I am ill qualified to recommend myself to
‘Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?’ said Elizabeth,
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still addressing Colonel Fitzwilliam. ‘Shall we ask him why a man
of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill
qualified to recommend himself to strangers?’
‘I can answer your question,’ said Fitzwilliam, ‘without applying
to him. It is because he will not give himself the trouble.’
‘I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,’ said
Darcy, ‘of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I
cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in
their concerns, as I often see done.’
‘My fingers,’ said Elizabeth, ‘do not move over this instrument
in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They
have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same
expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own
fault—because I would not take the trouble of practising. It is not
that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman’s of
superior execution.’
Darcy smiled and said, ‘You are perfectly right. You have
employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege
of hearing you, can think any thing wanting. We neither of us
perform to strangers.’
Here they were interrupted by Lady Catherine, who called out
to know what they were talking of. Elizabeth immediately began
playing again. Lady Catherine approached, and, after listening for
a few minutes, said to Darcy,
‘Miss Bennet would not play at all amiss, if she practised more,
and could have the advantage of a London master. She has a very
good notion of fingering, though her taste is not equal to Anne’s.
Anne would have been a delightful performer, had her health
allowed her to learn.’
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Elizabeth looked at Darcy to see how cordially he assented to
his cousin’s praise; but neither at that moment nor at any other
could she discern any symptom of love; and from the whole of his
behaviour to Miss De Bourgh she derived this comfort for Miss
Bingley, that he might have been just as likely to marry her, had
she been his relation.
Lady Catherine continued her remarks on Elizabeth’s performance,
mixing with them many instructions on execution and
taste. Elizabeth received them with all the forbearance of civility;
and at the request of the gentlemen remained at the instrument
till her Ladyship’s carriage was ready to take them all home.
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lizabeth was sitting by herself the next morning, and
writing to Jane, while Mrs. Collins and Maria were gone
on business into the village, when she was startled by a
ring at the door, the certain signal of a visitor. As she had heard no
carriage, she thought it not unlikely to be Lady Catherine, and
under that apprehension was putting away her half-finished letter
that she might escape all impertinent questions, when the door
opened, and to her very great surprise, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Darcy
only, entered the room.
He seemed astonished too on finding her alone, and apologised
for his intrusion, by letting her know that he had understood all
the ladies to be within.
They then sat down, and when her enquiries after Rosings were
made, seemed in danger of sinking into total silence. It was
absolutely necessary, therefore, to think of something, and in this
emergence recollecting when she had seen him last in
Hertfordshire, and feeling curious to know what he would say on
the subject of their hasty departure, she observed,
‘How very suddenly you all quitted Netherfield last November,
Mr. Darcy! It must have been a most agreeable surprise to Mr.
Bingley to see you all after him so soon; for, if I recollect right, he
went but the day before. He and his sisters were well, I hope,
when you left London.’
‘Perfectly so—I thank you.’
She found that she was to receive no other answer—and, after a
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short pause, added,
‘I think I have understood that Mr. Bingley has not much idea
of ever returning to Netherfield again?’
‘I have never heard him say so; but it is probable that he may
spend very little of his time there in future. He has many friends,
and he is at a time of life when friends and engagements are
continually increasing.’
‘If he means to be but little at Netherfield, it would be better for
the neighbourhood that he should give up the place entirely, for
then we might possibly get a settled family there. But perhaps Mr.
Bingley did not take the house so much for the convenience of the
neighbourhood as for his own, and we must expect him to keep or
quit it on the same principle.’
‘I should not be surprised,’ said Darcy, ‘if he were to give it up,
as soon as any eligible purchase offers.’
Elizabeth made no answer. She was afraid of talking longer of
his friend; and, having nothing else to say, was now determined to
leave the trouble of finding a subject to him.
He took the hint, and soon began with, ‘This seems a very
comfortable house. Lady Catherine, I believe, did a great deal to it
when Mr. Collins first came to Hunsford.’
‘I believe she did—and I am sure she could not have bestowed
her kindness on a more grateful object.’
‘Mr. Collins appears very fortunate in his choice of a wife.’
‘Yes, indeed; his friends may well rejoice in his having met with
one of the very few sensible women who would have accepted him,
or have made him happy if they had. My friend has an excellent
understanding—though I am not certain that I consider her
marrying Mr. Collins as the wisest thing she ever did. She seems
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perfectly happy, however, and in a prudential light, it is certainly a
very good match for her.’
‘It must be very agreeable to her to be settled within so easy a
distance of her own family and friends.’
‘An easy distance do you call it? It is nearly fifty miles.’
‘And what is fifty miles of good road? Little more than half a
day’s journey. Yes, I call it a very easy distance.’
‘I should never have considered the distance as one of the
advantages of the match,’ cried Elizabeth. ‘I should never have
said Mrs. Collins was settled near her family.’
‘It is a proof of your own attachment to Hertfordshire. Any
thing beyond the very neighbourhood of Longbourn, I suppose,
would appear far.’
As he spoke there was a sort of smile, which Elizabeth fancied
she understood; he must be supposing her to be thinking of Jane
and Netherfield, and she blushed as she answered,
‘I do not mean to say that a woman may not be settled too near
her family. The far and the near must be relative, and depend on
many varying circumstances. Where there is fortune to make the
expence of travelling unimportant, distance becomes no evil. But
that is not the case here. Mr. and Mrs. Collins have a comfortable
income, but not such a one as will allow of frequent journeys—and
I am persuaded my friend would not call herself near her family
under less than half the present distance.’
Mr. Darcy drew his chair a little towards her, and said, ‘You
cannot have a right to such very strong local attachment. You
cannot have been always at Longbourn.’
Elizabeth looked surprised. The gentleman experienced some
change of feeling; he drew back his chair, took a newspaper from
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the table, and, glancing over it, said, in a colder voice,
‘Are you pleased with Kent?’
A short dialogue on the subject of the country ensued, on either
side calm and concise—and soon put an end to by the entrance of
Charlotte and her sister, just returned from their walk. The tête-àtête
surprised them. Mr. Darcy related the mistake which had
occasioned his intruding on Miss Bennet, and after sitting a few
minutes longer without saying much to any body, went away.
‘What can be the meaning of this!’ said Charlotte, as soon as he
was gone. ‘My dear Eliza he must be in love with you, or he would
never have called on us in this familiar way.’
But when Elizabeth told of his silence, it did not seem very
likely, even to Charlotte’s wishes, to be the case; and after various
conjectures, they could at last only suppose his visit to proceed
from the difficulty of finding any thing to do, which was the more
probable from the time of year. All field sports were over. Within
doors there was Lady Catherine, books, and a billiard table, but
gentlemen cannot be always within doors; and in the nearness of
the Parsonage, or the pleasantness of the walk to it, or of the
people who lived in it, the two cousins found a temptation from
this period of walking thither almost every day. They called at
various times of the morning, sometimes separately, sometimes
together, and now and then accompanied by their aunt. It was
plain to them all that Colonel Fitzwilliam came because he had
pleasure in their society, a persuasion which of course
recommended him still more; and Elizabeth was reminded by her
own satisfaction in being with him, as well as by his evident
admiration of her, of her former favourite George Wickham; and
though, in comparing them, she saw there was less captivating
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softness in Colonel Fitzwilliam’s manners, she believed he might
have the best informed mind.
But why Mr. Darcy came so often to the Parsonage, it was more
difficult to understand. It could not be for society, as he frequently
sat there ten minutes together without opening his lips; and when
he did speak, it seemed the effect of necessity rather than of
choice—a sacrifice to propriety, not a pleasure to himself. He
seldom appeared really animated. Mrs. Collins knew not what to
make of him. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s occasionally laughing at his
stupidity, proved that he was generally different, which her own
knowledge of him could not have told her; and as she would have
liked to believe this change the effect of love, and the object of that
love, her friend Eliza, she sat herself seriously to work to find it
out.—She watched him whenever they were at Rosings, and
whenever he came to Hunsford; but without much success. He
certainly looked at her friend a great deal, but the expression of
that look was disputable. It was an earnest, steadfast gaze, but she
often doubted whether there were much admiration in it, and
sometimes it seemed nothing but absence of mind.
She had once or twice suggested to Elizabeth the possibility of
his being partial to her, but Elizabeth always laughed at the idea;
and Mrs. Collins did not think it right to press the subject, from
the danger of raising expectations which might only end in
disappointment; for in her opinion it admitted not of a doubt, that
all her friend’s dislike would vanish, if she could suppose him to be
in her power.
In her kind schemes for Elizabeth, she sometimes planned her
marrying Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was beyond comparison the
pleasantest man; he certainly admired her, and his situation in life
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was most eligible; but, to counterbalance these advantages, Mr.
Darcy had considerable patronage in the church, and his cousin
could have none at all.
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ore than once did Elizabeth in her ramble within the
Park, unexpectedly meet Mr. Darcy.—She felt all the
perverseness of the mischance that should bring him
where no one else was brought; and to prevent its ever happening
again, took care to inform him at first, that it was a favourite haunt
of hers.—How it could occur a second time therefore was very
odd!—Yet it did, and even a third. It seemed like wilful ill-nature,
or a voluntary penance, for on these occasions it was not merely a
few formal enquiries and an awkward pause and then away, but
he actually thought it necessary to turn back and walk with her.
He never said a great deal, nor did she give herself the trouble of
talking or of listening much; but it struck her in the course of their
third rencontre that he was asking some odd unconnected
questions—about her pleasure in being at Hunsford, her love of
solitary walks, and her opinion of Mr. and Mrs. Collins’s
happiness; and that in speaking of Rosings and her not perfectly
understanding the house, he seemed to expect that whenever she
came into Kent again she would be staying there too. His words
seemed to imply it. Could he have Colonel Fitzwilliam in his
thoughts? She supposed, if he meant any thing, he must mean an
allusion to what might arise in that quarter. It distressed her a
little, and she was quite glad to find herself at the gate in the pales
opposite the Parsonage.
She was engaged one day as she walked, in re-perusing Jane’s
last letter, and dwelling on some passages which proved that Jane
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had not written in spirits, when, instead of being again surprised
by Mr. Darcy, she saw on looking up that Colonel Fitzwilliam was
meeting her. Putting away the letter immediately and forcing a
smile, she said,
‘I did not know before that you ever walked this way.’
‘I have been making the tour of the Park,’ he replied, ‘as I
generally do every year, and intend to close it with a call at the
Parsonage. Are you going much farther?’
‘No, I should have turned in a moment.’
And accordingly she did turn, and they walked towards the
Parsonage together.
‘Do you certainly leave Kent on Saturday?’ said she.
‘Yes—if Darcy does not put it off again. But I am at his disposal.
He arranges the business just as he pleases.’
‘And if not able to please himself in the arrangement, he has at
least great pleasure in the power of choice. I do not know any body
who seems more to enjoy the power of doing what he likes than
Mr. Darcy.’
‘He likes to have his own way very well,’ replied Colonel
Fitzwilliam. ‘But so we all do. It is only that he has better means of
having it than many others, because he is rich, and many others
are poor. I speak feelingly. A younger son, you know, must be
inured to self-denial and dependence.’
‘In my opinion, the younger son of an Earl can know very little
of either. Now, seriously, what have you ever known of self-denial
and dependence? When have you been prevented by want of
money from going wherever you chose, or procuring any thing you
had a fancy for?’
‘These are home questions—and perhaps I cannot say that I
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have experienced many hardships of that nature. But in matters of
greater weight, I may suffer from the want of money. Younger
sons cannot marry where they like.’
‘Unless where they like women of fortune, which I think they
very often do.’
‘Our habits of expence make us too dependant, and there are
not many in my rank of life who can afford to marry without some
attention to money.’
‘Is this,’ thought Elizabeth, ‘meant for me?’ and she coloured at
the idea; but, recovering herself, said in a lively tone, ‘And pray,
what is the usual price of an Earl’s younger son? Unless the elder
brother is very sickly, I suppose you would not ask above fifty
thousand pounds.’
He answered her in the same style, and the subject dropped. To
interrupt a silence which might make him fancy her affected with
what had passed, she soon afterwards said,
‘I imagine your cousin brought you down with him chiefly for
the sake of having somebody at his disposal. I wonder he does not
marry, to secure a lasting convenience of that kind. But, perhaps
his sister does as well for the present, and, as she is under his sole
care, he may do what he likes with her.’
‘No,’ said Colonel Fitzwilliam, ‘that is an advantage which he
must divide with me. I am joined with him in the guardianship of
Miss Darcy.’
‘Are you, indeed? And pray what sort of guardians do you
make? Does your charge give you much trouble? Young ladies of
her age, are sometimes a little difficult to manage, and if she has
the true Darcy spirit, she may like to have her own way.’
As she spoke, she observed him looking at her earnestly, and
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the manner in which he immediately asked her why she supposed
Miss Darcy likely to give them any uneasiness, convinced her that
she had somehow or other got pretty near the truth. She directly
‘You need not be frightened. I never heard any harm of her;
and I dare say she is one of the most tractable creatures in the
world. She is a very great favourite with some ladies of my
acquaintance, Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley. I think I have heard
you say that you know them.’
‘I know them a little. Their brother is a pleasant gentlemanlike
man—he is a great friend of Darcy’s.’
‘Oh! yes,’ said Elizabeth drily—‘Mr. Darcy is uncommonly kind
to Mr. Bingley, and takes a prodigious deal of care of him.’
‘Care of him!—Yes, I really believe Darcy does take care of him
in those points where he most wants care. From something that he
told me in our journey hither, I have reason to think Bingley very
much indebted to him. But I ought to beg his pardon, for I have no
right to suppose that Bingley was the person meant. It was all
‘What is it you mean?’
‘It is a circumstance which Darcy of course would not wish to
be generally known, because if it were to get round to the lady’s
family, it would be an unpleasant thing.’
‘You may depend upon my not mentioning it.’
‘And remember that I have not much reason for supposing it to
be Bingley. What he told me was merely this; that he
congratulated himself on having lately saved a friend from the
inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage, but without
mentioning names or any other particulars, and I only suspected it
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to be Bingley from believing him the kind of young man to get into
a scrape of that sort, and from knowing them to have been
together the whole of last summer.’
‘Did Mr. Darcy give you his reasons for this interference?’
‘I understood that there were some very strong objections
against the lady.’
‘And what arts did he use to separate them?’
‘He did not talk to me of his own arts,’ said Fitzwilliam smiling.
‘He only told me, what I have now told you.’
Elizabeth made no answer, and walked on, her heart swelling
with indignation. After watching her a little, Fitzwilliam asked her
why she was so thoughtful.
‘I am thinking of what you have been telling me,’ said she. ‘Your
cousin’s conduct does not suit my feelings. Why was he to be the
‘You are rather disposed to call his interference officious?’
‘I do not see what right Mr. Darcy had to decide on the
propriety of his friend’s inclination, or why, upon his own
judgment alone, he was to determine and direct in what manner
that friend was to be happy.’ ‘But,’ she continued, recollecting
herself, ‘as we know none of the particulars, it is not fair to
condemn him. It is not to be supposed that there was much
affection in the case.’
‘That is not an unnatural surmise,’ said Fitzwilliam, ‘but it is
lessening the honour of my cousin’s triumph very sadly.’
This was spoken jestingly, but it appeared to her so just a
picture of Mr. Darcy, that she would not trust herself with an
answer; and, therefore, abruptly changing the conversation, talked
on indifferent matters till they reached the parsonage. There, shut
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into her own room, as soon as their visitor left them, she could
think without interruption of all that she had heard. It was not to
be supposed that any other people could be meant than those with
whom she was connected. There could not exist in the world two
men, over whom Mr. Darcy could have such boundless influence.
That he had been concerned in the measures taken to separate
Mr. Bingley and Jane, she had never doubted; but she had always
attributed to Miss Bingley the principal design and arrangement
of them. If his own vanity, however, did not mislead him, he was
the cause, his pride and caprice were the cause of all that Jane had
suffered, and still continued to suffer. He had ruined for a while
every hope of happiness for the most affectionate, generous heart
in the world; and no one could say how lasting an evil he might
have inflicted.
‘There were some very strong objections against the lady,’ were
Colonel Fitzwilliam’s words, and these strong objections probably
were, her having one uncle who was a country attorney, and
another who was in business in London.
‘To Jane herself,’ she exclaimed, ‘there could be no possibility
of objection. All loveliness and goodness as she is! Her
understanding excellent, her mind improved, and her manners
captivating. Neither could any thing be urged against my father,
who, though with some peculiarities, has abilities which Mr. Darcy
himself need not disdain, and respectability which he will
probably never reach.’ When she thought of her mother indeed,
her confidence gave way a little, but she would not allow that any
objections there had material weight with Mr. Darcy, whose pride,
she was convinced, would receive a deeper wound from the want
of importance in his friend’s connections, than from their want of
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sense; and she was quite decided at last, that he had been partly
governed by this worst kind of pride, and partly by the wish of
retaining Mr. Bingley for his sister.
The agitation and tears which the subject occasioned, brought
on a headach; and it grew so much worse towards the evening
that, added to her unwillingness to see Mr. Darcy, it determined
her not to attend her cousins to Rosings, where they were engaged
to drink tea. Mrs. Collins, seeing that she was really unwell, did
not press her to go, and as much as possible prevented her
husband from pressing her, but Mr Collins could not conceal his
apprehension of Lady Catherine’s being rather displeased by her
staying at home.
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hen they were gone, Elizabeth, as if intending to
exasperate herself as much as possible against Mr.
Darcy, chose for her employment the examination of
all the letters which Jane had written to her since her being in
Kent. They contained no actual complaint, nor was there any
revival of past occurrences, or any communication of present
suffering. But in all, and in almost every line of each, there was a
want of that cheerfulness which had been used to characterize her
style, and which, proceeding from the serenity of a mind at ease
with itself, and kindly disposed towards every one, had been
scarcely ever clouded. Elizabeth noticed every sentence conveying
the idea of uneasiness, with an attention which it had hardly
received on the first perusal. Mr. Darcy’s shameful boast of what
misery he had been able to inflict, gave her a keener sense of her
sister’s sufferings. It was some consolation to think that his visit to
Rosings was to end on the day after the next, and a still greater,
that in less than a fortnight she should herself be with Jane again,
and enabled to contribute to the recovery of her spirits, by all that
affection could do.
She could not think of Darcy’s leaving Kent, without
remembering that his cousin was to go with him; but Colonel
Fitzwilliam had made it clear that he had no intentions at all, and
agreeable as he was, she did not mean to be unhappy about him.
While settling this point, she was suddenly roused by the sound
of the door bell, and her spirits were a little fluttered by the idea of
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its being Colonel Fitzwilliam himself, who had once before called
late in the evening, and might now come to enquire particularly
after her. But this idea was soon banished, and her spirits were
very differently affected, when, to her utter amazement, she saw
Mr. Darcy walk into the room. In an hurried manner he
immediately began an enquiry after her health, imputing his visit
to a wish of hearing that she were better. She answered him with
cold civility. He sat down for a few moments, and then getting up
walked about the room. Elizabeth was surprised, but said not a
word. After a silence of several minutes he came towards her in an
agitated manner, and thus began,
‘In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be
repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire
and love you.’
Elizabeth’s astonishment was beyond expression. She stared,
coloured, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient
encouragement, and the avowal of all that he felt and had long felt
for her, immediately followed. He spoke well, but there were
feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not
more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His
sense of her inferiority—of its being a degradation—of the family
obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination, were
dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he
was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.
In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible
to the compliment of such a man’s affection, and though her
intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the
pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his
subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. She tried,
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however, to compose herself to answer him with patience, when
he should have done. He concluded with representing to her the
strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavours,
he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope
that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand. As
he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a
favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his
countenance expressed real security. Such a circumstance could
only exasperate farther, and when he ceased, the colour rose into
her cheeks, and she said,
‘In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to
express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however
unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation
should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you.
But I cannot—I have never desired your good opinion, and you
have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have
occasioned pain to any one. It has been most unconsciously done,
however, and I hope will be of short duration. The feelings which,
you tell me, have long prevented the acknowledgment of your
regard, can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this
Mr. Darcy, who was leaning against the mantle-piece with his
eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less
resentment than surprise. His complexion became pale with
anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every
feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and
would not open his lips, till he believed himself to have attained it.
The pause was to Elizabeth’s feelings dreadful. At length, in a
voice of forced calmness, he said,
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‘And this is all the reply which I am to have the honour of
expecting! I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little
endeavour at civility, I am thus rejected. But it is of small
‘I might as well enquire,’ replied she, ‘why with so evident a
design of offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that you
liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against
your character? Was not this some excuse for incivility, if I was
uncivil? But I have other provocations. You know I have. Had not
my own feelings decided against you, had they been indifferent, or
had they even been favourable, do you think that any
consideration would tempt me to accept the man, who has been
the means of ruining, perhaps forever, the happiness of a most
beloved sister?’
As she pronounced these words, Mr. Darcy changed colour; but
the emotion was short, and he listened without attempting to
interrupt her while she continued.
‘I have every reason in the world to think ill of you. No motive
can excuse the unjust and ungenerous part you acted there. You
dare not, you cannot deny that you have been the principal, if not
the only means of dividing them from each other, of exposing one
to the censure of the world for caprice and instability, the other to
its derision for disappointed hopes, and involving them both in
misery of the acutest kind.’
She paused, and saw with no slight indignation that he was
listening with an air which proved him wholly unmoved by any
feeling of remorse. He even looked at her with a smile of affected
‘Can you deny that you have done it?’ she repeated.
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With assumed tranquillity he then replied, ‘I have no wish of
denying that I did every thing in my power to separate my friend
from your sister, or that I rejoice in my success. Towards him I
have been kinder than towards myself.’
Elizabeth disdained the appearance of noticing this civil
reflection, but its meaning did not escape, nor was it likely to
conciliate her.
‘But it is not merely this affair,’ she continued, ‘on which my
dislike is founded. Long before it had taken place, my opinion of
you was decided. Your character was unfolded in the recital which
I received many months ago from Mr. Wickham. On this subject,
what can you have to say? In what imaginary act of friendship can
you here defend yourself? or under what misrepresentation, can
you here impose upon others?’
‘You take an eager interest in that gentleman’s concerns,’ said
Darcy in a less tranquil tone, and with a heightened colour.
‘Who that knows what his misfortunes have been, can help
feeling an interest in him?’
‘His misfortunes!’ repeated Darcy contemptuously: ‘yes, his
misfortunes have been great indeed.’
‘And of your infliction,’ cried Elizabeth with energy. ‘You have
reduced him to his present state of poverty, comparative poverty.
You have withheld the advantages, which you must know to have
been designed for him. You have deprived the best years of his
life, of that independence which was no less his due than his
desert. You have done all this! and yet you can treat the mention
of his misfortunes with contempt and ridicule.’
‘And this,’ cried Darcy, as he walked with quick steps across the
room, ‘is your opinion of me! This is the estimation in which you
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hold me! I thank you for explaining it so fully. My faults, according
to this calculation, are heavy indeed! But perhaps,’ added he,
stopping in his walk, and turning towards her, ‘these offences
might have been overlooked, had not your pride been hurt by my
honest confession of the scruples that had long prevented my
forming any serious design. These bitter accusations might have
been suppressed, had I with greater policy concealed my
struggles, and flattered you into the belief of my being impelled by
unqualified, unalloyed inclination; by reason, by reflection, by
every thing. But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence. Nor am I
ashamed of the feelings I related. They were natural and just.
Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your
connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations,
whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?’
Elizabeth felt herself growing more angry every moment yet
she tried to the utmost to speak with composure when she said,
‘You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of
your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared
me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you
behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.
She saw him start at this, but he said nothing, and she
‘You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any
possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.’
Again his astonishment was obvious; and he looked at her with
an expression of mingled incredulity and mortification. She went
‘From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost
say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressing me
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with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your
selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that
ground-work of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have
built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month
before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could
ever be prevailed on to marry.’
‘You have said quite enough, madam. I perfectly comprehend
your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own
have been. Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time,
and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness.’
And with these words he hastily left the room, and Elizabeth
heard him the next moment open the front door and quit the
The tumult of her mind was now painfully great. She knew not
how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and
cried for half an hour. Her astonishment, as she reflected on what
had passed, was increased by every review of it. That she should
receive an offer of marriage from Mr. Darcy! that he should have
been in love with her for so many months! so much in love as to
wish to marry her in spite of all the objections which had made
him prevent his friend’s marrying her sister, and which must
appear at least with equal force in his own case, was almost
incredible! it was gratifying to have inspired unconsciously so
strong an affection. But his pride, his abominable pride, his
shameless avowal of what he had done with respect to Jane, his
unpardonable assurance in acknowledging, though he could not
justify it, and the unfeeling manner in which he had mentioned
Mr. Wickham, his cruelty towards whom he had not attempted to
deny, soon overcame the pity which the consideration of his
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attachment had for a moment excited.
She continued in very agitating reflections till the sound of
Lady Catherine's carriage made her feel how unequal she was to
encounter Charlotte's observation, and hurried her away to her
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lizabeth awoke the next morning to the same thoughts
and meditations which had at length closed her eyes. She
could not yet recover from the surprise of what had
happened; it was impossible to think of any thing else, and totally
indisposed for employment, she resolved soon after breakfast to
indulge herself in air and exercise. She was proceeding directly to
her favourite walk, when the recollection of Mr. Darcy's sometimes
coming there stopped her, and instead of entering the park, she
turned up the lane, which led her farther from the turnpike road.
The park paling was still the boundary on one side, and she soon
passed one of the gates into the ground.
After walking two or three times along that part of the lane, she
was tempted, by the pleasantness of the morning, to stop at the
gates and look into the park. The five weeks which she had now
passed in Kent, had made a great difference in the country, and
every day was adding to the verdure of the early trees. She was on
the point of continuing her walk, when she caught a glimpse of a
gentleman within the sort of grove which edged the park; he was
moving that way; and fearful of its being Mr. Darcy, she was
directly retreating. But the person who advanced, was now near
enough to see her, and stepping forward with eagerness,
pronounced her name. She had turned away, but on hearing
herself called, though in a voice which proved it to be Mr. Darcy,
she moved again towards the gate. He had by that time reached it
also, and holding out a letter, which she instinctively took, said
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with a look of haughty composure, ‘I have been walking in the
grove some time in the hope of meeting you. Will you do me the
honour of reading that letter?’—And then, with a slight bow,
turned again into the plantation, and was soon out of sight.
With no expectation of pleasure, but with the strongest
curiosity, Elizabeth opened the letter, and to her still increasing
wonder, perceived an envelope containing two sheets of letter
paper, written quite through, in a very close hand.—The envelope
itself was likewise full.—Pursuing her way along the lane, she then
began it. It was dated from Rosings, at eight o’clock in the
morning, and was as follows:—
‘Be not alarmed, Madam, on receiving this letter, by the
apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments,
or renewal of those offers, which were last night so disgusting to
you. I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling
myself, by dwelling on wishes, which, for the happiness of both,
cannot be too soon forgotten; and the effort which the formation,
and the perusal of this letter must occasion, should have been
spared, had not my character required it to be written and read.
You must, therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand
your attention; your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly,
but I demand it of your justice.
‘Two offences of a very different nature, and by no means of
equal magnitude, you last night laid to my charge. The first
mentioned was, that, regardless of the sentiments of either, I had
detached Mr. Bingley from your sister,—and the other, that I had,
in defiance of various claims, in defiance of honour and humanity,
ruined the immediate prosperity, and blasted the prospects of Mr.
Wickham.—Wilfully and wantonly to have thrown off the
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companion of my youth, the acknowledged favourite of my father,
a young man who had scarcely any other dependence than on our
patronage, and who had been brought up to expect its exertion,
would be a depravity, to which the separation of two young
persons, whose affection could be the growth of only a few weeks,
could bear no comparison.—But from the severity of that blame
which was last night so liberally bestowed, respecting each
circumstance, I shall hope to be in future secured, when the
following account of my actions and their motives has been
read.—If, in the explanation of them which is due to myself, I am
under the necessity of relating feelings which may be offensive to
your’s, I can only say that I am sorry.—The necessity must be
obeyed—and farther apology would be absurd.—I had not been
long in Hertfordshire, before I saw, in common with others, that
Bingley preferred your eldest sister, to any other young woman in
the country.—But it was not till the evening of the dance at
Netherfield that I had any apprehension of his feeling a serious
attachment.—I had often seen him in love before.—At that ball,
while I had the honour of dancing with you, I was first made
acquainted, by Sir William Lucas’s accidental information, that
Bingley’s attentions to your sister had given rise to a general
expectation of their marriage. He spoke of it as a certain event, of
which the time alone could be undecided. From that moment I
observed my friend’s behaviour attentively; and I could then
perceive that his partiality for Miss Bennet was beyond what I had
ever witnessed in him. Your sister I also watched.—Her look and
manners were open, cheerful and engaging as ever, but without
any symptom of peculiar regard, and I remained convinced from
the evening’s scrutiny, that though she received his attentions
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with pleasure, she did not invite them by any participation of
sentiment.—If you have not been mistaken here, I must have been
in an error. Your superior knowledge of your sister must make the
latter probable.—If it be so, if I have been misled by such error, to
inflict pain on her, your resentment has not been unreasonable.
But I shall not scruple to assert, that the serenity of your sister’s
countenance and air was such, as might have given the most acute
observer, a conviction that, however amiable her temper, her
heart was not likely to be easily touched.—That I was desirous of
believing her indifferent is certain,—but I will venture to say that
my investigations and decisions are not usually influenced by my
hopes or fears.—I did not believe her to be indifferent because I
wished it;—I believed it on impartial conviction, as truly as I
wished it in reason.—My objections to the marriage were not
merely those, which I last night acknowledged to have required
the utmost force of passion to put aside, in my own case; the want
of connection could not be so great an evil to my friend as to me.—
But there were other causes of repugnance;—causes which,
though still existing, and existing to an equal degree in both
instances, I had myself endeavoured to forget, because they were
not immediately before me. These causes must be stated, though
briefly.—The situation of your mother’s family, though
objectionable, was nothing in comparison of that total want of
propriety so frequently, so almost uniformly betrayed by herself,
by your three younger sisters, and occasionally even by your
Pardon me.—It pains me to offend you. But amidst your
concern for the defects of your nearest relations, and your
displeasure at this representation of them, let it give you
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consolation to consider that, to have conducted yourselves so as to
avoid any share of the like censure, is praise no less generally
bestowed on you and your eldest sister, than it is honourable to
the sense and disposition of both.—I will only say farther, that
from what passed that evening, my opinion of all parties was
confirmed, and every inducement heightened, which could have
led me before, to preserve my friend from what I esteemed a most
unhappy connection.—He left Netherfield for London, on the day
following, as you, I am certain, remember, with the design of soon
returning.—The part which I acted, is now to be explained.—His
sisters’ uneasiness had been equally excited with my own; our
coincidence of feeling was soon discovered; and, alike sensible that
no time was to be lost in detaching their brother, we shortly
resolved on joining him directly in London.—We accordingly
went—and there I readily engaged in the office of pointing out to
my friend, the certain evils of such a choice.—I described, and
enforced them earnestly.—But, however this remonstrance might
have staggered or delayed his determination, I do not suppose that
it would ultimately have prevented the marriage, had it not been
seconded by the assurance which I hesitated not in giving, of your
sister’s indifference. He had before believed her to return his
affection with sincere, if not with equal regard.—But Bingley has
great natural modesty, with a stronger dependence on my
judgment than on his own.—To convince him, therefore, that he
had deceived himself, was no very difficult point. To persuade him
against returning into Hertfordshire, when that conviction had
been given, was scarcely the work of a moment.—I cannot blame
myself for having done thus much. There is but one part of my
conduct in the whole affair, on which I do not reflect with
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satisfaction; it is that I condescended to adopt the measures of art
so far as to conceal from him your sister’s being in town. I knew it
myself, as it was known to Miss Bingley, but her brother is even
yet ignorant of it.—That they might have met without ill
consequence, is perhaps probable;—but his regard did not appear
to me enough extinguished for him to see her without some
danger.—Perhaps this concealment, this disguise, was beneath
me.—It is done, however, and it was done for the best.—On this
subject I have nothing more to say, no other apology to offer. If I
have wounded your sister’s feelings, it was unknowingly done; and
though the motives which governed me may to you very naturally
appear insufficient, I have not yet learnt to condemn them.—With
respect to that other, more weighty accusation, of having injured
Mr. Wickham, I can only refute it by laying before you the whole of
his connection with my family. Of what he has particularly
accused me I am ignorant; but of the truth of what I shall relate, I
can summon more than one witness of undoubted veracity. Mr
Wickham is the son of a very respectable man, who had for many
years the management of all the Pemberley estates; and whose
good conduct in the discharge of his trust, naturally inclined my
father to be of service to him, and on George Wickham, who was
his god-son, his kindness was therefore liberally bestowed. My
father supported him at school, and afterwards at Cambridge;—
most important assistance, as his own father, always poor from the
extravagance of his wife, would have been unable to give him a
gentleman’s education. My father was not only fond of this young
man’s society, whose manners were always engaging; he had also
the highest opinion of him, and hoping the church would be his
profession, intended to provide for him in it. As for myself, it is
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many, many years since I first began to think of him in a very
different manner. The vicious propensities—the want of principle
which he was careful to guard from the knowledge of his best
friend, could not escape the observation of a young man of nearly
the same age with himself, and who had opportunities of seeing
him in unguarded moments, which Mr. Darcy could not have.
Here again I shall give you pain—to what degree you only can tell.
But whatever may be the sentiments which Mr. Wickham has
created, a suspicion of their nature shall not prevent me from
unfolding his real character. It adds even another motive. My
excellent father died about five years ago; and his attachment to
Mr. Wickham was to the last so steady, that in his will he
particularly recommended it to me, to promote his advancement
in the best manner that his profession might allow, and if he took
orders, desired that a valuable family living might be his as soon
as it became vacant. There was also a legacy of one thousand
pounds. His own father did not long survive mine, and within half
a year from these events, Mr. Wickham wrote to inform me that,
having finally resolved against taking orders, he hoped I should
not think it unreasonable for him to expect some more immediate
pecuniary advantage, in lieu of the preferment, by which he could
not be benefited. He had some intention, he added, of studying the
law, and I must be aware that the interest of one thousand pounds
would be a very insufficient support therein. I rather wished, than
believed him to be sincere; but at any rate, was perfectly ready to
accede to his proposal. I knew that Mr. Wickham ought not to be a
clergyman. The business was therefore soon settled. He resigned
all claim to assistance in the church, were it possible that he could
ever be in a situation to receive it, and accepted in return three
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thousand pounds. All connection between us seemed now
dissolved. I thought too ill of him, to invite him to Pemberley, or
admit his society in town. In town I believe he chiefly lived, but his
studying the law was a mere pretence, and being now free from all
restraint, his life was a life of idleness and dissipation. For about
three years I heard little of him; but on the decease of the
incumbent of the living which had been designed for him, he
applied to me again by letter for the presentation. His
circumstances, he assured me, and I had no difficulty in believing
it, were exceedingly bad. He had found the law a most
unprofitable study, and was now absolutely resolved on being
ordained, if I would present him to the living in question—of
which he trusted there could be little doubt, as he was well
assured that I had no other person to provide for, and I could not
have forgotten my revered father’s intentions. You will hardly
blame me for refusing to comply with this entreaty, or for resisting
every repetition of it. His resentment was in proportion to the
distress of his circumstances—and he was doubtless as violent in
his abuse of me to others, as in his reproaches to myself. After this
period, every appearance of acquaintance was dropt. How he lived
I know not. But last summer he was again most painfully obtruded
on my notice. I must now mention a circumstance which I would
wish to forget myself, and which no obligation less than the
present should induce me to unfold to any human being. Having
said thus much, I feel no doubt of your secrecy. My sister, who is
more than ten years my junior, was left to the guardianship of my
mother’s nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and myself. About a year
ago, she was taken from school, and an establishment formed for
her in London; and last summer she went with the lady who
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presided over it, to Ramsgate; and thither also went Mr. Wickham,
undoubtedly by design; for there proved to have been a prior
acquaintance between him and Mrs. Younge, in whose character
we were most unhappily deceived; and by her connivance and aid,
he so far recommended himself to Georgiana, whose affectionate
heart retained a strong impression of his kindness to her as a
child, that she was persuaded to believe herself in love, and to
consent to an elopement. She was then but fifteen, which must be
her excuse; and after stating her imprudence, I am happy to add,
that I owed the knowledge of it to herself. I joined them
unexpectedly a day or two before the intended elopement, and
then Georgiana, unable to support the idea of grieving and
offending a brother whom she almost looked up to as a father,
acknowledged the whole to me. You may imagine what I felt and
how I acted. Regard for my sister’s credit and feelings prevented
any public exposure, but I wrote to Mr. Wickham, who left the
place immediately, and Mrs. Younge was of course removed from
her charge. Mr. Wickham’s chief object was unquestionably my
sister’s fortune, which is thirty thousand pounds; but I cannot help
supposing that the hope of revenging himself on me, was a strong
inducement. His revenge would have been complete indeed. This,
madam, is a faithful narrative of every event in which we have
been concerned together; and if you do not absolutely reject it as
false, you will, I hope, acquit me henceforth of cruelty towards Mr.
Wickham. I know not in what manner, under what form of
falsehood he has imposed on you; but his success is not perhaps to
be wondered at. Ignorant as you previously were of every thing
concerning either, detection could not be in your power, and
suspicion certainly not in your inclination. You may possibly
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wonder why all this was not told you last night. But I was not then
master enough of myself to know what could or ought to be
revealed. For the truth of every thing here related, I can appeal
more particularly to the testimony of Colonel Fitzwilliam, who
from our near relationship and constant intimacy, and still more
as one of the executors of my father’s will, has been unavoidably
acquainted with every particular of these transactions. If your
abhorrence of me should make my assertions valueless, you cannot
be prevented by the same cause from confiding in my cousin; and
that there may be the possibility of consulting him, I shall
endeavour to find some opportunity of putting this letter in your
hands in the course of the morning. I will only add, God bless you.
‘Fitzwilliam Darcy.’
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f Elizabeth, when Mr. Darcy gave her the letter, did not
expect it to contain a renewal of his offers, she had formed no
expectation at all of its contents. But such as they were, it
may be well supposed how eagerly she went through them, and
what a contrariety of emotion they excited. Her feelings as she
read were scarcely to be defined. With amazement did she first
understand that he believed any apology to be in his power; and
steadfastly was she persuaded that he could have no explanation
to give, which a just sense of shame would not conceal. With a
strong prejudice against every thing he might say, she began his
account of what had happened at Netherfield. She read, with an
eagerness which hardly left her power of comprehension, and
from impatience of knowing what the next sentence might bring,
was incapable of attending to the sense of the one before her eyes.
His belief of her sister’s insensibility, she instantly resolved to be
false, and his account of the real, the worst objections to the
match, made her too angry to have any wish of doing him justice.
He expressed no regret for what he had done which satisfied her;
his style was not penitent, but haughty. It was all pride and
But when this subject was succeeded by his account of Mr.
Wickham, when she read with somewhat clearer attention, a
relation of events, which, if true, must overthrow every cherished
opinion of his worth, and which bore so alarming an affinity to his
own history of himself, her feelings were yet more acutely painful
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and more difficult of definition. Astonishment, apprehension, and
even horror, oppressed her. She wished to discredit it entirely,
repeatedly exclaiming, ‘This must be false! This cannot be! This
must be the grossest falsehood!’—and when she had gone through
the whole letter, though scarcely knowing any thing of the last
page or two, put it hastily away, protesting that she would not
regard it, that she would never look in it again.
In this perturbed state of mind, with thoughts that could rest on
nothing, she walked on; but it would not do; in half a minute the
letter was unfolded again, and collecting herself as well as she
could, she again began the mortifying perusal of all that related to
Wickham, and commanded herself so far as to examine the
meaning of every sentence. The account of his connection with the
Pemberley family, was exactly what he had related himself; and
the kindness of the late Mr. Darcy, though she had not before
known its extent, agreed equally well with his own words. So far
each recital confirmed the other: but when she came to the will,
the difference was great. What Wickham had said of the living was
fresh in her memory, and as she recalled his very words, it was
impossible not to feel that there was gross duplicity on one side or
the other; and, for a few moments, she flattered herself that her
wishes did not err. But when she read, and re-read with the
closest attention, the particulars immediately following of
Wickham’s resigning all pretensions to the living, of his receiving
in lieu, so considerable a sum as three thousand pounds, again
was she forced to hesitate. She put down the letter, weighed every
circumstance with what she meant to be impartiality—deliberated
on the probability of each statement—but with little success. On
both sides it was only assertion. Again she read on. But every line
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proved more clearly that the affair, which she had believed it
impossible that any contrivance could so represent, as to render
Mr. Darcy’s conduct in it less than infamous, was capable of a turn
which must make him entirely blameless throughout the whole.
The extravagance and general profligacy which he scrupled not
to lay to Mr. Wickham’s charge, exceedingly shocked her; the
more so, as she could bring no proof of its injustice. She had never
heard of him before his entrance into the —shire Militia, in which
he had engaged at the persuasion of the young man, who, on
meeting him accidentally in town, had there renewed a slight
acquaintance. Of his former way of life, nothing had been known
in Hertfordshire but what he told himself. As to his real character,
had information been in her power, she had never felt a wish of
enquiring. His countenance, voice, and manner, had established
him at once in the possession of every virtue. She tried to recollect
some instance of goodness, some distinguished trait of integrity or
benevolence, that might rescue him from the attacks of Mr. Darcy;
or at least, by the predominance of virtue, atone for those casual
errors, under which she would endeavour to class, what Mr. Darcy
had described as the idleness and vice of many years continuance.
But no such recollection befriended her. She could see him
instantly before her, in every charm of air and address; but she
could remember no more substantial good than the general
approbation of the neighbourhood, and the regard which his social
powers had gained him in the mess. After pausing on this point a
considerable while, she once more continued to read. But, alas!
the story which followed of his designs on Miss Darcy, received
some confirmation from what had passed between Colonel
Fitzwilliam and herself only the morning before; and at last she
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was referred for the truth of every particular to Colonel
Fitzwilliam himself—from whom she had previously received the
information of his near concern in all his cousin’s affairs, and
whose character she had no reason to question. At one time she
had almost resolved on applying to him, but the idea was checked
by the awkwardness of the application, and at length wholly
banished by the conviction that Mr. Darcy would never have
hazarded such a proposal, if he had not been well assured of his
cousin’s corroboration.
She perfectly remembered every thing that had passed in
conversation between Wickham and herself, in their first evening
at Mr. Philips’s. Many of his expressions were still fresh in her
memory. She was now struck with the impropriety of such
communications to a stranger, and wondered it had escaped her
before. She saw the indelicacy of putting himself forward as he
had done, and the inconsistency of his professions with his
conduct. She remembered that he had boasted of having no fear of
seeing Mr. Darcy—that Mr. Darcy might leave the country, but
that he should stand his ground; yet he had avoided the
Netherfield ball the very next week. She remembered also, that till
the Netherfield family had quitted the country, he had told his
story to no one but herself; but that after their removal, it had
been every where discussed; that he had then no reserves, no
scruples in sinking Mr. Darcy’s character, though he had assured
her that respect for the father, would always prevent his exposing
the son.
How differently did every thing now appear in which he was
concerned! His attentions to Miss King were now the consequence
of views solely and hatefully mercenary; and the mediocrity of her
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fortune proved no longer the moderation of his wishes, but his
eagerness to grasp at any thing. His behaviour to herself could
now have had no tolerable motive; he had either been deceived
with regard to her fortune, or had been gratifying his vanity by
encouraging the preference which she believed she had most
incautiously shewn. Every lingering struggle in his favour grew
fainter and fainter; and in farther justification of Mr. Darcy, she
could not but allow that Mr. Bingley, when questioned by Jane,
had long ago asserted his blamelessness in the affair; that proud
and repulsive as were his manners, she had never, in the whole
course of their acquaintance, an acquaintance which had latterly
brought them much together, and given her a sort of intimacy with
his ways, seen any thing that betrayed him to be unprincipled or
unjust—any thing that spoke him of irreligious or immoral habits.
That among his own connections he was esteemed and valued—
that even Wickham had allowed him merit as a brother, and that
she had often heard him speak so affectionately of his sister as to
prove him capable of some amiable feeling. That had his actions
been what Wickham represented them, so gross a violation of
every thing right could hardly have been concealed from the
world; and that friendship between a person capable of it, and
such an amiable man as Mr. Bingley, was incomprehensible.
She grew absolutely ashamed of herself.—Of neither Darcy nor
Wickham could she think, without feeling that she had been blind,
partial, prejudiced, absurd.
‘How despicably have I acted!’ she cried.—‘I, who have prided
myself on my discernment!—I, who have valued myself on my
abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my
sister, and gratified my vanity, in useless or blameable distrust.—
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How humiliating is this discovery!—Yet, how just a humiliation!—
Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind.
But vanity, not love, has been my folly.—Pleased with the
preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the
very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession
and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were
concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself.’
From herself to Jane—from Jane to Bingley, her thoughts were
in a line which soon brought to her recollection that Mr. Darcy’s
explanation there, had appeared very insufficient; and she read it
again. Widely different was the effect of a second perusal.—How
could she deny that credit to his assertions, in one instance, which
she had been obliged to give in the other?—He declared himself to
have been totally unsuspicious of her sister’s attachment;—and
she could not help remembering what Charlotte’s opinion had
always been.—Neither could she deny the justice of his
description of Jane.—She felt that Jane’s feelings, though fervent,
were little displayed, and that there was a constant complacency
in her air and manner, not often united with great sensibility.
When she came to that part of the letter in which her family
were mentioned, in terms of such mortifying, yet merited
reproach, her sense of shame was severe. The justice of the charge
struck her too forcibly for denial, and the circumstances to which
he particularly alluded, as having passed at the Netherfield ball,
and as confirming all his first disapprobation, could not have made
a stronger impression on his mind than on hers.
The compliment to herself and her sister, was not unfelt. It
soothed, but it could not console her for the contempt which had
been thus self-attracted by the rest of her family;—and as she
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considered that Jane’s disappointment had in fact been the work
of her nearest relations, and reflected how materially the credit of
both must be hurt by such impropriety of conduct, she felt
depressed beyond any thing she had ever known before.
After wandering along the lane for two hours, giving way to
every variety of thought; reconsidering events, determining
probabilities, and reconciling herself as well as she could, to a
change so sudden and so important, fatigue, and a recollection of
her long absence, made her at length return home; and she
entered the house with the wish of appearing cheerful as usual,
and the resolution of repressing such reflections as must make her
unfit for conversation.
She was immediately told, that the two gentlemen from Rosings
had each called during her absence; Mr. Darcy, only for a few
minutes to take leave, but that Colonel Fitzwilliam had been
sitting with them at least an hour, hoping for her return, and
almost resolving to walk after her till she could be found.—
Elizabeth could but just affect concern in missing him; she really
rejoiced at it. Colonel Fitzwilliam was no longer an object. She
could think only of her letter.
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he two gentlemen left Rosings the next morning; and Mr.
Collins having been in waiting near the lodges, to make
them his parting obeisance, was able to bring home the
pleasing intelligence, of their appearing in very good health, and
in as tolerable spirits as could be expected, after the melancholy
scene so lately gone through at Rosings. To Rosings he then
hastened to console Lady Catherine, and her daughter; and on his
return, brought back, with great satisfaction, a message from her
Ladyship, importing that she felt herself so dull as to make her
very desirous of having them all to dine with her.
Elizabeth could not see Lady Catherine without recollecting,
that had she chosen it, she might by this time have been presented
to her, as her future niece; nor could she think, without a smile, of
what her ladyship’s indignation would have been. ‘What would she
have said?—how would she have behaved?’ were questions with
which she amused herself.
Their first subject was the diminution of the Rosings party—‘I
assure you, I feel it exceedingly,’ said Lady Catherine; ‘I believe
nobody feels the loss of friends so much as I do. But I am
particularly attached to these young men; and know them to be so
much attached to me!—They were excessively sorry to go! But so
they always are. The dear colonel rallied his spirits tolerably till
just at last; but Darcy seemed to feel it most acutely, more I think
than last year. His attachment to Rosings, certainly increases.’
Mr. Collins had a compliment, and an allusion to throw in here,
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which were kindly smiled on by the mother and daughter.
Lady Catherine observed, after dinner, that Miss Bennet
seemed out of spirits, and immediately accounting for it herself, by
supposing that she did not like to go home again so soon, she
‘But if that is the case, you must write to your mother to beg
that you may stay a little longer. Mrs. Collins will be very glad of
your company, I am sure.’
‘I am much obliged to your ladyship for your kind invitation,’
replied Elizabeth, ‘but it is not in my power to accept it.—I must
be in town next Saturday.’
‘Why, at that rate, you will have been here only six weeks. I
expected you to stay two months. I told Mrs. Collins so before you
came. There can be no occasion for your going so soon. Mrs.
Bennet could certainly spare you for another fortnight.’
‘But my father cannot.—He wrote last week to hurry my
‘Oh! your father of course may spare you, if your mother can.—
Daughters are never of so much consequence to a father. And if
you will stay another month complete, it will be in my power to
take one of you as far as London, for I am going there early in
June, for a week; and as Dawson does not object to the Barouche
box, there will be very good room for one of you—and indeed, if
the weather should happen to be cool, I should not object to taking
you both, as you are neither of you large.’
‘You are all kindness, Madam; but I believe we must abide by
our original plan.’
Lady Catherine seemed resigned.
‘Mrs. Collins, you must send a servant with them. You know I
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always speak my mind, and I cannot bear the idea of two young
women travelling post by themselves. It is highly improper. You
must contrive to send somebody. I have the greatest dislike in the
world to that sort of thing.—Young women should always be
properly guarded and attended, according to their situation in life.
When my niece Georgiana went to Ramsgate last summer, I made
a point of her having two men servants go with her.—Miss Darcy,
the daughter of Mr. Darcy, of Pemberley, and Lady Anne, could
not have appeared with propriety in a different manner.—I am
excessively attentive to all those things. You must send John with
the young ladies, Mrs. Collins. I am glad it occurred to me to
mention it; for it would really be discreditable to you to let them go
‘My uncle is to send a servant for us.’
‘Oh!—Your uncle!—He keeps a man-servant, does he?—I am
very glad you have somebody who thinks of those things. Where
shall you change horses?—Oh! Bromley, of course.—If you
mention my name at the Bell, you will be attended to.’
Lady Catherine had many other questions to ask respecting
their journey, and as she did not answer them all herself, attention
was necessary, which Elizabeth believed to be lucky for her; or,
with a mind so occupied, she might have forgotten where she was.
Reflection must be reserved for solitary hours; whenever she was
alone, she gave way to it as the greatest relief; and not a day went
by without a solitary walk, in which she might indulge in all the
delight of unpleasant recollections.
Mr. Darcy’s letter, she was in a fair way of soon knowing by
heart. She studied every sentence: and her feelings towards its
writer were at times widely different. When she remembered the
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style of his address, she was still full of indignation; but when she
considered how unjustly she had condemned and upbraided him,
her anger was turned against herself; and his disappointed
feelings became the object of compassion. His attachment excited
gratitude, his general character respect; but she could not approve
him; nor could she for a moment repent her refusal, or feel the
slightest inclination ever to see him again. In her own past
behaviour, there was a constant source of vexation and regret; and
in the unhappy defects of her family a subject of yet heavier
chagrin. They were hopeless of remedy. Her father, contented
with laughing at them, would never exert himself to restrain the
wild giddiness of his youngest daughters; and her mother, with
manners so far from right herself, was entirely insensible of the
evil. Elizabeth had frequently united with Jane in an endeavour to
check the imprudence of Catherine and Lydia; but while they
were supported by their mother’s indulgence, what chance could
there be of improvement? Catherine, weak-spirited, irritable, and
completely under Lydia’s guidance, had been always affronted by
their advice; and Lydia, self-willed and careless, would scarcely
give them a hearing. They were ignorant, idle, and vain. While
there was an officer in Meryton, they would flirt with him; and
while Meryton was within a walk of Longbourn, they would be
going there for ever.
Anxiety on Jane’s behalf, was another prevailing concern, and
Mr. Darcy’s explanation, by restoring Bingley to all her former
good opinion, heightened the sense of what Jane had lost. His
affection was proved to have been sincere, and his conduct cleared
of all blame, unless any could attach to the implicitness of his
confidence in his friend. How grievous then was the thought that,
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of a situation so desirable in every respect, so replete with
advantage, so promising for happiness, Jane had been deprived,
by the folly and indecorum of her own family!
When to these recollections was added the developement of
Wickham’s character, it may be easily believed that the happy
spirits which had seldom been depressed before, were now so
much affected as to make it almost impossible for her to appear
tolerably cheerful.
Their engagements at Rosings were as frequent during the last
week of her stay, as they had been at first. The very last evening
was spent there; and her Ladyship again enquired minutely into
the particulars of their journey, gave them directions as to the best
method of packing, and was so urgent on the necessity of placing
gowns in the only right way, that Maria thought herself obliged, on
her return, to undo all the work of the morning, and pack her
trunk afresh.
When they parted, Lady Catherine, with great condescension,
wished them a good journey, and invited them to come to
Hunsford again next year; and Miss De Bourgh exerted herself so
far as to curtsey and hold out her hand to both.
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n Saturday morning Elizabeth and Mr. Collins met for
breakfast a few minutes before the others appeared; and
he took the opportunity of paying the parting civilities
which he deemed indispensably necessary.
‘I know not, Miss Elizabeth,’ said he, ‘whether Mrs. Collins has
yet expressed her sense of your kindness in coming to us, but I am
very certain you will not leave the house without receiving her
thanks for it. The favour of your company has been much felt, I
assure you. We know how little there is to tempt any one to our
humble abode. Our plain manner of living, our small rooms, and
few domestics, and the little we see of the world, must make
Hunsford extremely dull to a young lady like yourself; but I hope
you will believe us grateful for the condescension, and that we
have done every thing in our power to prevent your spending your
time unpleasantly.’
Elizabeth was eager with her thanks and assurances of
happiness. She had spent six weeks with great enjoyment; and the
pleasure of being with Charlotte, and the kind attentions she had
received, must make her feel the obliged. Mr Collins was gratified;
and with a more smiling solemnity replied,
‘It gives me the greatest pleasure to hear that you have passed
your time not disagreeably. We have certainly done our best; and
most fortunately having it in our power to introduce you to very
superior society, and from our connection with Rosings, the
frequent means of varying the humble home scene, I think we may
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flatter ourselves that your Hunsford visit cannot have been
entirely irksome. Our situation with regard to Lady Catherine’s
family is indeed the sort of extraordinary advantage and blessing
which few can boast. You see on what a footing we are. You see
how continually we are engaged there. In truth I must
acknowledge that, with all the disadvantages of this humble
parsonage, I should not think any one abiding in it an object of
compassion, while they are sharers of our intimacy at Rosings.
Words were insufficient for the elevation of his feelings. and he
was obliged to walk about the room, while Elizabeth tried to unite
civility and truth in a few short sentences.
‘You may, in fact, carry a very favourable report of us into
Hertfordshire, my dear cousin. I flatter myself at least that you will
be able to do so. Lady Catherine’s great attentions to Mrs. Collins
you have been a daily witness of; and altogether I trust it does not
appear that your friend has drawn an unfortunate—but on this
point it will be as well to be silent. Only let me assure you, my dear
Miss Elizabeth, that I can from my heart most cordially wish you
equal felicity in marriage. My dear Charlotte and I have but one
mind and one way of thinking. There is in every thing a most
remarkable resemblance of character and ideas between us. We
seem to have been designed for each other.’
Elizabeth could safely say that it was a great happiness where
that was the case, and with equal sincerity could add that she
firmly believed and rejoiced in his domestic comforts. She was not
sorry, however, to have the recital of them interrupted by the
entrance of the lady from whom they sprung. Poor Charlotte!—it
was melancholy to leave her to such society!—But she had chosen
it with her eyes open; and though evidently regretting that her
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visitors were to go, she did not seem to ask for compassion. Her
home and her housekeeping, her parish and her poultry, and all
their dependent concerns, had not yet lost their charms.
At length the chaise arrived, the trunks were fastened on, the
parcels placed within, and it was pronounced to be ready. After an
affectionate parting between the friends, Elizabeth was attended
to the carriage by Mr. Collins, and as they walked down the
garden, he was commissioning her with his best respects to all her
family, not forgetting his thanks for the kindness he had received
at Longbourn in the winter, and his compliments to Mr. and Mrs.
Gardiner, though unknown. He then handed her in, Maria
followed, and the door was on the point of being closed, when he
suddenly reminded them, with some consternation, that they had
hitherto forgotten to leave any message for the ladies of Rosings.
‘But,’ he added, ‘you will of course wish to have your humble
respects delivered to them, with your grateful thanks for their
kindness to you while you have been here.’
Elizabeth made no objection;—the door was then allowed to be
shut, and the carriage drove off.
‘Good gracious!’ cried Maria, after a few minutes silence, ‘it
seems but a day or two since we first came!—and yet how many
things have happened!’
‘A great many indeed,’ said her companion with a sigh.
‘We have dined nine times at Rosings, besides drinking tea
there twice!—How much I shall have to tell!’
Elizabeth privately added, ‘And how much I shall have to
Their journey was performed without much conversation, or
any alarm; and within four hours of their leaving Hunsford, they
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reached Mr. Gardiner’s house, where they were to remain a few
Jane looked well, and Elizabeth had little opportunity of
studying her spirits, amidst the various engagements which the
kindness of her aunt had reserved for them. But Jane was to go
home with her, and at Longbourn there would be leisure enough
for observation.
It was not without an effort meanwhile that she could wait even
for Longbourn, before she told her sister of Mr. Darcy’s proposals.
To know that she had the power of revealing what would so
exceedingly astonish Jane, and must, at the same time, so highly
gratify whatever of her own vanity she had not yet been able to
reason away, was such a temptation to openness as nothing could
have conquered, but the state of indecision in which she remained,
as to the extent of what she should communicate; and her fear, if
she once entered on the subject, of being hurried into repeating
something of Bingley, which might only grieve her sister farther.
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t was the second week in May, in which the three young
ladies set out together from Gracechurch-street, for the town
of — in Hertfordshire; and, as they drew near the appointed
inn where Mr. Bennet’s carriage was to meet them, they quickly
perceived, in token of the coachman’s punctuality, both Kitty and
Lydia looking out of a dining room up stairs. These two girls had
been above an hour in the place, happily employed in visiting an
opposite milliner, watching the sentinel on guard, and dressing a
sallad and cucumber.
After welcoming their sisters, they triumphantly displayed a
table set out with such cold meat as an inn larder usually affords,
exclaiming, ‘Is not this nice? is not this an agreeable surprise?’
‘And we mean to treat you all,’ added Lydia; ‘but you must lend
us the money, for we have just spent ours at the shop out there.’
Then shewing her purchases: ‘Look here, I have bought this
bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as
well buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, and
see if I can make it up any better.’
And when her sisters abused it as ugly, she added, with perfect
unconcern, ‘Oh! but there were two or three much uglier in the
shop; and when I have bought some prettier-coloured satin to trim
it with fresh, I think it will be very tolerable. Besides, it will not
much signify what one wears this summer, after the —shire have
left Meryton, and they are going in a fortnight.’
‘Are they indeed?’ cried Elizabeth, with the greatest
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‘They are going to be encamped near Brighton; and I do so
want papa to take us all there for the summer! It would be such a
delicious scheme, and I dare say would hardly cost any thing at all.
Mamma would like to go too of all things! Only think what a
miserable summer else we shall have!’
‘Yes,’ thought Elizabeth, ‘that would be a delightful scheme,
indeed, and completely do for us at once. Good Heaven! Brighton,
and a whole campful of soldiers, to us, who have been overset
already by one poor regiment of militia, and the monthly balls of
‘Now I have got some news for you,’ said Lydia, as they sat
down to table. ‘What do you think? It is excellent news, capital
news, and about a certain person that we all like.’
Jane and Elizabeth looked at each other, and the waiter was
told that he need not stay. Lydia laughed, and said,
‘Aye, that is just like your formality and discretion. You thought
the waiter must not hear, as if he cared! I dare say he often hears
worse things said than I am going to say. But he is an ugly fellow! I
am glad he is gone. I never saw such a long chin in my life. Well,
but now for my news: it is about dear Wickham; too good for the
waiter, is not it? There is no danger of Wickham’s marrying Mary
King. There’s for you! She is gone down to her uncle at Liverpool;
gone to stay. Wickham is safe.’
‘And Mary King is safe!’ added Elizabeth; ‘safe from a
connection imprudent as to fortune.’
‘She is a great fool for going away, if she liked him.’
‘But I hope there is no strong attachment on either side,’ said
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‘I am sure there is not on his. I will answer for it he never cared
three straws about her. Who could about such a nasty little
freckled thing?’
Elizabeth was shocked to think that, however incapable of such
coarseness of expression herself, the coarseness of the sentiment
was little other than her own breast had formerly harboured and
fancied liberal!
As soon as all had ate, and the elder ones paid, the carriage was
ordered; and after some contrivance, the whole party, with all
their boxes, workbags, and parcels, and the unwelcome addition of
Kitty’s and Lydia’s purchases, were seated in it.
‘How nicely we are crammed in!’ cried Lydia. ‘I am glad I
bought my bonnet, if it is only for the fun of having another
bandbox! Well, now let us be quite comfortable and snug, and talk
and laugh all the way home. And in the first place, let us hear what
has happened to you all, since you went away. Have you seen any
pleasant men? Have you had any flirting? I was in great hopes
that one of you would have got a husband before you came back.
Jane will be quite an old maid soon, I declare. She is almost three
and twenty! Lord, how ashamed I should be of not being married
before three and twenty! My aunt Philips wants you so to get
husbands, you can’t think. She says Lizzy had better have taken
Mr. Collins; but I do not think there would have been any fun in it.
Lord! how I should like to be married before any of you; and then I
would chaperon you about to all the balls. Dear me! we had such a
good piece of fun the other day at Colonel Forster’s. Kitty and me
were to spend the day there, and Mrs. Forster promised to have a
little dance in the evening; (by the bye, Mrs. Forster and me are
such friends!) and so she asked the two Harringtons to come, but
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Harriet was ill, and so Pen was forced to come by herself; and
then, what do you think we did? We dressed up Chamberlayne in
woman’s clothes, on purpose to pass for a lady,—only think what
fun! Not a soul knew of it, but Col. and Mrs. Forster, and Kitty and
me, except my aunt, for we were forced to borrow one of her
gowns and you cannot imagine how well he looked! When Denny,
and Wickham, and Pratt, and two or three more of the men came
in, they did not know him in the least. Lord! how I laughed! and so
did Mrs. Forster. I thought I should have died. And that made the
men suspect something, and then they soon found out what was
the matter.
With such kind of histories of their parties and good jokes, did
Lydia, assisted by Kitty’s hints and additions, endeavour to amuse
her companions all the way to Longbourn. Elizabeth listened as
little as she could, but there was no escaping the frequent mention
of Wickham’s name.
Their reception at home was most kind. Mrs. Bennet rejoiced to
see Jane in undiminished beauty; and more than once during
dinner did Mr. Bennet say voluntarily to Elizabeth,
‘I am glad you are come back, Lizzy.’
Their party in the dining-room was large, for almost all the
Lucases came to meet Maria and hear the news; and various were
the subjects which occupied them; Lady Lucas was enquiring of
Maria across the table, after the welfare and poultry of her eldest
daughter; Mrs. Bennet was doubly engaged, on one hand
collecting an account of the present fashions from Jane, who sat
some way below her, and on the other, retailing them all to the
younger Miss Lucases; and Lydia, in a voice rather louder than
any other person’s, was enumerating the various pleasures of the
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morning to any body who would hear her.
‘Oh! Mary,’ said she, ‘I wish you had gone with us, for we had
such fun! as we went along, Kitty and me drew up all the blinds,
and pretended there was nobody in the coach; and I should have
gone so all the way, if Kitty had not been sick; and when we got to
the George, I do think we behaved very handsomely, for we
treated the other three with the nicest cold luncheon in the world,
and if you would have gone, we would have treated you too. And
then when we came away it was such fun! I thought we never
should have got into the coach. I was ready to die of laughter. And
then we were so merry all the way home! we talked and laughed
so loud, that any body might have heard us ten miles off!’
To this, Mary very gravely replied, ‘Far be it from me, my dear
sister, to depreciate such pleasures. They would doubtless be
congenial with the generality of female minds. But I confess they
would have no charms for me. I should infinitely prefer a book.’
But of this answer Lydia heard not a word. She seldom listened
to any body for more than half a minute, and never attended to
Mary at all.
In the afternoon Lydia was urgent with the rest of the girls to
walk to Meryton and see how every body went on; but Elizabeth
steadily opposed the scheme. It should not be said, that the Miss
Bennets could not be at home half a day before they were in
pursuit of the officers. There was another reason too for her
opposition. She dreaded seeing Wickham again, and was resolved
to avoid it as long as possible. The comfort to her, of the regiment’s
approaching removal, was indeed beyond expression. In a
fortnight they were to go, and once gone, she hoped there could be
nothing more to plague her on his account.
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She had not been many hours at home, before she found that
the Brighton scheme, of which Lydia had given them a hint at the
inn, was under frequent discussion between her parents.
Elizabeth saw directly that her father had not the smallest
intention of yielding; but his answers were at the same time so
vague and equivocal, that her mother, though often disheartened,
had never yet despaired of succeeding at last.
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lizabeth’s impatience to acquaint Jane with what had
happened could no longer be overcome; and at length
resolving to suppress every particular in which her sister
was concerned, and preparing her to be surprised, she related to
her the next morning the chief of the scene between Mr. Darcy
and herself.
Miss Bennet’s astonishment was soon lessened by the strong
sisterly partiality which made any admiration of Elizabeth appear
perfectly natural; and all surprise was shortly lost in other
feelings. She was sorry that Mr. Darcy should have delivered his
sentiments in a manner so little suited to recommend them; but
still more was she grieved for the unhappiness which her sister’s
refusal must have given him.
‘His being so sure of succeeding, was wrong,’ said she; ‘and
certainly ought not to have appeared; but consider how much it
must increase his disappointment.’
‘Indeed,’ replied Elizabeth, ‘I am heartily sorry for him; but he
has other feelings which will probably soon drive away his regard
for me. You do not blame me, however, for refusing him?’
‘Blame you! Oh, no.’
‘But you blame me for having spoken so warmly of Wickham.’
‘No—I do not know that you were wrong in saying what you
‘But you will know it, when I have told you what happened the
very next day.’
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She then spoke of the letter, repeating the whole of its contents
as far as they concerned George Wickham. What a stroke was this
for poor Jane! who would willingly have gone through the world
without believing that so much wickedness existed in the whole
race of mankind, as was here collected in one individual. Nor was
Darcy’s vindication, though grateful to her feelings, capable of
consoling her for such discovery. Most earnestly did she labour to
prove the probability of error, and seek to clear one, without
involving the other.
‘This will not do,’ said Elizabeth. ‘You never will be able to
make both of them good for any thing. Take your choice, but you
must be satisfied with only one. There is but such a quantity of
merit between them; just enough to make one good sort of man;
and of late it has been shifting about pretty much. For my part, I
am inclined to believe it all Mr. Darcy’s, but you shall do as you
It was some time, however, before a smile could be extorted
from Jane.
‘I do not know when I have been more shocked,’ said she.
‘Wickham so very bad! It is almost past belief. And poor Mr.
Darcy! dear Lizzy, only consider what he must have suffered.
Such a disappointment! and with the knowledge of your ill opinion
too! and having to relate such a thing of his sister! It is really too
distressing. I am sure you must feel it so.’
‘Oh! no, my regret and compassion are all done away by seeing
you so full of both. I know you will do him such ample justice, that
I am growing every moment more unconcerned and indifferent.
Your profusion makes me saving; and if you lament over him
much longer, my heart will be as light as a feather.’
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‘Poor Wickham; there is such an expression of goodness in his
countenance! such an openness and gentleness in his manner.
‘There certainly was some great mismanagement in the
education of those two young men. One has got all the goodness,
and the other all the appearance of it.’
‘I never thought Mr. Darcy so deficient in the appearance of it
as you used to do.’
‘And yet I meant to be uncommonly clever in taking so decided
a dislike to him, without any reason. It is such a spur to one’s
genius, such an opening for wit to have a dislike of that kind. One
may be continually abusive without saying any thing just; but one
cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then
stumbling on something witty.’
‘Lizzy, when you first read that letter, I am sure you could not
treat the matter as you do now.’
‘Indeed I could not. I was uncomfortable enough. I was very
uncomfortable, I may say unhappy. And with no one to speak to, of
what I felt, no Jane to comfort me and say that I had not been so
very weak and vain and nonsensical as I knew I had! Oh! how I
wanted you!’
‘How unfortunate that you should have used such very strong
expressions in speaking of Wickham to Mr. Darcy, for now they do
appear wholly undeserved.’
‘Certainly. But the misfortune of speaking with bitterness, is a
most natural consequence of the prejudices I had been
encouraging. There is one point, on which I want your advice. I
want to be told whether I ought, or ought not to make our
acquaintance in general understand Wickham’s character.’
Miss Bennet paused a little and then replied, ‘Surely there can
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be no occasion for exposing him so dreadfully. What is your own
‘That it ought not to be attempted. Mr. Darcy has not
authorised me to make his communication public. On the contrary
every particular relative to his sister, was meant to be kept as
much as possible to myself; and if I endeavour to undeceive people
as to the rest of his conduct, who will believe me? The general
prejudice against Mr. Darcy is so violent, that it would be the
death of half the good people in Meryton, to attempt to place him
in an amiable light. I am not equal to it. Wickham will soon be
gone; and therefore it will not signify to anybody here, what he
really is. Sometime hence it will be all found out, and then we may
laugh at their stupidity in not knowing it before. At present I will
say nothing about it.’
‘You are quite right. To have his errors made public might ruin
him for ever. He is now perhaps sorry for what he has done, and
anxious to re-establish a character. We must not make him
The tumult of Elizabeth’s mind was allayed by this conversation.
She had got rid of two of the secrets which had weighed
on her for a fortnight, and was certain of a willing listener in Jane,
whenever she might wish to talk again of either. But there was still
something lurking behind, of which prudence forbad the
disclosure. She dared not relate the other half of Mr. Darcy’s
letter, nor explain to her sister how sincerely she had been valued
by his friend. Here was knowledge in which no one could partake;
and she was sensible that nothing less than a perfect
understanding between the parties could justify her in throwing
off this last incumbrance of mystery. ‘And then,’ said she, ‘if that
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very improbable event should ever take place, I shall merely be
able to tell what Bingley may tell in a much more agreeable
manner himself. The liberty of communication cannot be mine till
it has lost all its value!’
She was now, on being settled at home, at leisure to observe the
real state of her sister’s spirits. Jane was not happy. She still
cherished a very tender affection for Bingley. Having never even
fancied herself in love before, her regard had all the warmth of
first attachment, and from her age and disposition, greater
steadiness than first attachments often boast; and so fervently did
she value his remembrance, and prefer him to every other man,
that all her good sense, and all her attention to the feelings of her
friends, were requisite to check the indulgence of those regrets,
which must have been injurious to her own health and their
‘Well, Lizzy,’ said Mrs. Bennet one day, ‘what is your opinion
now of this sad business of Jane’s? For my part, I am determined
never to speak of it again to anybody. I told my sister Philips so the
other day. But I cannot find out that Jane saw any thing of him in
London. Well, he is a very undeserving young man—and I do not
suppose there is the least chance in the world of her ever getting
him now. There is no talk of his coming to Netherfield again in the
summer; and I have enquired of every body too, who is likely to
‘I do not believe that he will ever live at Netherfield any more.
‘Oh, well! it is just as he chooses. Nobody wants him to come.
Though I shall always say that he used my daughter extremely ill;
and if I was her, I would not have put up with it. Well, my comfort
is, I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart, and then he will be
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sorry for what he has done.’
But as Elizabeth could not receive comfort from any such
expectation, she made no answer.
‘Well, Lizzy,’ continued her mother soon afterwards, ‘and so the
Collinses live very comfortable, do they? Well, well, I only hope it
will last. And what sort of table do they keep? Charlotte is an
excellent manager, I dare say. If she is half as sharp as her mother,
she is saving enough. There is nothing extravagant in their
housekeeping, I dare say.’
‘No, nothing at all.’
‘A great deal of good management, depend upon it. Yes, yes.
They will take care not to outrun their income. They will never be
distressed for money. Well, much good may it do them! And so, I
suppose, they often talk of having Longbourn when your father is
dead. They look upon it quite as their own, I dare say, whenever
that happens.’
‘It was a subject which they could not mention before me.’
‘No. It would have been strange if they had. But I make no
doubt, they often talk of it between themselves. Well, if they can be
easy with an estate that is not lawfully their own, so much the
better. I should be ashamed of having one that was only entailed
on me.’
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he first week of their return was soon gone. The second
began. It was the last of the regiment’s stay in Meryton,
and all the young ladies in the neighbourhood were
drooping apace. The dejection was almost universal. The elder
Miss Bennets alone were still able to eat, drink, and sleep, and
pursue the usual course of their employments. Very frequently
were they reproached for this insensibility by Kitty and Lydia,
whose own misery was extreme, and who could not comprehend
such hard-heartedness in any of the family.
‘Good Heaven! What is to become of us! What are we to do!’
would they often exclaim in the bitterness of woe. ‘How can you be
smiling so, Lizzy?’
Their affectionate mother shared all their grief; she remembered
what she had herself endured on a similar occasion, five and
twenty years ago.
‘I am sure,’ said she, ‘I cried for two days together when Colonel
Millar’s regiment went away. I thought I should have broke my
‘I am sure I shall break mine,’ said Lydia.
‘If one could but go to Brighton!’ observed Mrs. Bennet.
‘Oh, yes!—if one could but go to Brighton! But papa is so
‘A little sea-bathing would set me up for ever.’
‘And my aunt Philips is sure it would do me a great deal of
good,’ added Kitty.
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Such were the kind of lamentations resounding perpetually
through Longbourn-house. Elizabeth tried to be diverted by them;
but all sense of pleasure was lost in shame. She felt anew the
justice of Mr. Darcy’s objections; and never had she before been so
much disposed to pardon his interference in the views of his
But the gloom of Lydia’s prospect was shortly cleared away; for
she received an invitation from Mrs. Forster, the wife of the
Colonel of the regiment, to accompany her to Brighton. This
invaluable friend was a very young woman, and very lately
married. A resemblance in good humour and good spirits had
recommended her and Lydia to each other, and out of their three
months’ acquaintance they had been intimate two.
The rapture of Lydia on this occasion, her adoration of Mrs.
Forster, the delight of Mrs. Bennet, and the mortification of Kitty,
are scarcely to be described. Wholly inattentive to her sister’s
feelings, Lydia flew about the house in restless ecstasy, calling for
every one’s congratulations, and laughing and talking with more
violence than ever; whilst the luckless Kitty continued in the
parlour repining at her fate in terms as unreasonable as her accent
was peevish.
‘I cannot see why Mrs. Forster should not ask me as well as
Lydia,’ said she, ‘though I am not her particular friend. I have just
as much right to be asked as she has, and more too, for I am two
years older.’
In vain did Elizabeth attempt to make her reasonable, and Jane
to make her resigned. As for Elizabeth herself, this invitation was
so far from exciting in her the same feelings as in her mother and
Lydia, that she considered it as the death-warrant of all possibility
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of common sense for the latter; and detestable as such a step must
make her were it known, she could not help secretly advising her
father not to let her go. She represented to him all the
improprieties of Lydia’s general behaviour, the little advantage
she could derive from the friendship of such a woman as Mrs.
Forster, and the probability of her being yet more imprudent with
such a companion at Brighton, where the temptations must be
greater than at home. He heard her attentively, and then said,
‘Lydia will never be easy till she has exposed herself in some
public place or other, and we can never expect her to do it with so
little expense or inconvenience to her family as under the present
‘If you were aware,’ said Elizabeth, ‘of the very great disadvantage
to us all, which must arise from the public notice of
Lydia’s unguarded and imprudent manner; nay, which has
already arisen from it, I am sure you would judge differently in the
‘Already arisen!’ repeated Mr. Bennet. ‘What, has she
frightened away some of your lovers? Poor little Lizzy! But do not
be cast down. Such squeamish youths as cannot bear to be
connected with a little absurdity, are not worth a regret. Come, let
me see the list of the pitiful fellows who have been kept aloof by
Lydia’s folly.’
‘Indeed you are mistaken. I have no such injuries to resent. It is
not of peculiar, but of general evils, which I am now complaining.
Our importance, our respectability in the world, must be affected
by the wild volatility, the assurance and disdain of all restraint
which mark Lydia’s character. Excuse me—for I must speak
plainly. If you, my dear father, will not take the trouble of checking
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her exuberant spirits, and of teaching her that her present
pursuits are not to be the business of her life, she will soon be
beyond the reach of amendment. Her character will be fixed, and
she will, at sixteen, be the most determined flirt that ever made
herself and her family ridiculous. A flirt too, in the worst and
meanest degree of flirtation; without any attraction beyond youth
and a tolerable person; and from the ignorance and emptiness of
her mind, wholly unable to ward off any portion of that universal
contempt which her rage for admiration will excite. In this danger
Kitty is also comprehended. She will follow wherever Lydia leads.
Vain, ignorant, idle, and absolutely uncontrouled! Oh! my dear
father, can you suppose it possible that they will not be censured
and despised wherever they are known, and that their sisters will
not be often involved in the disgrace?’
Mr. Bennet saw that her whole heart was in the subject; and
affectionately taking her hand, said in reply,
‘Do not make yourself uneasy, my love. Wherever you and Jane
are known, you must be respected and valued; and you will not
appear to less advantage for having a couple of—or I may say,
three very silly sisters. We shall have no peace at Longbourn if
Lydia does not go to Brighton. Let her go then. Colonel Forster is
a sensible man, and will keep her out of any real mischief; and she
is luckily too poor to be an object of prey to any body. At Brighton
she will be of less importance even as a common flirt than she has
been here. The officers will find women better worth their notice.
Let us hope, therefore, that her being there may teach her her own
insignificance. At any rate, she cannot grow many degrees worse,
without authorizing us to lock her up for the rest of her life.’
With this answer Elizabeth was forced to be content; but her
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own opinion continued the same, and she left him disappointed
and sorry. It was not in her nature, however, to increase her
vexations, by dwelling on them. She was confident of having
performed her duty, and to fret over unavoidable evils, or augment
them by anxiety, was no part of her disposition.
Had Lydia and her mother known the substance of her
conference with her father, their indignation would hardly have
found expression in their united volubility. In Lydia’s imagination,
a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly
happiness. She saw with the creative eye of fancy, the streets of
that gay bathing place covered with officers. She saw herself the
object of attention, to tens and to scores of them at present
unknown. She saw all the glories of the camp; its tents stretched
forth in beauteous uniformity of lines, crowded with the young
and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet; and to complete the view,
she saw herself seated beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with at
least six officers at once.
Had she known that her sister sought to tear her from such
prospects and such realities as these, what would have been her
sensations? They could have been understood only by her mother,
who might have felt nearly the same. Lydia’s going to Brighton
was all that consoled her for the melancholy conviction of her
husband’s never intending to go there himself.
But they were entirely ignorant of what had passed; and their
raptures continued with little intermission to the very day of
Lydia’s leaving home.
Elizabeth was now to see Mr. Wickham for the last time. Having
been frequently in company with him since her return, agitation
was pretty well over; the agitations of former partiality entirely so.
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She had even learnt to detect, in the very gentleness which had
first delighted her, an affectation and a sameness to disgust and
weary. In his present behaviour to herself, moreover, she had a
fresh source of displeasure, for the inclination he soon testified of
renewing those attentions which had marked the early part of
their acquaintance, could only serve, after what had since passed,
to provoke her. She lost all concern for him in finding herself thus
selected as the object of such idle and frivolous gallantry and while
she steadily repressed it, could not but feel the reproof contained
in his believing, that however long, and for whatever cause, his
attentions had been withdrawn, her vanity would be gratified and
her preference secured at any time by their renewal.
On the very last day of the regiment’s remaining in Meryton, he
dined with others of the officers at Longbourn; and so little was
Elizabeth disposed to part from him in good humour, that on his
making some enquiry as to the manner in which her time had
passed at Hunsford, she mentioned Colonel Fitzwilliam’s and Mr.
Darcy’s having both spent three weeks at Rosings, and asked him
if he were acquainted with the former.
He looked surprised, displeased, alarmed; but with a moment’s
recollection and a returning smile, replied, that he had formerly
seen him often; and after observing that he was a very
gentlemanlike man, asked her how she had liked him. Her answer
was warmly in his favour. With an air of indifference he soon
afterwards added, ‘How long did you say that he was at Rosings?’
‘Nearly three weeks.’
‘And you saw him frequently?’
‘Yes, almost every day.’
‘His manners are very different from his cousin’s.’
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‘Yes, very different. But I think Mr. Darcy improves on
‘Indeed!’ cried Wickham with a look which did not escape her.
‘And pray may I ask?’ but checking himself, he added in a gayer
tone, ‘Is it in address that he improves? Has he deigned to add
ought of civility to his ordinary style? for I dare not hope,’ he
continued in a lower and more serious tone, ‘that he is improved
in essentials.’
‘Oh, no!’ said Elizabeth. ‘In essentials, I believe, he is very much
what he ever was.’
While she spoke, Wickham looked as if scarcely knowing
whether to rejoice over her words, or to distrust their meaning.
There was a something in her countenance which made him listen
with an apprehensive and anxious attention, while she added,
‘When I said that he improved on acquaintance, I did not mean
that either his mind or manners were in a state of improvement,
but that from knowing him better, his disposition was better
Wickham’s alarm now appeared in a heightened complexion
and agitated look; for a few minutes he was silent; till, shaking off
his embarrassment, he turned to her again, and said in the
gentlest of accents,
‘You, who so well know my feelings towards Mr. Darcy, will
readily comprehend how sincerely I must rejoice that he is wise
enough to assume even the appearance of what is right. His pride,
in that direction, may be of service, if not to himself, to many
others, for it must deter him from such foul misconduct as I have
suffered by. I only fear that the sort of cautiousness, to which you,
I imagine, have been alluding, is merely adopted on his visits to his
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aunt, of whose good opinion and judgment he stands much in awe.
His fear of her, has always operated, I know, when they were
together; and a good deal is to be imputed to his wish of
forwarding the match with Miss De Bourgh, which I am certain he
has very much at heart.’
Elizabeth could not repress a smile at this, but she answered
only by a slight inclination of the head. She saw that he wanted to
engage her on the old subject of his grievances, and she was in no
humour to indulge him. The rest of the evening passed with the
appearance, on his side, of usual cheerfulness, but with no farther
attempt to distinguish Elizabeth; and they parted at last with
mutual civility, and possibly a mutual desire of never meeting
When the party broke up, Lydia returned with Mrs. Forster to
Meryton, from whence they were to set out early the next
morning. The separation between her and her family was rather
noisy than pathetic. Kitty was the only one who shed tears; but she
did weep from vexation and envy. Mrs. Bennet was diffuse in her
good wishes for the felicity of her daughter, and impressive in her
injunctions that she would not miss the opportunity of enjoying
herself as much as possible; advice, which there was every reason
to believe would be attended to; and in the clamorous happiness of
Lydia herself in bidding farewell, the more gentle adieus of her
sisters were uttered without being heard.
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ad Elizabeth’s opinion been all drawn from her own
family, she could not have formed a very pleasing
picture of conjugal felicity or domestic comfort. Her
father captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of
good humour, which youth and beauty generally give, had married
a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind, had very
early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her.
Respect, esteem, and confidence, had vanished for ever; and all his
views of domestic happiness were overthrown. But Mr. Bennet
was not of a disposition to seek comfort for the disappointment
which his own imprudence had brought on, in any of those
pleasures which too often console the unfortunate for their folly or
their vice. He was fond of the country and of books; and from
these tastes had arisen his principal enjoyments. To his wife he
was very little otherwise indebted, than as her ignorance and folly
had contributed to his amusement. This is not the sort of
happiness which a man would in general wish to owe to his wife;
but where other powers of entertainment are wanting, the true
philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given.
Elizabeth, however, had never been blind to the impropriety of
her father’s behaviour as a husband. She had always seen it with
pain; but respecting his abilities, and grateful for his affectionate
treatment of herself, she endeavoured to forget what she could not
overlook, and to banish from her thoughts that continual breach of
conjugal obligation and decorum which, in exposing his wife to the
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contempt of her own children, was so highly reprehensible. But
she had never felt so strongly as now, the disadvantages which
must attend the children of so unsuitable a marriage, nor ever
been so fully aware of the evils arising from so ill-judged a
direction of talents; talents which rightly used, might at least have
preserved the respectability of his daughters, even if incapable of
enlarging the mind of his wife.
When Elizabeth had rejoiced over Wickham’s departure, she
found little other cause for satisfaction in the loss of the regiment.
Their parties abroad were less varied than before; and at home
she had a mother and sister whose constant repinings at the
dulness of every thing around them, threw a real gloom over their
domestic circle; and, though Kitty might in time regain her natural
degree of sense, since the disturbers of her brain were removed,
her other sister, from whose disposition greater evil might be
apprehended, was likely to be hardened in all her folly and
assurance, by a situation of such double danger as a watering
place and a camp. Upon the whole, therefore, she found, what has
been sometimes found before, that an event to which she had
looked forward with impatient desire, did not in taking place,
bring all the satisfaction she had promised herself. It was
consequently necessary to name some other period for the
commencement of actual felicity; to have some other point on
which her wishes and hopes might be fixed, and by again enjoying
the pleasure of anticipation, console herself for the present, and
prepare for another disappointment. Her tour to the Lakes was
now the object of her happiest thoughts; it was her best consolation
for all the uncomfortable hours, which the discontentedness
of her mother and Kitty made inevitable; and could she have
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included Jane in the scheme, every part of it would have been
‘But it is fortunate,’ thought she, ‘that I have something to wish
for. Were the whole arrangement complete, my disappointment
would be certain. But here, by my carrying with me one ceaseless
source of regret in my sister’s absence, I may reasonably hope to
have all my expectations of pleasure realized. A scheme of which
every part promises delight, can never be successful; and general
disappointment is only warded off by the defence of some little
peculiar vexation.’
When Lydia went away, she promised to write very often and
very minutely to her mother and Kitty; but her letters were always
long expected, and always very short. Those to her mother,
contained little else, than that they were just returned from the
library, where such and such officers had attended them, and
where she had seen such beautiful ornaments as made her quite
wild; that she had a new gown, or a new parasol, which she would
have described more fully, but was obliged to leave off in a violent
hurry, as Mrs. Forster called her, and they were going to the
camp;—and from her correspondence with her sister, there was
still less to be learnt—for her letters to Kitty, though rather longer,
were much too full of lines under the words to be made public.
After the first fortnight or three weeks of her absence, health,
good humour and cheerfulness began to re-appear at Longbourn.
Everything wore a happier aspect. The families who had been in
town for the winter came back again, and summer finery and
summer engagements arose. Mrs. Bennet was restored to her
usual querulous serenity, and by the middle of June Kitty was so
much recovered as to be able to enter Meryton without tears; an
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event of such happy promise as to make Elizabeth hope, that by
the following Christmas, she might be so tolerably reasonable as
not to mention an officer above once a day, unless by some cruel
and malicious arrangement at the war-office, another regiment
should be quartered in Meryton.
The time fixed for the beginning of their Northern tour was
now fast approaching, and a fortnight only was wanting of it, when
a letter arrived from Mrs. Gardiner, which at once delayed its
commencement and curtailed its extent. Mr. Gardiner would be
prevented by business from setting out till a fortnight later in July,
and must be in London again within a month; and as that left too
short a period for them to go so far, and see so much as they had
proposed, or at least to see it with the leisure and comfort they had
built on, they were obliged to give up the Lakes, and substitute a
more contracted tour; and, according to the present plan, were to
go no farther northward than Derbyshire. In that county, there
was enough to be seen, to occupy the chief of their three weeks;
and to Mrs. Gardiner it had a peculiarly strong attraction. The
town where she had formerly passed some years of her life, and
where they were now to spend a few days, was probably as great
an object of her curiosity, as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock,
Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak.
Elizabeth was excessively disappointed; she had set her heart
on seeing the Lakes; and still thought there might have been time
enough. But it was her business to be satisfied—and certainly her
temper to be happy; and all was soon right again.
With the mention of Derbyshire, there were many ideas
connected. It was impossible for her to see the word without
thinking of Pemberley and its owner. ‘But surely,’ said she, ‘I may
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enter his county with impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars
without his perceiving me.’
The period of expectation was now doubled. Four weeks were
to pass away before her uncle and aunt’s arrival. But they did pass
away, and Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, with their four children, did at
length appear at Longbourn. The children, two girls of six and
eight years old, and two younger boys, were to be left under the
particular care of their cousin Jane, who was the general favourite,
and whose steady sense and sweetness of temper exactly adapted
her for attending to them in every way—teaching them, playing
with them, and loving them.
The Gardiners staid only one night at Longbourn, and set off
the next morning with Elizabeth in pursuit of novelty and
amusement. One enjoyment was certain—that of suitableness as
companions; a suitableness which comprehended health and
temper to bear inconveniences—cheerfulness to enhance every
pleasure—and affection and intelligence, which might supply it
among themselves if there were disappointments abroad.
It is not the object of this work to give a description of
Derbyshire, nor of any of the remarkable places through which
their route thither lay; Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenelworth,
Birmingham, &c. are sufficiently known. A small part of
Derbyshire is all the present concern. To the little town of
Lambton, the scene of Mrs. Gardiner’s former residence, and
where she had lately learned that some acquaintance still
remained, they bent their steps, after having seen all the principal
wonders of the country; and within five miles of Lambton,
Elizabeth found from her aunt, that Pemberley was situated. It
was not in their direct road, nor more than a mile or two out of it.
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In talking over their route the evening before, Mrs. Gardiner
expressed an inclination to see the place again. Mr. Gardiner
declared his willingness, and Elizabeth was applied to for her
‘My love, should not you like to see a place of which you have
heard so much?’ said her aunt. ‘A place too, with which so many of
your acquaintance are connected. Wickham passed all his youth
there, you know.’
Elizabeth was distressed. She felt that she had no business at
Pemberley, and was obliged to assume a disinclination for seeing
it. She must own that she was tired of great houses; after going
over so many, she really had no pleasure in fine carpets or satin
Mrs. Gardiner abused her stupidity. ‘If it were merely a fine
house richly furnished,’ said she, ‘I should not care about it myself;
but the grounds are delightful. They have some of the finest woods
in the country.’
Elizabeth said no more—but her mind could not acquiesce. The
possibility of meeting Mr. Darcy, while viewing the place, instantly
occurred. It would be dreadful! She blushed at the very idea; and
thought it would be better to speak openly to her aunt, than to run
such a risk. But against this, there were objections; and she finally
resolved that it could be the last resource, if her private enquiries
as to the absence of the family, were unfavourably answered.
Accordingly, when she retired at night, she asked the
chambermaid whether Pemberley were not a very fine place, what
was the name of its proprietor, and with no little alarm, whether
the family were down for the summer. A most welcome negative
followed the last question—and her alarms being now removed,
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she was at leisure to feel a great deal of curiosity to see the house
herself; and when the subject was revived the next morning, and
she was again applied to, could readily answer, and with a proper
air of indifference, that she had not really any dislike to the
To Pemberley, therefore, they were to go.
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lizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first
appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation;
and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits
were in a high flutter.
The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground.
They entered it in one of its lowest points, and drove for some time
through a beautiful wood, stretching over a wide extent.
Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and
admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually
ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a
considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was
instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite
side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound.
It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising
ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills;—and in front, a
stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but
without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal,
nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a
place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty
had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all
of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt,
that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!
They descended the hill, crossed the bridge, and drove to the
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door; and, while examining the nearer aspect of the house, all her
apprehensions of meeting its owner returned. She dreaded lest
the chambermaid had been mistaken. On applying to see the
place, they were admitted into the hall; and Elizabeth, as they
waited for the housekeeper, had leisure to wonder at her being
where she was.
The housekeeper came: a respectable-looking, elderly woman,
much less fine, and more civil, than she had any notion of finding
her. They followed her into the dining-parlour. It was a large, wellproportioned
room, handsomely fitted up. Elizabeth, after slightly
surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect. The hill,
crowned with wood, from which they had descended, receiving
increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object.
Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the
whole scene, the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the
winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it, with delight. As
they passed into other rooms, these objects were taking different
positions; but from every window there were beauties to be seen.
The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furniture suitable
to the fortune of their proprietor; but Elizabeth saw with
admiration of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly
fine; with less of splendour, and more real elegance, than the
furniture of Rosings.
‘And of this place,’ thought she, ‘I might have been mistress!
With these rooms I might now have been familiarly acquainted!
Instead of viewing them as a stranger, I might have rejoiced in
them as my own, and welcomed to them as visitors my uncle and
aunt.—But no,’ recollecting herself, ‘that could never be: my uncle
and aunt would have been lost to me; I should not have been
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allowed to invite them.’
This was a lucky recollection—it saved her from something like
She longed to enquire of the housekeeper, whether her master
were really absent, but had not courage for it. At length, however,
the question was asked by her uncle; and she turned away with
alarm, while Mrs. Reynolds replied, that he was, adding, ‘but we
expect him tomorrow, with a large party of friends.’ How rejoiced
was Elizabeth that their own journey had not by any circumstance
been delayed a day!
Her aunt now called her to look at a picture. She approached,
and saw the likeness of Mr. Wickham suspended, amongst several
other miniatures, over the mantle-piece. Her aunt asked her,
smilingly, how she liked it. The housekeeper came forward, and
told them it was the picture of a young gentleman, the son of her
late master’s steward, who had been brought up by him at his own
expence.—‘He is now gone into the army,’ she added, ‘but I am
afraid he has turned out very wild.’
Mrs. Gardiner looked at her niece with a smile, but Elizabeth
could not return it.
‘And that,’ said Mrs. Reynolds, pointing to another of the
miniatures, ‘is my master—and very like him. It was drawn at the
same time as the other—about eight years ago.
‘I have heard much of your master’s fine person,’ said Mrs.
Gardiner, looking at the picture; ‘it is a handsome face. But, Lizzy,
you can tell us whether it is like or not.’
Mrs. Reynolds’s respect for Elizabeth seemed to increase on
this intimation of her knowing her master.
‘Does that young lady know Mr. Darcy?’
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Elizabeth coloured, and said—‘A little.’
‘And do not you think him a very handsome gentleman,
‘Yes, very handsome.’
‘I am sure I know none so handsome; but in the gallery up
stairs you will see a finer, larger picture of him than this. This
room was my late master’s favourite room, and these miniatures
are just as they used to be then. He was very fond of them.’
This accounted to Elizabeth for Mr. Wickham’s being among
Mrs. Reynolds then directed their attention to one of Miss
Darcy, drawn when she was only eight years old.
‘And is Miss Darcy as handsome as her brother?’ said Mr.
‘Oh! yes—the handsomest young lady that ever was seen and so
accomplished!—She plays and sings all day long. In the next room
is a new instrument just come down for her—a present from my
master; she comes here to-morrow with him.’
Mr. Gardiner, whose manners were easy and pleasant,
encouraged her communicativeness by his questions and remarks;
Mrs. Reynolds, either from pride or attachment, had evidently
great pleasure in talking of her master and his sister.
‘Is your master much at Pemberley in the course of the year?’
‘Not so much as I could wish, Sir; but I dare say he may spend
half his time here; and Miss Darcy is always down for the summer
‘Except,’ thought Elizabeth, ‘when she goes to Ramsgate.’
‘If your master would marry, you might see more of him.’
‘Yes, Sir; but I do not know when that will be. I do not know
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who is good enough for him.’
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner smiled. Elizabeth could not help saying,
‘It is very much to his credit, I am sure, that you should think so.’
‘I say no more than the truth, and what every body will say that
knows him,’ replied the other. Elizabeth thought this was going
pretty far; and she listened with increasing astonishment as the
housekeeper added, ‘I have never had a cross word from him in
my life, and I have known him ever since he was four years old.’
This was praise, of all others most extraordinary, most opposite
to her ideas. That he was not a good-tempered man, had been her
firmest opinion. Her keenest attention was awakened; she longed
to hear more, and was grateful to her uncle for saying,
‘There are very few people of whom so much can be said. You
are lucky in having such a master.’
‘Yes, Sir, I know I am. If I was to go through the world, I could
not meet with a better. But I have always observed, that they who
are good-natured when children, are good-natured when they
grow up; and he was always the sweetest-tempered, most
generous-hearted, boy in the world.’
Elizabeth almost stared at her.—‘Can this be Mr. Darcy!’
thought she.
‘His father was an excellent man,’ said Mrs. Gardiner.
‘Yes, Ma’am, that he was indeed; and his son will be just like
him—just as affable to the poor.’
Elizabeth listened, wondered, doubted, and was impatient for
more. Mrs. Reynolds could interest her on no other point. She
related the subject of the pictures, the dimensions of the rooms,
and the price of the furniture, in vain. Mr. Gardiner, highly
amused by the kind of family prejudice, to which he attributed her
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excessive commendation of her master, soon led again to the
subject; and she dwelt with energy on his many merits, as they
proceeded together up the great staircase.
‘He is the best landlord, and the best master,’ said she, ‘that
ever lived. Not like the wild young men now-a-days, who think of
nothing but themselves. There is not one of his tenants or servants
but what will give him a good name. Some people call him proud;
but I am sure I never saw any thing of it. To my fancy, it is only
because he does not rattle away like other young men.’
‘In what an amiable light does this place him!’ thought
‘This fine account of him,’ whispered her aunt, as they walked,
‘is not quite consistent with his behaviour to our poor friend.’
‘Perhaps we might be deceived.’
‘That is not very likely; our authority was too good.’
On reaching the spacious lobby above, they were shewn into a
very pretty sitting-room, lately fitted up with greater elegance and
lightness than the apartments below; and were informed that it
was but just done, to give pleasure to Miss Darcy, who had taken a
liking to the room, when last at Pemberley.
‘He is certainly a good brother,’ said Elizabeth, as she walked
towards one of the windows.
Mrs. Reynolds anticipated Miss Darcy’s delight, when she
should enter the room. ‘And this is always the way with him,’ she
added.—‘Whatever can give his sister any pleasure, is sure to be
done in a moment. There is nothing he would not do for her.’
The picture gallery, and two or three of the principal bedrooms,
were all that remained to be shewn. In the former were many good
paintings; but Elizabeth knew nothing of the art; and from such as
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had been already visible below, she had willingly turned to look at
some drawings of Miss Darcy’s, in crayons, whose subjects were
usually more interesting, and also more intelligible.
In the gallery there were many family portraits, but they could
have little to fix the attention of a stranger. Elizabeth walked on in
quest of the only face whose features would be known to her. At
last it arrested her—and she beheld a striking resemblance of Mr.
Darcy, with such a smile over the face, as she remembered to have
sometimes seen, when he looked at her. She stood several minutes
before the picture in earnest contemplation, and returned to it
again before they quitted the gallery. Mrs. Reynolds informed
them, that it had been taken in his father’s life time.
There was certainly at this moment, in Elizabeth’s mind, a
more gentle sensation towards the original, than she had ever felt
in the height of their acquaintance. The commendation bestowed
on him by Mrs. Reynolds was of no trifling nature. What praise is
more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant? As a
brother, a landlord, a master, she considered how many people’s
happiness were in his guardianship!—How much of pleasure or
pain it was in his power to bestow!—How much of good or evil
must be done by him! Every idea that had been brought forward
by the housekeeper was favourable to his character, and as she
stood before the canvas, on which he was represented, and fixed
his eyes upon herself; she thought of his regard with a deeper
sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before; she
remembered its warmth, and softened its impropriety of
When all of the house that was open to general inspection had
been seen, they returned down stairs, and taking leave of the
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housekeeper, were consigned over to the gardener, who met them
at the hall door.
As they walked across the lawn towards the river, Elizabeth
turned back to look again; her uncle and aunt stopped also, and
while the former was conjecturing as to the date of the building,
the owner of it himself suddenly came forward from the road,
which led behind it to the stables.
They were within twenty yards of each other, and so abrupt
was his appearance, that it was impossible to avoid his sight. Their
eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of each were overspread with
the deepest blush. He absolutely started, and for a moment
seemed immoveable from surprise; but shortly recovering himself,
advanced towards the party, and spoke to Elizabeth, if not in
terms of perfect composure, at least of perfect civility.
She had instinctively turned away; but, stopping on his
approach, received his compliments with an embarrassment
impossible to be overcome. Had his first appearance, or his
resemblance to the picture they had just been examining, been
insufficient to assure the other two that they now saw Mr. Darcy,
the gardener’s expression of surprise, on beholding his master,
must immediately have told it. They stood a little aloof while he
was talking to their niece, who, astonished and confused, scarcely
dared lift her eyes to his face, and knew not what answer she
returned to his civil enquiries after her family. Amazed at the
alteration in his manner since they last parted, every sentence that
he uttered was increasing her embarrassment; and every idea of
the impropriety of her being found there, recurring to her mind,
the few minutes in which they continued together, were some of
the most uncomfortable of her life. Nor did he seem much more at
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ease; when he spoke, his accent had none of its usual sedateness;
and he repeated his enquiries as to the time of her having left
Longbourn, and of her stay in Derbyshire, so often, and in so
hurried a way, as plainly spoke the distraction of his thoughts.
At length, every idea seemed to fail him; and, after standing a
few moments without saying a word, he suddenly recollected
himself; and took leave.
The others then joined her, and expressed their admiration of
his figure; but Elizabeth heard not a word, and, wholly engrossed
by her own feelings, followed them in silence. She was
overpowered by shame and vexation. Her coming there was the
most unfortunate, the most ill-judged thing in the world! How
strange must it appear to him! In what a disgraceful light might it
not strike so vain a man! It might seem as if she had purposely
thrown herself in his way again! Oh! why did she come? or, why
did he thus come a day before he was expected? Had they been
only ten minutes sooner, they should have been beyond the reach
of his discrimination, for it was plain that he was that moment
arrived, that moment alighted from his horse or his carriage. She
blushed again and again over the perverseness of the meeting.
And his behaviour, so strikingly altered,—what could it mean?
That he should even speak to her was amazing!—but to speak with
such civility, to enquire after her family! Never in her life had she
seen his manners so little dignified, never had he spoken with
such gentleness as on this unexpected meeting. What a contrast
did it offer to his last address in Rosings Park, when he put his
letter into her hand! She knew not what to think, nor how to
account for it.
They had now entered a beautiful walk by the side of the water,
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and every step was bringing forward a nobler fall of ground, or a
finer reach of the woods to which they were approaching; but it
was some time before Elizabeth was sensible of any of it; and,
though she answered mechanically to the repeated appeals of her
uncle and aunt, and seemed to direct her eyes to such objects as
they pointed out, she distinguished no part of the scene. Her
thoughts were all fixed on that one spot of Pemberley House,
whichever it might be, where Mr. Darcy then was. She longed to
know what at that moment was passing in his mind; in what
manner he thought of her, and whether, in defiance of every thing,
she was still dear to him. Perhaps he had been civil, only because
he felt himself at ease; yet there had been that in his voice, which
was not like ease. Whether he had felt more of pain or of pleasure
in seeing her, she could not tell, but he certainly had not seen her
with composure.
At length, however, the remarks of her companions on her
absence of mind roused her, and she felt the necessity of
appearing more like herself.
They entered the woods, and bidding adieu to the river for a
while, ascended some of the higher grounds; whence, in spots
where the opening of the trees gave the eye power to wander,
were many charming views of the valley, the opposite hills, with
the long range of woods overspreading many, and occasionally
part of the stream. Mr. Gardiner expressed a wish of going round
the whole Park, but feared it might be beyond a walk. With a
triumphant smile, they were told, that it was ten miles round. It
settled the matter; and they pursued the accustomed circuit;
which brought them again, after some time, in a descent among
hanging woods, to the edge of the water, in one of its narrowest
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parts. They crossed it by a simple bridge, in character with the
general air of the scene it was a spot less adorned than any they
had yet visited; and the valley, here contracted into a glen, allowed
room only for the stream, and a narrow walk amidst the rough
coppice-wood which bordered it. Elizabeth longed to explore its
windings; but when they had crossed the bridge, and perceived
their distance from the house, Mrs. Gardiner, who was not a great
walker, could go no farther, and thought only of returning to the
carriage as quickly as possible. Her niece was, therefore, obliged
to submit, and they took their way towards the house on the
opposite side of the river, in the nearest direction; but their
progress was slow, for Mr. Gardiner, though seldom able to
indulge the taste, was very fond of fishing, and was so much
engaged in watching the occasional appearance of some trout in
the water, and talking to the man about them, that he advanced
but little. Whilst wandering on in this slow manner, they were
again surprised, and Elizabeth’s astonishment was quite equal to
what it had been at first, by the sight of Mr. Darcy approaching
them, and at no great distance. The walk being here less sheltered
than on the other side, allowed them to see him before they met.
Elizabeth, however astonished, was at least more prepared for an
interview than before, and resolved to appear and to speak with
calmness, if he really intended to meet them. For a few moments,
indeed, she felt that he would probably strike into some other
path. This idea lasted while a turning in the walk concealed him
from their view; the turning past, he was immediately before
them. With a glance she saw, that he had lost none of his recent
civility; and, to imitate his politeness, she began, as they met, to
admire the beauty of the place; but she had not got beyond the
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words ‘delightful,’ and ‘charming,’ when some unlucky
recollections obtruded, and she fancied that praise of Pemberley
from her, might be mischievously construed. Her colour changed,
and she said no more.
Mrs. Gardiner was standing a little behind; and on her pausing,
he asked her, if she would do him the honour of introducing him
to her friends. This was a stroke of civility for which she was quite
unprepared; and she could hardly suppress a smile, at his being
now seeking the acquaintance of some of those very people,
against whom his pride had revolted, in his offer to herself. ‘What
will be his surprise,’ thought she, ‘when he knows who they are!
He takes them now for people of fashion.’
The introduction, however, was immediately made; and as she
named their relationship to herself; she stole a sly look at him, to
see how he bore it; and was not without the expectation of his
decamping as fast as he could from such disgraceful companions.
That he was surprised by the connexion was evident; he sustained
it however with fortitude, and so far from going away, turned back
with them, and entered into conversation with Mr. Gardiner.
Elizabeth could not but be pleased, could not but triumph. It was
consoling, that he should know she had some relations for whom
there was no need to blush. She listened most attentively to all
that passed between them, and gloried in every expression, every
sentence of her uncle, which marked his intelligence, his taste, or
his good manners.
The conversation soon turned upon fishing, and she heard Mr.
Darcy invite him, with the greatest civility, to fish there as often as
he chose, while he continued in the neighbourhood, offering at the
same time to supply him with fishing tackle, and pointing out
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those parts of the stream where there was usually most sport. Mrs.
Gardiner, who was walking arm in arm with Elizabeth, gave her a
look expressive of her wonder. Elizabeth said nothing, but it
gratified her exceedingly; the compliment must be all for herself.
Her astonishment, however, was extreme; and continually was she
repeating, ‘Why is he so altered? From what can it proceed? It
cannot be for me, it cannot be for my sake that his manners are
thus softened. My reproofs at Hunsford could not work such a
change as this. It is impossible that he should still love me.’
After walking some time in this way, the two ladies in front, the
two gentlemen behind, on resuming their places, after descending
to the brink of the river for the better inspection of some curious
water-plant, there chanced to be a little alteration. It originated in
Mrs. Gardiner, who, fatigued by the exercise of the morning, found
Elizabeth’s arm inadequate to her support, and consequently
preferred her husband’s. Mr. Darcy took her place by her niece,
and they walked on together. After a short silence, the lady first
spoke. She wished him to know that she had been assured of his
absence before she came to the place, and accordingly began by
observing, that his arrival had been very unexpected—‘for your
housekeeper,’ she added, ‘informed us that you would certainly
not be here till to-morrow; and indeed, before we left Bakewell, we
understood that you were not immediately expected in the
country.’ He acknowledged the truth of it all; and said that
business with his steward had occasioned his coming forward a
few hours before the rest of the party with whom he had been
travelling. ‘They will join me early tomorrow,’ he continued, ‘and
among them are some who will claim an acquaintance with you,—
Mr. Bingley and his sisters.’
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Elizabeth answered only by a slight bow. Her thoughts were
instantly driven back to the time when Mr. Bingley’s name had
been last mentioned between them; and if she might judge from
his complexion, his mind was not very differently engaged.
‘There is also one other person in the party,’ he continued after
a pause, ‘who more particularly wishes to be known to you,—Will
you allow me, or do I ask too much, to introduce my sister to your
acquaintance during your stay at Lambton?’
The surprise of such an application was great indeed; it was too
great for her to know in what manner she acceded to it. She
immediately felt that whatever desire Miss Darcy might have of
being acquainted with her, must be the work of her brother, and
without looking farther, it was satisfactory; it was gratifying to
know that his resentment had not made him think really ill of her.
They now walked on in silence; each of them deep in thought.
Elizabeth was not comfortable; that was impossible; but she was
flattered and pleased. His wish of introducing his sister to her, was
a compliment of the highest kind. They soon outstripped the
others, and when they had reached the carriage, Mr. and Mrs.
Gardiner were half a quarter of a mile behind.
He then asked her to walk into the house—but she declared
herself not tired, and they stood together on the lawn. At such a
time, much might have been said, and silence was very awkward.
She wanted to talk, but there seemed an embargo on every
subject. At last she recollected that she had been travelling, and
they talked of Matlock and Dove Dale with great perseverance. Yet
time and her aunt moved slowly—and her patience and her ideas
were nearly worn out before the tête-à-tête was over. On Mr. and
Mrs. Gardiner’s coming up, they were all pressed to go into the
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house and take some refreshment; but this was declined, and they
parted on each side with the utmost politeness. Mr. Darcy handed
the ladies into the carriage, and when it drove off, Elizabeth saw
him walking slowly towards the house.
The observations of her uncle and aunt now began and each of
them pronounced him to be infinitely superior to any thing they
had expected. ‘He is perfectly well behaved, polite, and
unassuming,’ said her uncle.
‘There is something a little stately in him to be sure,’ replied
her aunt, ‘but it is confined to his air, and is not unbecoming. I can
now say with the housekeeper, that though some people may call
him proud, I have seen nothing of it.’
‘I was never more surprised than by his behaviour to us. It was
more than civil; it was really attentive; and there was no necessity
for such attention. His acquaintance with Elizabeth was very
‘To be sure. Lizzy,’ said her aunt, ‘he is not so handsome as
Wickham; or rather he has not Wickham’s countenance, for his
features are perfectly good. But how came you to tell us that he
was so disagreeable?’
Elizabeth excused herself as well as she could; said that she had
liked him better when they met in Kent than before, and that she
had never seen him so pleasant as this morning.
‘But perhaps he may be a little whimsical in his civilities,’
replied her uncle. ‘Your great men often are and therefore I shall
not take him at his word about fishing, as he might change his
mind another day, and warn me off his grounds.’
Elizabeth felt that they had entirely mistaken his character, but
said nothing.
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‘From what we have seen of him,’ continued Mrs. Gardiner, ‘I
really should not have thought that he could have behaved in so
cruel a way by any body, as he has done by poor Wickham. He has
not an ill-natured look. On the contrary, there is something
pleasing about his mouth when he speaks. And there is something
of dignity in his countenance, that would not give one an
unfavourable idea of his heart. But to be sure, the good lady who
shewed us the house, did give him a most flaming character! I
could hardly help laughing aloud sometimes. But he is a liberal
master, I suppose, and that in the eye of a servant comprehends
every virtue.’
Elizabeth here felt herself called on to say something in
vindication of his behaviour to Wickham; and therefore gave them
to understand, in as guarded a manner as she could, that by what
she had heard from his relations in Kent, his actions were capable
of a very different construction; and that his character was by no
means so faulty, nor Wickham’s so amiable, as they had been
considered in Hertfordshire. In confirmation of this, she related
the particulars of all the pecuniary transactions in which they had
been connected, without actually naming her authority, but
stating it to be such as might be relied on.
Mrs. Gardiner was surprised and concerned; but as they were
now approaching the scene of her former pleasures, every idea
gave way to the charm of recollection; and she was too much
engaged in pointing out to her husband all the interesting spots in
its environs, to think of any thing else. Fatigued as she had been
by the morning’s walk, they had no sooner dined than she set off
again in quest of her former acquaintance, and the evening was
spent in the satisfactions of an intercourse renewed after many
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years discontinuance.
The occurrences of the day were too full of interest to leave
Elizabeth much attention for any of these new friends; and she
could do nothing but think, and think with wonder, of Mr. Darcy’s
civility, and above all, of his wishing her to be acquainted with his
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lizabeth had settled it that Mr. Darcy would bring his
sister to visit her, the very day after her reaching
Pemberley; and was consequently resolved not to be out
of sight of the inn the whole of that morning. But her conclusion
was false; for on the very morning after their own arrival at
Lambton, these visitors came. They had been walking about the
place with some of their new friends, and were just returned to the
inn to dress themselves for dining with the same family, when the
sound of a carriage drew them to a window, and they saw a
gentleman and lady in a curricle, driving up the street. Elizabeth
immediately recognising the livery, guessed what it meant, and
imparted no small degree of surprise to her relations, by
acquainting them with the honour which she expected. Her uncle
and aunt were all amazement, and the embarrassment of her
manner as she spoke, joined to the circumstance itself, and many
of the circumstances of the preceding day, opened to them a new
idea on the business. Nothing had ever suggested it before, but
they now felt that there was no other way of accounting for such
attentions from such a quarter, than by supposing a partiality for
their niece. While these newly-born notions were passing in their
heads, the perturbation of Elizabeth’s feelings was every moment
increasing. She was quite amazed at her own discomposure; but
amongst other causes of disquiet, she dreaded lest the partiality of
the brother should have said too much in her favour; and more
than commonly anxious to please, she naturally suspected that
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every power of pleasing would fail her.
She retreated from the window, fearful of being seen and as she
walked up and down the room, endeavouring to compose herself,
saw such looks of enquiring surprise in her uncle and aunt, as
made every thing worse.
Miss Darcy and her brother appeared, and this formidable
introduction took place. With astonishment did Elizabeth see, that
her new acquaintance was at least as much embarrassed as
herself. Since her being at Lambton, she had heard that Miss
Darcy was exceedingly proud; but the observation of a very few
minutes convinced her, that she was only exceedingly shy. She
found it difficult to obtain even a word from her beyond a
Miss Darcy was tall, and on a larger scale than Elizabeth; and,
though little more than sixteen, her figure was formed, and her
appearance womanly and graceful. She was less handsome than
her brother, but there was sense and good humour in her face,
and her manners were perfectly unassuming and gentle.
Elizabeth, who had expected to find in her as acute and
unembarrassed an observer as ever Mr. Darcy had been, was
much relieved by discerning such different feelings.
They had not been long together, before Darcy told her that
Bingley was also coming to wait on her; and she had barely time to
express her satisfaction, and prepare for such a visitor, when
Bingley’s quick step was heard on the stairs, and in a moment he
entered the room. All Elizabeth’s anger against him had been long
done away; but, had she still felt any, it could hardly have stood its
ground against the unaffected cordiality with which he expressed
himself, on seeing her again. He enquired in a friendly, though
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general way, after her family, and looked and spoke with the same
good-humoured ease that he had ever done.
To Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner he was scarcely a less interesting
personage than to herself. They had long wished to see him. The
whole party before them, indeed, excited a lively attention. The
suspicions which had just arisen of Mr. Darcy and their niece,
directed their observation towards each with an earnest, though
guarded, enquiry; and they soon drew from those enquiries the
full conviction that one of them at least knew what it was to love.
Of the lady’s sensations they remained a little in doubt; but that
the gentleman was overflowing with admiration was evident
Elizabeth, on her side, had much to do. She wanted to ascertain
the feelings of each of her visitors, she wanted to compose her
own, and to make herself agreeable to all; and in the latter object,
where she feared most to fail, she was most sure of success, for
those to whom she endeavoured to give pleasure were
prepossessed in her favour. Bingley was ready, Georgiana was
eager, and Darcy determined, to be pleased.
In seeing Bingley, her thoughts naturally flew to her sister; and
oh! how ardently did she long to know, whether any of his were
directed in a like manner. Sometimes she could fancy, that he
talked less than on former occasions, and once or twice pleased
herself with the notion that as he looked at her, he was trying to
trace a resemblance. But, though this might be imaginary, she
could not be deceived as to his behaviour to Miss Darcy, who had
been set up as a rival of Jane. No look appeared on either side that
spoke particular regard. Nothing occurred between them that
could justify the hopes of his sister. On this point she was soon
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satisfied: and two or three little circumstances occurred ere they
parted, which, in her anxious interpretation, denoted a
recollection of Jane, not untinctured by tenderness, and a wish of
saying more that might lead to the mention of her, had he dared.
He observed to her, at a moment when the others were talking
together, and in a tone which had something of real regret, that it
‘was a very long time since he had had the pleasure of seeing her;’
and, before she could reply, he added, ‘It is above eight months.
We have not met since the 26th of November, when we were all
dancing together at Netherfield.’
Elizabeth was pleased to find his memory so exact; and he
afterwards took occasion to ask her, when unattended to by any of
the rest, whether all her sisters were at Longbourn. There was not
much in the question, nor in the preceding remark, but there was
a look and a manner which gave them meaning.
It was not often that she could turn her eyes on Mr. Darcy
himself; but, whenever she did catch a glimpse, she saw an
expression of general complaisance, and in all that he said, she
heard an accent so far removed from hauteur or disdain of his
companions, as convinced her that the improvement of manners
which she had yesterday witnessed, however temporary its
existence might prove, had at least outlived one day. When she
saw him thus seeking the acquaintance, and courting the good
opinion of people with whom any intercourse a few months ago
would have been a disgrace; when she saw him thus civil, not only
to herself, but to the very relations whom he had openly disdained,
and recollected their last lively scene in Hunsford Parsonage, the
difference, the change was so great, and struck so forcibly on her
mind, that she could hardly restrain her astonishment from being
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visible. Never, even in the company of his dear friends at
Netherfield, or his dignified relations at Rosings, had she seen him
so desirous to please, so free from self-consequence, or unbending
reserve as now, when no importance could result from the success
of his endeavours, and when even the acquaintance of those to
whom his attentions were addressed, would draw down the
ridicule and censure of the ladies both of Netherfield and Rosings.
Their visitors staid with them above half an hour, and when
they arose to depart, Mr. Darcy called on his sister to join him in
expressing their wish of seeing Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, and Miss
Bennet, to dinner at Pemberley, before they left the country. Miss
Darcy, though with a diffidence which marked her little in the
habit of giving invitations, readily obeyed. Mrs. Gardiner looked at
her niece, desirous of knowing how she, whom the invitation most
concerned, felt disposed as to its acceptance, but Elizabeth had
turned away her head. Presuming, however, that this studied
avoidance spoke rather a momentary embarrassment, than any
dislike of the proposal, and seeing in her husband, who was fond
of society, a perfect willingness to accept it, she ventured to
engage for her attendance, and the day after the next was fixed on.
Bingley expressed great pleasure in the certainty of seeing
Elizabeth again, having still a great deal to say to her, and many
enquiries to make after all their Hertfordshire friends. Elizabeth,
construing all this into a wish of hearing her speak of her sister,
was pleased; and on this account, as well as some others, found
herself, when their visitors left them, capable of considering the
last half hour with some satisfaction, though while it was passing,
the enjoyment of it had been little. Eager to be alone, and fearful of
enquiries or hints from her uncle and aunt, she staid with them
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only long enough to hear their favourable opinion of Bingley, and
then hurried away to dress.
But she had no reason to fear Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner’s
curiosity; it was not their wish to force her communication. It was
evident that she was much better acquainted with Mr. Darcy than
they had before any idea of; it was evident that he was very much
in love with her. They saw much to interest, but nothing to justify
Of Mr. Darcy it was now a matter of anxiety to think well; and,
as far as their acquaintance reached, there was no fault to find.
They could not be untouched by his politeness, and had they
drawn his character from their own feelings, and his servant’s
report, without any reference to any other account, the circle in
Hertfordshire to which he was known, would not have recognised
it for Mr. Darcy. There was now an interest, however, in believing
the housekeeper; and they soon became sensible, that the
authority of a servant who had known him since he was four years
old, and whose own manners indicated respectability, was not to
be hastily rejected. Neither had any thing occurred in the
intelligence of their Lambton friends, that could materially lessen
its weight. They had nothing to accuse him of but pride; pride he
probably had, and if not, it would certainly be imputed by the
inhabitants of a small market-town, where the family did not visit.
It was acknowledged, however, that he was a liberal man, and did
much good among the poor.
With respect to Wickham, the travellers soon found that he was
not held there in much estimation; for though the chief of his
concerns, with the son of his patron, were imperfectly understood,
it was yet a well known fact that, on his quitting Derbyshire, he
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had left many debts behind him, which Mr. Darcy afterwards
As for Elizabeth, her thoughts were at Pemberley this evening
more than the last; and the evening, though as it passed it seemed
long, was not long enough to determine her feelings towards one
in that mansion; and she lay awake two whole hours,
endeavouring to make them out. She certainly did not hate him.
No; hatred had vanished long ago, and she had almost as long
been ashamed of ever feeling a dislike against him, that could be
so called. The respect created by the conviction of his valuable
qualities, though at first unwillingly admitted, had for some time
ceased to be repugnant to her feelings; and it was now heightened
into somewhat of a friendlier nature, by the testimony so highly in
his favour, and bringing forward his disposition in so amiable a
light, which yesterday had produced. But above all, above respect
and esteem, there was a motive within her of good will which
could not be overlooked. It was gratitude.—Gratitude, not merely
for having once loved her, but for loving her still well enough, to
forgive all the petulance and acrimony of her manner in rejecting
him, and all the unjust accusations accompanying her rejection.
He who, she had been persuaded, would avoid her as his greatest
enemy, seemed, on this accidental meeting, most eager to preserve
the acquaintance, and without any indelicate display of regard, or
any peculiarity of manner, where their two selves only were
concerned, was soliciting the good opinion of her friends, and bent
on making her known to his sister. Such a change in a man of so
much pride excited not only astonishment but gratitude—for to
love, ardent love, it must be attributed; and as such its impression
on her was of a sort to be encouraged, as by no means unpleasing,
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though it could not be exactly defined. She respected, she
esteemed, she was grateful to him, she felt a real interest in his
welfare; and she only wanted to know how far she wished that
welfare to depend upon herself; and how far it would be for the
happiness of both that she should employ the power, which her
fancy told her she still possessed, of bringing on the renewal of his
It had been settled in the evening, between the aunt and niece,
that such a striking civility as Miss Darcy’s, in coming to them on
the very day of her arrival at Pemberley, for she had reached it
only to a late breakfast, ought to be imitated, though it could not
be equalled, by some exertion of politeness on their side; and,
consequently, that it would be highly expedient to wait on her at
Pemberley the following morning. They were, therefore, to go.—
Elizabeth was pleased, though, when she asked herself the reason,
she had very little to say in reply.
Mr. Gardiner left them soon after breakfast. The fishing scheme
had been renewed the day before, and a positive engagement
made of his meeting some of the gentlemen at Pemberley by noon.
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onvinced as Elizabeth now was that Miss Bingley’s dislike
of her had originated in jealousy, she could not help
feeling how very unwelcome her appearance at
Pemberley must be to her, and was curious to know with how
much civility on that lady’s side, the acquaintance would now be
On reaching the house, they were shewn through the hall into
the saloon, whose northern aspect rendered it delightful for
summer. Its windows opening to the ground, admitted a most
refreshing view of the high woody hills behind the house, and of
the beautiful oaks and Spanish chesnuts which were scattered
over the intermediate lawn.
In this room they were received by Miss Darcy, who was sitting
there with Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, and the lady with whom
she lived in London. Georgiana’s reception of them was very civil;
but attended with all that embarrassment which, though
proceeding from shyness and the fear of doing wrong, would easily
give to those who felt themselves inferior, the belief of her being
proud and reserved. Mrs. Gardiner and her niece, however, did
her justice, and pitied her.
By Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, they were noticed only by a
curtsey; and on their being seated, a pause, awkward as such
pauses must always be, succeeded for a few moments. It was first
broken by Mrs. Annesley, a genteel, agreeable-looking woman,
whose endeavour to introduce some kind of discourse, proved her
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to be more truly well bred than either of the others; and between
her and Mrs. Gardiner, with occasional help from Elizabeth, the
conversation was carried on. Miss Darcy looked as if she wished
for courage enough to join in it; and sometimes did venture a short
sentence, when there was least danger of its being heard.
Elizabeth soon saw that she was herself closely watched by
Miss Bingley, and that she could not speak a word, especially to
Miss Darcy, without calling her attention. This observation would
not have prevented her from trying to talk to the latter, had they
not been seated at an inconvenient distance; but she was not sorry
to be spared the necessity of saying much. Her own thoughts were
employing her. She expected every moment that some of the
gentlemen would enter the room. She wished, she feared that the
master of the house might be amongst them and whether she
wished or feared it most, she could scarcely determine. After
sitting in this manner a quarter of an hour without hearing Miss
Bingley’s voice, Elizabeth was roused by receiving from her a cold
enquiry after the health of her family. She answered with equal
indifference and brevity, and the other said no more.
The next variation which their visit afforded was produced by
the entrance of servants with cold meat, cake, and a variety of all
the finest fruits in season; but this did not take place till after
many a significant look and smile from Mrs. Annesley to Miss
Darcy had been given, to remind her of her post. There was now
employment for the whole party; for though they could not all talk,
they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes,
nectarines, and peaches, soon collected them round the table.
While thus engaged, Elizabeth had a fair opportunity of
deciding whether she most feared or wished for the appearance of
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Mr. Darcy, by the feelings which prevailed on his entering the
room, and then, though but a moment before she had believed her
wishes to predominate, she began to regret that he came.
He had been some time with Mr. Gardiner who, with two or
three other gentlemen from the house, was engaged by the river,
and had left him only on learning that the ladies of the family
intended a visit to Georgiana that morning. No sooner did he
appear, than Elizabeth wisely resolved to be perfectly easy and
unembarrassed;—a resolution the more necessary to be made, but
perhaps not the more easily kept, because she saw that the
suspicions of the whole party were awakened against them, and
that there was scarcely an eye which did not watch his behaviour
when he first came into the room. In no countenance was attentive
curiosity so strongly marked as in Miss Bingley’s, in spite of the
smiles which overspread her face whenever she spoke to one of its
objects; for jealousy had not yet made her desperate, and her
attentions to Mr. Darcy were by no means over. Miss Darcy, on her
brother’s entrance, exerted herself much more to talk; and
Elizabeth saw that he was anxious for his sister and herself to get
acquainted, and forwarded, as much as possible, every attempt at
conversation on either side. Miss Bingley saw all this likewise;
and, in the imprudence of anger, took the first opportunity of
saying, with sneering civility,
‘Pray, Miss Eliza, are not the —shire militia removed from
Meryton? They must be a great loss to your family.’
In Darcy’s presence she dared not mention Wickham’s name;
but Elizabeth instantly comprehended that he was uppermost in
her thoughts; and the various recollections connected with him
gave her a moment’s distress; but, exerting herself vigorously to
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repel the ill-natured attack, she presently answered the question
in a tolerably disengaged tone. While she spoke, an involuntary
glance shewed her Darcy with an heightened complexion,
earnestly looking at her, and his sister overcome with confusion,
and unable to lift up her eyes. Had Miss Bingley known what pain
she was then giving her beloved friend, she undoubtedly would
have refrained from the hint; but she had merely intended to
discompose Elizabeth, by bringing forward the idea of a man to
whom she believed her partial, to make her betray a sensibility
which might injure her in Darcy’s opinion, and perhaps to remind
the latter of all the follies and absurdities, by which some part of
her family were connected with that corps. Not a syllable had ever
reached her of Miss Darcy’s meditated elopement. To no creature
had it been revealed, where secresy was possible, except to
Elizabeth; and from all Bingley’s connections her brother was
particularly anxious to conceal it, from that very wish which
Elizabeth had long ago attributed to him, of their becoming
hereafter her own. He had certainly formed such a plan, and
without meaning that it should affect his endeavour to separate
him from Miss Bennet, it is probable that it might add something
to his lively concern for the welfare of his friend.
Elizabeth’s collected behaviour, however, soon quieted his
emotion; and as Miss Bingley, vexed and disappointed, dared not
approach nearer to Wickham, Georgiana also recovered in time,
though not enough to be able to speak any more. Her brother,
whose eye she feared to meet, scarcely recollected her interest in
the affair, and the very circumstance which had been designed to
turn his thoughts from Elizabeth, seemed to have fixed them on
her more, and more cheerfully.
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Their visit did not continue long after the question and answer
above-mentioned; and while Mr. Darcy was attending them to
their carriage, Miss Bingley was venting her feelings in criticisms
on Elizabeth’s person, behaviour, and dress. But Georgiana would
not join her. Her brother’s recommendation was enough to ensure
her favour: his judgment could not err, and he had spoken in such
terms of Elizabeth, as to leave Georgiana without the power of
finding her otherwise than lovely and amiable. When Darcy
returned to the saloon, Miss Bingley could not help repeating to
him some part of what she had been saying to his sister.
‘How very ill Eliza Bennet looks this morning, Mr. Darcy,’ she
cried; ‘I never in my life saw any one so much altered as she is
since the winter. She is grown so brown and coarse! Louisa and I
were agreeing that we should not have known her again.’
However little Mr. Darcy might have liked such an address, he
contented himself with coolly replying, that he perceived no other
alteration than her being rather tanned,—no miraculous
consequence of travelling in the summer.
‘For my own part,’ she rejoined, ‘I must confess that I never
could see any beauty in her. Her face is too thin; her complexion
has no brilliancy; and her features are not at all handsome. Her
nose wants character; there is nothing marked in its lines. Her
teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common way; and as for her
eyes, which have sometimes been called so fine, I never could
perceive any thing extraordinary in them. They have a sharp,
shrewish look, which I do not like at all; and in her air altogether,
there is a self-sufficiency without fashion, which is intolerable.’
Persuaded as Miss Bingley was that Darcy admired Elizabeth,
this was not the best method of recommending herself; but angry
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people are not always wise; and in seeing him at last look
somewhat nettled, she had all the success she expected. He was
resolutely silent however; and, from a determination of making
him speak, she continued,
‘I remember, when we first knew her in Hertfordshire, how
amazed we all were to find that she was a reputed beauty; and I
particularly recollect your saying one night, after they had been
dining at Netherfield, “She a beauty!—I should as soon call her
mother a wit.” But afterwards she seemed to improve on you, and
I believe you thought her rather pretty at one time.’
‘Yes,’ replied Darcy, who could contain himself no longer, ‘but
that was only when I first knew her, for it is many months since I
have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my
He then went away, and Miss Bingley was left to all the
satisfaction of having forced him to say what gave no one any pain
but herself.
Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth talked of all that had occurred,
during their visit, as they returned, except what had particularly
interested them both. The looks and behaviour of every body they
had seen were discussed, except of the person who had mostly
engaged their attention. They talked of his sister, his friends, his
house, his fruit, of every thing but himself; yet Elizabeth was
longing to know what Mrs. Gardiner thought of him, and Mrs.
Gardiner would have been highly gratified by her niece’s
beginning the subject.
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lizabeth had been a good deal disappointed in not finding
a letter from Jane, on their first arrival at Lambton; and
this disappointment had been renewed on each of the
mornings that had now been spent there; but on the third, her
repining was over, and her sister justified by the receipt of two
letters from her at once, on one of which was marked that it had
been missent elsewhere. Elizabeth was not surprised at it, as Jane
had written the direction remarkably ill.
They had just been preparing to walk as the letters came in;
and her uncle and aunt, leaving her to enjoy them in quiet, set off
by themselves. The one missent must be first attended to; it had
been written five days ago. The beginning contained an account of
all their little parties and engagements, with such news as the
country afforded; but the latter half, which was dated a day later,
and written in evident agitation, gave more important intelligence.
It was to this effect:
‘Since writing the above, dearest Lizzy, something has occurred
of a most unexpected and serious nature; but I am afraid of
alarming you—be assured that we are all well. What I have to say
relates to poor Lydia. An express came at twelve last night, just as
we were all gone to bed, from Colonel Forster, to inform us that
she was gone off to Scotland with one of his officers; to own the
truth, with Wickham!—Imagine our surprise. To Kitty, however, it
does not seem so wholly unexpected. I am very, very sorry. So
imprudent a match on both sides!—But I am willing to hope the
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best, and that his character has been misunderstood. Thoughtless
and indiscreet I can easily believe him, but this step (and let us
rejoice over it) marks nothing bad at heart. His choice is
disinterested at least, for he must know my father can give her
nothing. Our poor mother is sadly grieved. My father bears it
better. How thankful am I, that we never let them know what has
been said against him; we must forget it ourselves. They were off
Saturday night about twelve, as is conjectured, but were not
missed till yesterday morning at eight. The express was sent off
directly. My dear Lizzy, they must have passed within ten miles of
us. Colonel Forster gives us reason to expect him here soon. Lydia
left a few lines for his wife, informing her of their intention. I must
conclude, for I cannot be long from my poor mother. I am afraid
you will not be able to make it out, but I hardly know what I have
Without allowing herself time for consideration, and scarcely
knowing what she felt, Elizabeth on finishing this letter, instantly
seized the other, and opening it with the utmost impatience, read
as follows: it had been written a day later than the conclusion of
the first.
‘By this time, my dearest sister, you have received my hurried
letter; I wish this may be more intelligible, but though not
confined for time, my head is so bewildered that I cannot answer
for being coherent. Dearest Lizzy, I hardly know what I would
write, but I have bad news for you, and it cannot be delayed.
Imprudent as a marriage between Mr. Wickham and our poor
Lydia would be, we are now anxious to be assured it has taken
place, for there is but too much reason to fear they are not gone to
Scotland. Colonel Forster came yesterday, having left Brighton
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the day before, not many hours after the express. Though Lydia’s
short letter to Mrs. F. gave them to understand that they were
going to Gretna Green, something was dropped by Denny
expressing his belief that W. never intended to go there, or to
marry Lydia at all, which was repeated to Colonel F. who instantly
taking the alarm, set off from B. intending to trace their route. He
did trace them easily to Clapham, but no farther; for on entering
that place they removed into a hackney-coach and dismissed the
chaise that brought them from Epsom. All that is known after this
is, that they were seen to continue the London road. I know not
what to think. After making every possible enquiry on that side
London, Colonel F. came on into Hertfordshire, anxiously
renewing them at all the turnpikes, and at the inns in Barnet and
Hatfield, but without any success, no such people had been seen to
pass through. With the kindest concern he came on to Longbourn,
and broke his apprehensions to us in a manner most creditable to
his heart. I am sincerely grieved for him and Mrs. F. but no one
can throw any blame on them. Our distress, my dear Lizzy, is very
great. My father and mother believe the worst, but I cannot think
so ill of him. Many circumstances might make it more eligible for
them to be married privately in town than to pursue their first
plan; and even if he could form such a design against a young
woman of Lydia’s connections, which is not likely, can I suppose
her so lost to every thing?—Impossible. I grieve to find, however,
that Colonel F. is not disposed to depend upon their marriage; he
shook his head when I expressed my hopes, and said he feared W.
was not a man to be trusted. My poor mother is really ill and keeps
her room. Could she exert herself it would be better, but this is not
to be expected; and as to my father, I never in my life saw him so
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affected. Poor Kitty has anger for having concealed their
attachment; but as it was a matter of confidence one cannot
wonder. I am truly glad, dearest Lizzy, that you have been spared
something of these distressing scenes; but now as the first shock is
over, shall I own that I long for your return? I am not so selfish,
however, as to press for it, if inconvenient. Adieu. I take up my pen
again to do, what I have just told you I would not, but
circumstances are such, that I cannot help earnestly begging you
all to come here, as soon as possible. I know my dear uncle and
aunt so well, that I am not afraid of requesting it, though I have
still something more to ask of the former. My father is going to
London with Colonel Forster instantly, to try to discover her. What
he means to do, I am sure I know not; but his excessive distress
will not allow him to pursue any measure in the best and safest
way, and Colonel Forster is obliged to be at Brighton again tomorrow
evening. In such an exigence my uncle’s advice and
assistance would be every thing in the world; he will immediately
comprehend what I must feel, and I rely upon his goodness.’
‘Oh! where, where is my uncle?’ cried Elizabeth, darting from
her seat as she finished the letter, in eagerness to follow him,
without losing a moment of the time so precious; but as she
reached the door, it was opened by a servant, and Mr. Darcy
appeared. Her pale face and impetuous manner made him start,
and before he could recover himself enough to speak, she, in
whose mind every idea was superseded by Lydia’s situation,
hastily exclaimed, ‘I beg your pardon, but I must leave you. I must
find Mr. Gardiner this moment, on business that cannot be
delayed; I have not an instant to lose.’
‘Good God! what is the matter?’ cried he, with more feeling
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than politeness; then recollecting himself, ‘I will not detain you a
minute, but let me, or let the servant, go after Mr. and Mrs.
Gardiner. You are not well enough;—you cannot go yourself.’
Elizabeth hesitated, but her knees trembled under her, and she
felt how little would be gained by her attempting to pursue them.
Calling back the servant, therefore, she commissioned him, though
in so breathless an accent as made her almost unintelligible, to
fetch his master and mistress home, instantly.
On his quitting the room, she sat down, unable to support
herself, and looking so miserably ill, that it was impossible for
Darcy to leave her, or to refrain from saying, in a tone of
gentleness and commiseration, ‘Let me call your maid. Is there
nothing you could take, to give you present relief?—A glass of
wine;—shall I get you one?—You are very ill.’
‘No, I thank you;’ she replied, endeavouring to recover herself.
‘There is nothing the matter with me. I am quite well. I am only
distressed by some dreadful news which I have just received from
She burst into tears as she alluded to it, and for a few minutes
could not speak another word. Darcy, in wretched suspense, could
only say something indistinctly of his concern, and observe her in
compassionate silence. At length, she spoke again. ‘I have just had
a letter from Jane, with such dreadful news. It cannot be
concealed from any one. My youngest sister has left all her
friends—has eloped;—has thrown herself into the power of—of
Mr. Wickham. They are gone off together from Brighton. You
know him too well to doubt the rest. She has no money, no
connections, nothing that can tempt him to—she is lost for ever.’
Darcy was fixed in astonishment. ‘When I consider,’ she added,
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in a yet more agitated voice, ‘that I might have prevented it!—I
who knew what he was. Had I but explained some part of it only—
some part of what I learnt, to my own family! Had his character
been known, this could not have happened. But it is all, all too late
‘I am grieved, indeed,’ cried Darcy; ‘grieved—shocked. But is it
certain, absolutely certain?’
‘Oh yes!—They left Brighton together on Sunday night, and
were traced almost to London, but not beyond; they are certainly
not gone to Scotland.’
‘And what has been done, what has been attempted, to recover
‘My father is gone to London, and Jane has written to beg my
uncle’s immediate assistance, and we shall be off, I hope, in half an
hour. But nothing can be done; I know very well that nothing can
be done. How is such a man to be worked on? How are they even
to be discovered? I have not the smallest hope. It is every way
Darcy shook his head in silent acquiesence.
‘When my eyes were opened to his real character.—Oh! had I
known what I ought, what I dared, to do! But I knew not—I was
afraid of doing too much. Wretched, wretched, mistake!’
Darcy made no answer. He seemed scarcely to hear her, and
was walking up and down the room in earnest meditation; his
brow contracted, his air gloomy. Elizabeth soon observed, and
instantly understood it. Her power was sinking; every thing must
sink under such a proof of family weakness, such an assurance of
the deepest disgrace. She could neither wonder nor condemn, but
the belief of his self-conquest brought nothing consolatory to her
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bosom, afforded no palliation of her distress. It was, on the
contrary, exactly calculated to make her understand her own
wishes; and never had she so honestly felt that she could have
loved him, as now, when all love must be vain.
But self, though it would intrude, could not engross her.
Lydia—the humiliation, the misery, she was bringing on them all,
soon swallowed up every private care; and covering her face with
her handkerchief, Elizabeth was soon lost to every thing else; and,
after a pause of several minutes, was only recalled to a sense of her
situation by the voice of her companion, who, in a manner, which
though it spoke compassion, spoke likewise restraint, said, ‘I am
afraid you have been long desiring my absence, nor have I any
thing to plead in excuse of my stay, but real, though unavailing,
concern. Would to heaven that any thing could be either said or
done on my part, that might offer consolation to such distress. But
I will not torment you with vain wishes, which may seem
purposely to ask for your thanks. This unfortunate affair will, I
fear, prevent my sister’s having the pleasure of seeing you at
Pemberley to-day.’
‘Oh, yes. Be so kind as to apologize for us to Miss Darcy. Say
that urgent business calls us home immediately. Conceal the
unhappy truth as long as it is possible.—I know it cannot be long.’
He readily assured her of his secrecy—again expressed his
sorrow for her distress, wished it a happier conclusion than there
was at present reason to hope, and leaving his compliments for
her relations, with only one serious, parting, look, went away.
As he quitted the room, Elizabeth felt how improbable it was
that they should ever see each other again on such terms of
cordiality as had marked their several meetings in Derbyshire;
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and as she threw a retrospective glance over the whole of their
acquaintance, so full of contradictions and varieties, sighed at the
perverseness of those feelings which would now have promoted its
continuance, and would formerly have rejoiced in its termination.
If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection,
Elizabeth’s change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor
faulty. But if otherwise, if the regard springing from such sources
is unreasonable or unnatural, in comparison of what is so often
described as arising on a first interview with its object, and even
before two words have been exchanged, nothing can be said in her
defence, except that she had given somewhat of a trial to the latter
method, in her partiality for Wickham, and that its ill-success
might perhaps authorise her to seek the other less interesting
mode of attachment. Be that as it may, she saw him go with regret;
and in this early example of what Lydia’s infamy must produce,
found additional anguish as she reflected on that wretched
business. Never, since reading Jane’s second letter, had she
entertained a hope of Wickham’s meaning to marry her. No one
but Jane, she thought, could flatter herself with such an
expectation. Surprise was the least of her feelings on this
developement. While the contents of the first letter remained on
her mind, she was all surprise—all astonishment that Wickham
should marry a girl, whom it was impossible he could marry for
money; and how Lydia could ever have attached him, had
appeared incomprehensible. But now it was all too natural. For
such an attachment as this, she might have sufficient charms; and
though she did not suppose Lydia to be deliberately engaging in
an elopement, without the intention of marriage, she had no
difficulty in believing that neither her virtue nor her
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understanding would preserve her from falling an easy prey.
She had never perceived, while the regiment was in
Hertfordshire, that Lydia had any partiality for him, but she was
convinced that Lydia had wanted only encouragement to attach
herself to any body. Sometimes one officer, sometimes another
had been her favourite, as their attentions raised them in her
opinion. Her affections had been continually fluctuating, but never
without an object. The mischief of neglect and mistaken
indulgence towards such a girl.—Oh! how acutely did she now feel
She was wild to be at home—to hear, to see, to be upon the
spot, to share with Jane in the cares that must now fall wholly
upon her, in a family so deranged; a father absent, a mother
incapable of exertion, and requiring constant attendance; and
though almost persuaded that nothing could be done for Lydia,
her uncle’s interference seemed of the utmost importance, and till
he entered the room, the misery of her impatience was severe. Mr.
and Mrs. Gardiner had hurried back in alarm, supposing, by the
servant’s account, that their niece was taken suddenly ill;—but
satisfying them instantly on that head, she eagerly communicated
the cause of their summons, reading the two letters aloud, and
dwelling on the postscript of the last, with trembling energy.—
Though Lydia had never been a favourite with them, Mr. and Mrs.
Gardiner could not but be deeply affected. Not Lydia only, but all
were concerned in it; and after the first exclamations of surprise
and horror, Mr. Gardiner readily promised every assistance in his
power.—Elizabeth, though expecting no less, thanked him with
tears of gratitude; and all three being actuated by one spirit, every
thing relating to their journey was speedily settled. They were to
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be off as soon as possible. ‘But what is to be done about
Pemberley?’ cried Mrs. Gardiner. ‘John told us Mr. Darcy was
here when you sent for us;—was it so?’
‘Yes; and I told him we should not be able to keep our
engagement. That is all settled.’
‘That is all settled;’ repeated the other, as she ran into her room
to prepare. ‘And are they upon such terms as for her to disclose
the real truth! Oh, that I knew how it was!’
But wishes were vain; or at best could serve only to amuse her
in the hurry and confusion of the following hour. Had Elizabeth
been at leisure to be idle, she would have remained certain that all
employment was impossible to one so wretched as herself; but she
had her share of business as well as her aunt, and amongst the rest
there were notes to be written to all their friends in Lambton, with
false excuses for their sudden departure. An hour, however, saw
the whole completed; and Mr. Gardiner meanwhile having settled
his account at the inn, nothing remained to be done but to go; and
Elizabeth, after all the misery of the morning, found herself, in a
shorter space of time than she could have supposed, seated in the
carriage, and on the road to Longbourn.
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have been thinking it over again, Elizabeth,’ said her
uncle, as they drove from the town; ‘and really, upon
serious consideration, I am much more inclined than I was
to judge as your eldest sister does of the matter. It appears to me
so very unlikely, that any young man should form such a design
against a girl who is by no means unprotected or friendless, and
who was actually staying in his colonel’s family, that I am strongly
inclined to hope the best. Could he expect that her friends would
not step forward? Could he expect to be noticed again by the
regiment, after such an affront to Colonel Forster? His temptation
is not adequate to the risk.’
‘Do you really think so?’ cried Elizabeth, brightening up for a
‘Upon my word,’ said Mrs. Gardiner, ‘I begin to be of your
uncle’s opinion. It is really too great a violation of decency,
honour, and interest, for him to be guilty of it. I cannot think so
very ill of Wickham. Can you, yourself, Lizzy, so wholly give him
up, as to believe him capable of it?’
‘Not perhaps of neglecting his own interest. But of every other
neglect I can believe him capable. If, indeed, it should be so! But I
dare not hope it. Why should they not go on to Scotland, if that
had been the case?’
‘In the first place,’ replied Mr. Gardiner, ‘there is no absolute
proof that they are not gone to Scotland.’
‘Oh! but their removing from the chaise into an hackney coach
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is such a presumption! And, besides, no traces of them were to be
found on the Barnet road.’
‘Well, then—supposing them to be in London. They may be
there, though for the purpose of concealment, for no more
exceptionable purpose. It is not likely that money should be very
abundant on either side; and it might strike them that they could
be more economically, though less expeditiously, married in
London, than in Scotland.’
‘But why all this secrecy? Why any fear of detection? Why must
their marriage be private? Oh! no, no, this is not likely. His most
particular friend, you see by Jane’s account, was persuaded of his
never intending to marry her. Wickham will never marry a woman
without some money. He cannot afford it. And what claims has
Lydia, what attractions has she beyond youth, health, and good
humour, that could make him for her sake, forego every chance of
benefiting himself by marrying well? As to what restraint the
apprehension of disgrace in the corps might throw on a
dishonourable elopement with her, I am not able to judge; for I
know nothing of the effects that such a step might produce. But as
to your other objection, I am afraid it will hardly hold good. Lydia
has no brothers to step forward; and he might imagine, from my
father’s behaviour, from his indolence and the little attention he
has ever seemed to give to what was going forward in his family,
that he would do as little, and think as little about it, as any father
could do, in such a matter.’
‘But can you think that Lydia is so lost to every thing but love of
him, as to consent to live with him on any other terms than
‘It does seem, and it is most shocking indeed,’ replied Elizabeth,
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with tears in her eyes, ‘that a sister’s sense of decency and virtue
in such a point should admit of doubt. But, really, I know not what
to say. Perhaps I am not doing her justice. But she is very young;
she has never been taught to think on serious subjects; and for the
last half year, nay, for a twelvemonth, she has been given up to
nothing but amusement and vanity. She has been allowed to
dispose of her time in the most idle and frivolous manner, and to
adopt any opinions that came in her way. Since the —shire were
first quartered in Meryton, nothing but love, flirtation, and
officers, have been in her head. She has been doing every thing in
her power by thinking and talking on the subject, to give greater—
what shall I call it? susceptibility to her feelings; which are
naturally lively enough. And we all know that Wickham has every
charm of person and address that can captivate a woman.’
‘But you see that Jane,’ said her aunt, ‘does not think so ill of
Wickham, as to believe him capable of the attempt.’
‘Of whom does Jane ever think ill? And who is there, whatever
might be their former conduct, that she would believe capable of
such an attempt, till it were proved against them? But Jane
knows, as well as I do, what Wickham really is. We both know that
he has been profligate in every sense of the word. That he has
neither integrity nor honour. That he is as false and deceitful, as
he is insinuating.’
‘And do you really know all this?’ cried Mrs. Gardiner, whose
curiosity as to the mode of her intelligence was all alive.
‘I do, indeed,’ replied Elizabeth, colouring. ‘I told you the other
day, of his infamous behaviour to Mr. Darcy; and you, yourself,
when last at Longbourn, heard in what manner he spoke of the
man, who had behaved with such forbearance and liberality
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towards him. And there are other circumstances which I am not at
liberty—which it is not worth while to relate; but his lies about the
whole Pemberley family are endless. From what he said of Miss
Darcy, I was thoroughly prepared to see a proud, reserved,
disagreeable girl. Yet he knew to the contrary himself. He must
know that she was as amiable and unpretending as we have found
‘But does Lydia know nothing of this? Can she be ignorant of
what you and Jane seem so well to understand?’
‘Oh, yes!—that, that is the worst of all. Till I was in Kent, and
saw so much both of Mr. Darcy and his relation, Colonel
Fitzwilliam, I was ignorant of the truth myself. And when I
returned home, the —shire was to leave Meryton in a week or
fortnight’s time. As that was the case, neither Jane, to whom I
related the whole, nor I, thought it necessary to make our
knowledge public; for of what use could it apparently be to any
one, that the good opinion which all the neighbourhood had of
him, should then be overthrown? And even when it was settled
that Lydia should go with Mrs. Forster, the necessity of opening
her eyes to his character never occurred to me. That she could be
in any danger from the deception never entered my head. That
such a consequence as this should ensue, you may easily believe
was far enough from my thoughts.’
‘When they all removed to Brighton, therefore, you had no
reason, I suppose, to believe them fond of each other.’
‘Not the slightest. I can remember no symptom of affection on
either side; and had any thing of the kind been perceptible, you
must be aware that ours is not a family, on which it could be
thrown away. When first he entered the corps, she was ready
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enough to admire him; but so we all were. Every girl in, or near
Meryton, was out of her senses about him for the first two months;
but he never distinguished her by any particular attention, and,
consequently, after a moderate period of extravagant and wild
admiration, her fancy for him gave way, and others of the
regiment, who treated her with more distinction, again became
her favourites.’
It may be easily believed, that however little of novelty could be
added to their fears, hopes, and conjectures, on this interesting
subject, by its repeated discussion, no other could detain them
from it long, during the whole of the journey. From Elizabeth’s
thoughts it was never absent. Fixed there by the keenest of all
anguish, self reproach, she could find no interval of ease or
They travelled as expeditiously as possible; and sleeping one
night on the road, reached Longbourn by dinner-time the next
day. It was a comfort to Elizabeth to consider that Jane could not
have been wearied by long expectations.
The little Gardiners, attracted by the sight of a chaise, were
standing on the steps of the house, as they entered the paddock;
and when the carriage drove up to the door, the joyful surprise
that lighted up their faces, and displayed itself over their whole
bodies, in a variety of capers and frisks, was the first pleasing
earnest of their welcome.
Elizabeth jumped out; and, after giving each of them an hasty
kiss, hurried into the vestibule, where Jane, who came running
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down stairs from her mother’s apartment, immediately met her.
Elizabeth, as she affectionately embraced her, whilst tears filled
the eyes of both, lost not a moment in asking whether any thing
had been heard of the fugitives.
‘Not yet,’ replied Jane. ‘But now that my dear uncle is come, I
hope every thing will be well.’
‘Is my father in town?’
‘Yes, he went on Tuesday as I wrote you word.’
‘And have you heard from him often?’
‘We have heard only once. He wrote me a few lines on
Wednesday, to say that he had arrived in safety, and to give me his
directions, which I particularly begged him to do. He merely
added, that he should not write again, till he had something of
importance to mention.’
‘And my mother—How is she? How are you all?’
‘My mother is tolerably well, I trust; though her spirits are
greatly shaken. She is up stairs, and will have great satisfaction in
seeing you all. She does not yet leave her dressing-room. Mary and
Kitty, thank Heaven! are quite well.’
‘But you—How are you?’ cried Elizabeth. ‘You look pale. How
much you must have gone through!’
Her sister, however, assured her, of her being perfectly well;
and their conversation, which had been passing while Mr. and
Mrs. Gardiner were engaged with their children, was now put an
end to, by the approach of the whole party. Jane ran to her uncle
and aunt, and welcomed and thanked them both, with alternate
smiles and tears.
When they were all in the drawing room, the questions which
Elizabeth had already asked, were of course repeated by the
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others, and they soon found that Jane had no intelligence to give.
The sanguine hope of good, however, which the benevolence of
her heart suggested, had not yet deserted her; she still expected
that it would all end well, and that every morning would bring
some letter, either from Lydia or her father, to explain their
proceedings, and perhaps announce the marriage.
Mrs. Bennet, to whose apartment they all repaired, after a few
minutes conversation together, received them exactly as might be
expected; with tears and lamentations of regret, invectives against
the villanous conduct of Wickham, and complaints of her own
sufferings and ill usage; blaming every body but the person to
whose ill judging indulgence the errors of her daughter must be
principally owing.
‘If I had been able,’ said she, ‘to carry my point of going to
Brighton, with all my family, this would not have happened; but
poor dear Lydia had nobody to take care of her. Why did the
Forsters ever let her go out of their sight? I am sure there was
some great neglect or other on their side, for she is not the kind of
girl to do such a thing, if she had been well looked after. I always
thought they were very unfit to have the charge of her; but I was
over-ruled, as I always am. Poor dear child! And now here’s Mr.
Bennet gone away, and I know he will fight Wickham, wherever
he meets him, and then he will be killed, and what is to become of
us all? The Collinses will turn us out, before he is cold in his grave;
and if you are not kind to us, brother, I do not know what we shall
They all exclaimed against such terrific ideas; and Mr.
Gardiner, after general assurances of his affection for her and all
her family, told her that he meant to be in London the very next
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day, and would assist Mr. Bennet in every endeavour for
recovering Lydia.
‘Do not give way to useless alarm,’ added he, ‘though it is right
to be prepared for the worst, there is no occasion to look on it as
certain. It is not quite a week since they left Brighton. In a few
days more, we may gain some news of them, and till we know that
they are not married, and have no design of marrying, do not let us
give the matter over as lost. As soon as I get to town, I shall go to
my brother, and make him come home with me to Gracechurchstreet,
and then we may consult together as to what is to be done.’
‘Oh! my dear brother,’ replied Mrs. Bennet, ‘that is exactly what
I could most wish for. And now do, when you get to town, find
them out, wherever they may be; and if they are not married
already, make them marry. And as for wedding clothes, do not let
them wait for that, but tell Lydia she shall have as much money as
she chuses, to buy them, after they are married. And, above all
things, keep Mr. Bennet from fighting. Tell him what a dreadful
state I am in,—that I am frightened out of my wits; and have such
tremblings, such flutterings, all over me, such spasms in my side,
and pains in my head, and such beatings at heart, that I can get no
rest by night nor by day. And tell my dear Lydia, not to give any
directions about her clothes, till she has seen me, for she does not
know which are the best warehouses. Oh, brother, how kind you
are! I know you will contrive it all.’
But Mr. Gardiner, though he assured her again of his earnest
endeavours in the cause, could not avoid recommending
moderation to her, as well in her hopes as her fears; and, after
talking with her in this manner till dinner was on table, they left
her to vent all her feelings on the housekeeper, who attended, in
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the absence of her daughters.
Though her brother and sister were persuaded that there was
no real occasion for such a seclusion from the family, they did not
attempt to oppose it, for they knew that she had not prudence
enough to hold her tongue before the servants, while they waited
at table, and judged it better that one only of the household, and
the one whom they could most trust, should comprehend all her
fears and solicitude on the subject.
In the dining-room they were soon joined by Mary and Kitty,
who had been too busily engaged in their separate apartments, to
make their appearance before. One came from her books, and the
other from her toilette. The faces of both, however, were tolerably
calm; and no change was visible in either, except that the loss of
her favourite sister, or the anger which she had herself incurred in
the business, had given something more of fretfulness than usual,
to the accents of Kitty. As for Mary, she was mistress enough of
herself to whisper to Elizabeth with a countenance of grave
reflection, soon after they were seated at table,
‘This is a most unfortunate affair; and will probably be much
talked of. But we must stem the tide of malice, and pour into the
wounded bosoms of each other, the balm of sisterly consolation.’
Then, perceiving in Elizabeth no inclination of replying, she
added, ‘Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw
from it this useful lesson; that loss of virtue in a female is
irretrievable—that one false step involves her in endless ruin—
that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful,—and that
she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the
undeserving of the other sex.’
Elizabeth lifted up her eyes in amazement, but was too much
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oppressed to make any reply. Mary, however, continued to console
herself with such kind of moral extractions from the evil before
In the afternoon, the two elder Miss Bennets were able to be for
half an hour by themselves; and Elizabeth instantly availed herself
of the opportunity of making many enquiries, which Jane was
equally eager to satisfy. After joining in general lamentations over
the dreadful sequel of this event, which Elizabeth considered as all
but certain, and Miss Bennet could not assert to be wholly
impossible; the former continued the subject, by saying, ‘But tell
me all and every thing about it, which I have not already heard.
Give me farther particulars. What did Colonel Forster say? Had
they no apprehension of any thing before the elopement took
place? They must have seen them together for ever.’
‘Colonel Forster did own that he had often suspected some
partiality, especially on Lydia’s side, but nothing to give him any
alarm. I am so grieved for him. His behaviour was attentive and
kind to the utmost. He was coming to us, in order to assure us of
his concern, before he had any idea of their not being gone to
Scotland: when that apprehension first got abroad, it hastened his
‘And was Denny convinced that Wickham would not marry?
Did he know of their intending to go off? Had Colonel Forster seen
Denny himself?’
‘Yes; but when questioned by him Denny denied knowing any
thing of their plan, and would not give his real opinion about it. He
did not repeat his persuasion of their not marrying—and from
that, I am inclined to hope, he might have been misunderstood
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‘And till Colonel Forster came himself; not one of you
entertained a doubt, I suppose, of their being really married ?’
‘How was it possible that such an idea should enter our brains!
I felt a little uneasy—a little fearful of my sister’s happiness with
him in marriage, because I knew that his conduct had not been
always quite right. My father and mother knew nothing of that,
they only felt how imprudent a match it must be. Kitty then
owned, with a very natural triumph on knowing more than the
rest of us, that in Lydia’s last letter, she had prepared her for such
a step. She had known, it seems, of their being in love with each
other, many weeks.’
‘But not before they went to Brighton?’
‘No, I believe not.’
‘And did Colonel Forster appear to think ill of Wickham
himself? Does he know his real character?’
‘I must confess that he did not speak so well of Wickham as he
formerly did. He believed him to be imprudent and extravagant.
And since this sad affair has taken place, it is said, that he left
Meryton greatly in debt; but I hope this may be false.’
‘Oh, Jane, had we been less secret, had we told what we knew
of him, this could not have happened!’
‘Perhaps it would have been better;’ replied her sister. ‘But to
expose the former faults of any person, without knowing what
their present feelings were, seemed unjustifiable. We acted with
the best intentions.’
‘Could Colonel Forster repeat the particulars of Lydia’s note to
his wife?’
‘He brought it with him for us to see.’
Jane then took it from her pocket-book, and gave it to
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Elizabeth. These were the contents:
‘My Dear Harriet,
‘You will laugh when you know where I am gone, and I cannot
help laughing myself at your surprise to-morrow morning, as soon
as I am missed. I am going to Gretna Green, and if you cannot
guess with who, I shall think you a simpleton, for there is but one
man in the world I love, and he is an angel. I should never be
happy without him, so think it no harm to be off. You need not
send them word at Longbourn of my going, if you do not like it, for
it will make the surprise the greater, when I write to them, and
sign my name Lydia Wickham. What a good joke it will be! I can
hardly write for laughing. Pray make my excuses to Pratt, for not
keeping my engagement, and dancing with him to-night. Tell him
I hope he will excuse me when he knows all, and tell him I will
dance with him at the next ball we meet, with great pleasure. I
shall send for my clothes when I get to Longbourn; but I wish you
would tell Sally to mend a great slit in my worked muslin gown,
before they are packed up. Good bye. Give my love to Colonel
Forster, I hope you will drink to our good journey.
‘Your affectionate friend,
‘Lydia Bennet.’
‘Oh! thoughtless, thoughtless Lydia!’ cried Elizabeth when she
had finished it. ‘What a letter is this, to be written at such a
moment. But at least it shews, that she was serious in the object of
her journey. Whatever he might afterwards persuade her to, it was
not on her side a scheme of infamy. My poor father! how he must
have felt it!’
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‘I never saw any one so shocked. He could not speak a word for
full ten minutes. My mother was taken ill immediately, and the
whole house in such confusion!’
‘Oh! Jane,’ cried Elizabeth, ‘was there a servant belonging to it,
who did not know the whole story before the end of the day?’
‘I do not know.—I hope there was.—But to be guarded at such a
time, is very difficult. My mother was in hysterics, and though I
endeavoured to give her every assistance in my power, I am afraid
I did not do so much as I might have done! But the horror of what
might possibly happen, almost took from me my faculties.’
‘Your attendance upon her, has been too much for you. You do
not look well. Oh! that I had been with you, you have had every
care and anxiety upon yourself alone.’
‘Mary and Kitty have been very kind, and would have shared in
every fatigue, I am sure, but I did not think it right for either of
them. Kitty is slight and delicate, and Mary studies so much, that
her hours of repose should not be broken in on. My aunt Philips
came to Longbourn on Tuesday, after my father went away; and
was so good as to stay till Thursday with me. She was of great use
and comfort to us all, and Lady Lucas has been very kind; she
walked here on Wednesday morning to condole with us, and
offered her services, or any of her daughters, if they could be of
use to us.
‘She had better have stayed at home,’ cried Elizabeth; ‘perhaps
she meant well, but, under such a misfortune as this, one cannot
see too little of one’s neighbours. Assistance is impossible;
condolence, insufferable. Let them triumph over us at a distance,
and be satisfied.’
She then proceeded to enquire into the measures which her
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father had intended to pursue, while in town, for the recovery of
his daughter.
‘He meant, I believe,’ replied Jane, ‘to go to Epsom, the place
where they last changed horses, see the postilions, and try if any
thing could be made out from them. His principal object must be,
to discover the number of the hackney coach which took them
from Clapham. It had come with a fare from London; and as he
thought the circumstance of a gentleman and lady’s removing
from one carriage into another, might be remarked, he meant to
make enquiries at Clapham. If he could any how discover at what
house the coachman had before set down his fare, he determined
to make enquiries there, and hoped it might not be impossible to
find out the stand and number of the coach. I do not know of any
other designs that he had formed: but he was in such a hurry to be
gone, and his spirits so greatly discomposed, that I had difficulty in
finding out even so much as this.’
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he whole party were in hopes of a letter from Mr. Bennet
the next morning, but the post came in without bringing a
single line from him. His family knew him to be on all
common occasions, a most negligent and dilatory correspondent,
but at such a time, they had hoped for exertion. They were forced
to conclude, that he had no pleasing intelligence to send, but even
of that they would have been glad to be certain. Mr. Gardiner had
waited only for the letters before he set off.
When he was gone, they were certain at least of receiving
constant information of what was going on, and their uncle
promised, at parting, to prevail on Mr. Bennet to return to
Longbourn, as soon as he could, to the great consolation of his
sister, who considered it as the only security for her husband’s not
being killed in a duel.
Mrs. Gardiner and the children were to remain in Hertfordshire
a few days longer, as the former thought her presence might be
serviceable to her nieces. She shared in their attendance on Mrs.
Bennet, and was a great comfort to them, in their hours of
freedom. Their other aunt also visited them frequently, and
always, as she said, with the design of cheering and heartening
them up, though as she never came without reporting some fresh
instance of Wickham’s extravagance or irregularity, she seldom
went away without leaving them more dispirited than she found
All Meryton seemed striving to blacken the man, who, but three
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months before, had been almost an angel of light. He was declared
to be in debt to every tradesman in the place, and his intrigues, all
honoured with the title of seduction, had been extended into every
tradesman’s family. Every body declared that he was the
wickedest young man in the world; and every body began to find
out, that they had always distrusted the appearance of his
goodness. Elizabeth, though she did not credit above half of what
was said, believed enough to make her former assurance of her
sister’s ruin still more certain; and even Jane, who believed still
less of it, became almost hopeless, more especially as the time was
now come, when if they had gone to Scotland, which she had
never before entirely despaired of; they must in all probability
have gained some news of them.
Mr. Gardiner left Longbourn on Sunday; on Tuesday, his wife
received a letter from him; it told them, that on his arrival, he had
immediately found out his brother, and persuaded him to come to
Gracechurch-street. That Mr. Bennet had been to Epsom and
Clapham, before his arrival, but without gaining any satisfactory
information; and that he was now determined to enquire at all the
principal hotels in town, as Mr. Bennet thought it possible they
might have gone to one of them, on their first coming to London,
before they procured lodgings. Mr. Gardiner himself did not
expect any success from this measure, but as his brother was
eager in it, he meant to assist him in pursuing it. He added, that
Mr. Bennet seemed wholly disinclined at present, to leave London,
and promised to write again very soon. There was also a postscript
to this effect.
‘I have written to Colonel Forster to desire him to find out, if
possible, from some of the young man’s intimates in the regiment,
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whether Wickham has any relations or connections, who would be
likely to know in what part of the town he has now concealed
himself. If there were any one, that one could apply to, with a
probability of gaining such a clue as that, it might be of essential
consequence. At present we have nothing to guide us. Colonel
Forster will, I dare say, do every thing in his power to satisfy us on
this head. But, on second thoughts, perhaps Lizzy could tell us,
what relations he has now living, better than any other person.’
Elizabeth was at no loss to understand from whence this
deference for her authority proceeded; but it was not in her power
to give any information of so satisfactory a nature, as the
compliment deserved.
She had never heard of his having had any relations, except a
father and mother, both of whom had been dead many years. It
was possible, however, that some of his companions in the —shire,
might be able to give more information; and, though she was not
very sanguine in expecting it, the application was a something to
look forward to.
Every day at Longbourn was now a day of anxiety; but the most
anxious part of each was when the post was expected. The arrival
of letters was the first grand object of every morning’s impatience.
Through letters, whatever of good or bad was to be told, would be
communicated, and every succeeding day was expected to bring
some news of importance.
But before they heard again from Mr. Gardiner, a letter arrived
for their father, from a different quarter, from Mr. Collins; which,
as Jane had received directions to open all that came for him in his
absence, she accordingly read; and Elizabeth, who knew what
curiosities his letters always were, looked over her, and read it
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likewise. It was as follows:
‘My Dear Sir,
‘I feel myself called upon, by our relationship, and my situation
in life, to condole with you on the grievous affliction you are now
suffering under, of which we were yesterday informed by a letter
from Hertfordshire. Be assured, my dear Sir, that Mrs. Collins and
myself sincerely sympathise with you, and all your respectable
family, in your present distress, which must be of the bitterest
kind, because proceeding from a cause which no time can remove.
No arguments shall be wanting on my part, that can alleviate so
severe a misfortune; or that may comfort you, under a
circumstance that must be of all others most afflicting to a parent’s
mind. The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in
comparison of this. And it is the more to be lamented, because
there is reason to suppose, as my dear Charlotte informs me, that
this licentiousness of behaviour in your daughter, has proceeded
from a faulty degree of indulgence, though, at the same time, for
the consolation of yourself and Mrs. Bennet, I am inclined to think
that her own disposition must be naturally bad, or she could not
be guilty of such an enormity, at so early an age. Howsoever that
may be, you are grievously to be pitied, in which opinion I am not
only joined by Mrs. Collins, but likewise by Lady Catherine and
her daughter, to whom I have related the affair. They agree with
me in apprehending that this false step in one daughter, will be
injurious to the fortunes of all the others, for who, as Lady
Catherine herself condescendingly says, will connect themselves
with such a family. And this consideration leads me moreover to
reflect with augmented satisfaction on a certain event of last
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November, for had it been otherwise, I must have been involved in
all your sorrow and disgrace. Let me advise you then, my dear Sir,
to console yourself as much as possible, to throw off your
unworthy child from your affection for ever, and leave her to reap
the fruits of her own heinous offence.
‘I am, dear Sir, &c. &c.’
Mr. Gardiner did not write again, till he had received an answer
from Colonel Forster; and then he had nothing of a pleasant
nature to send. It was not known that Wickham had a single
relation, with whom he kept up any connection, and it was certain
that he had no near one living. His former acquaintance had been
numerous; but since he had been in the militia, it did not appear
that he was on terms of particular friendship with any of them.
There was no one therefore who could be pointed out, as likely to
give any news of him. And in the wretched state of his own
finances, there was a very powerful motive for secrecy, in addition
to his fear of discovery by Lydia’s relations, for it had just
transpired that he had left gaming debts behind him, to a very
considerable amount. Colonel Forster believed that more than a
thousand pounds would be necessary to clear his expences at
Brighton. He owed a good deal in the town, but his debts of
honour were still more formidable. Mr. Gardiner did not attempt
to conceal these particulars from the Longbourn family; Jane
heard them with horror. ‘A gamester!’ she cried. ‘This is wholly
unexpected. I had not an idea of it.’
Mr. Gardiner added in his letter, that they might expect to see
their father at home on the following day, which was Saturday.
Rendered spiritless by the ill-success of all their endeavours, he
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had yielded to his brother-in-law’s intreaty that he would return to
his family, and leave it to him to do, whatever occasion might
suggest to be advisable for continuing their pursuit. When Mrs.
Bennet was told of this, she did not express so much satisfaction
as her children expected, considering what her anxiety for his life
had been before.
‘What, is he coming home, and without poor Lydia!’ she cried.
‘Sure he will not leave London before he has found them. Who is
to fight Wickham, and make him marry her, if he comes away?’
As Mrs. Gardiner began to wish to be at home, it was settled
that she and her children should go to London, at the same time
that Mr. Bennet came from it. The coach, therefore, took them the
first stage of their journey, and brought its master back to
Mrs. Gardiner went away in all the perplexity about Elizabeth
and her Derbyshire friend, that had attended her from that part of
the world. His name had never been voluntarily mentioned before
them by her niece; and the kind of half-expectation which Mrs.
Gardiner had formed, of their being followed by a letter from him,
had ended in nothing. Elizabeth had received none since her
return, that could come from Pemberley.
The present unhappy state of the family, rendered any other
excuse for the lowness of her spirits unnecessary; nothing,
therefore, could be fairly conjectured from that, though Elizabeth,
who was by this time tolerably well acquainted with her own
feelings, was perfectly aware, that, had she known nothing of
Darcy, she could have borne the dread of Lydia’s infamy
somewhat better. It would have spared her, she thought, one
sleepless night out of two.
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When Mr. Bennet arrived, he had all the appearance of his
usual philosophic composure. He said as little as he had ever been
in the habit of saying; made no mention of the business that had
taken him away, and it was some time before his daughters had
courage to speak of it.
It was not till the afternoon, when he joined them at tea, that
Elizabeth ventured to introduce the subject; and then, on her
briefly expressing her sorrow for what he must have endured, he
replied, ‘Say nothing of that. Who should suffer but myself? It has
been my own doing, and I ought to feel it.’
‘You must not be too severe upon yourself,’ replied Elizabeth.
‘You may well warn me against such an evil. Human nature is
so prone to fall into it! No, Lizzy, let me once in my life feel how
much I have been to blame. I am not afraid of being overpowered
by the impression. It will pass away soon enough.’
‘Do you suppose them to be in London ?’
‘Yes; where else can they be so well concealed?’
‘And Lydia used to want to go to London,’ added Kitty.
‘She is happy, then,’ said her father, drily; ‘and her residence
there will probably be of some duration.’
Then, after a short silence, he continued, ‘Lizzy, I bear you no
ill-will for being justified in your advice to me last May, which,
considering the event, shews some greatness of mind.’
They were interrupted by Miss Bennet, who came to fetch her
mother’s tea.
‘This is a parade,’ cried he, ‘which does one good; it gives such
an elegance to misfortune! Another day I will do the same; I will
sit in my library, in my night cap and powdering gown, and give as
much trouble as I can,—or, perhaps, I may defer it, till Kitty runs
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‘I am not going to run away, Papa,’ said Kitty, fretfully; ‘if I
should ever go to Brighton, I would behave better than Lydia.’
‘You go to Brighton!—I would not trust you so near it as East
Bourne, for fifty pounds! No, Kitty, I have at last learnt to be
cautious, and you will feel the effects of it. No officer is ever to
enter my house again, nor even to pass through the village. Balls
will be absolutely prohibited, unless you stand up with one of your
sisters. And you are never to stir out of doors, till you can prove,
that you have spent ten minutes of every day in a rational
Kitty, who took all these threats in a serious light, began to cry.
‘Well, well,’ said he, ‘do not make yourself unhappy. If you are a
good girl for the next ten years, I will take you to a review at the
end of them.’
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wo days after Mr. Bennet’s return, as Jane and Elizabeth
were walking together in the shrubbery behind the house,
they saw the housekeeper coming towards them, and,
concluding that she came to call them to their mother, went forward
to meet her; but, instead of the expected summons, when
they approached her, she said to Miss Bennet, ‘I beg your pardon,
madam, for interrupting you, but I was in hopes you might have
got some good news from town, so I took the liberty of coming to
‘What do you mean, Hill? We have heard nothing from town.’
‘Dear madam,’ cried Mrs. Hill, in great astonishment, ‘dont you
know there is an express come for master from Mr. Gardiner? He
has been here this half hour, and master has had a letter.’
Away ran the girls, too eager to get in to have time for speech.
They ran through the vestibule into the breakfast room; from
thence to the library;—their father was in neither; and they were
on the point of seeking him up stairs with their mother, when they
were met by the butler, who said,
‘If you are looking for my master, ma’am, he is walking towards
the little copse.’
Upon this information, they instantly passed through the hall
once more, and ran across the lawn after their father, who was
deliberately pursuing his way towards a small wood on one side of
the paddock.
Jane, who was not so light, nor so much in the habit of running
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as Elizabeth, soon lagged behind, while her sister, panting for
breath, came up with him, and eagerly cried out,
‘Oh, Papa, what news? what news? have you heard from my
‘Yes, I have had a letter from him by express.’
‘Well, and what news does it bring? good or bad?’
‘What is there of good to be expected?’ said he, taking the letter
from his pocket; ‘but perhaps you would like to read it.’
Elizabeth impatiently caught it from his hand. Jane now came
‘Read it aloud,’ said their father, ‘for I hardly know myself what
it is about.’
‘Gracechurch-street, Monday,
August 2.
‘My Dear Brother,
‘At last I am able to send you some tidings of my niece, and
such as, upon the whole, I hope will give you satisfaction. Soon
after you left me on Saturday, I was fortunate enough to find out
in what part of London they were. The particulars, I reserve till we
meet. It is enough to know they are discovered, I have seen them
‘Then it is, as I always hoped,’ cried Jane; ‘they are married!’
Elizabeth read on; ‘I have seen them both. They are not
married, nor can I find there was any intention of being so; but if
you are willing to perform the engagements which I have ventured
to make on your side, I hope it will not be long before they are. All
that is required of you is, to assure to your daughter, by
settlement, her equal share of the five thousand pounds, secured
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among your children after the decease of yourself and my sister;
and, moreover, to enter into an engagement of allowing her,
during your life, one hundred pounds per annum. These are
conditions, which, considering every thing, I had no hesitation in
complying with, as far as I thought myself privileged, for you. I
shall send this by express, that no time may be lost in bringing me
your answer. You will easily comprehend, from these particulars,
that Mr. Wickham’s circumstances are not so hopeless as they are
generally believed to be. The world has been deceived in that
respect; and I am happy to say, there will be some little money,
even when all his debts are discharged, to settle on my niece, in
addition to her own fortune. If, as I conclude will be the case, you
send me full powers to act in your name, throughout the whole of
this business, I will immediately give directions to Haggerston for
preparing a proper settlement. There will not be the smallest
occasion for your coming to town again; therefore, stay quietly at
Longbourn, and depend on my diligence and care. Send back your
answer as soon as you can, and be careful to write explicitly. We
have judged it best, that my niece should be married from this
house, of which I hope you will approve. She comes to us to-day. I
shall write again as soon as any thing more is determined on.
Your’s, &c.
‘Edw. Gardiner.’
‘Is it possible!’ cried Elizabeth, when she had finished. ‘Can it
be possible that he will marry her?’
‘Wickham is not so undeserving, then, as we have thought him;’
said her sister. ‘My dear father, I congratulate you.’
‘And have you answered the letter?’ said Elizabeth.
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‘No; but it must be done soon.’
Most earnestly did she then intreat him to lose no more time
before he wrote.
‘Oh! my dear father,’ she cried, ‘come back, and write
immediately. Consider how important every moment is, in such a
‘Let me write for you,’ said Jane, ‘if you dislike the trouble
‘I dislike it very much,’ he replied; ‘but it must be done.’
And so saying, he turned back with them, and walked towards
the house.
‘And may I ask?’ said Elizabeth, ‘but the terms, I suppose, must
be complied with.’
‘Complied with! I am only ashamed of his asking so little.’
‘And they must marry! Yet he is such a man!’
‘Yes, yes, they must marry. There is nothing else to be done.
But there are two things that I want very much to know:—one is,
how much money your uncle has laid down, to bring it about; and
the other, how I am ever to pay him.’
‘Money! my uncle!’ cried Jane, ‘what do you mean, Sir?’
‘I mean, that no man in his senses, would marry Lydia on so
slight a temptation as one hundred a-year during my life, and fifty
after I am gone.’
‘That is very true,’ said Elizabeth; ‘though it had not occurred
to me before. His debts to be discharged, and something still to
remain! Oh! it must be my uncle’s doings! Generous, good man, I
am afraid he has distressed himself. A small sum could not do all
‘No,’ said her father, ‘Wickham’s a fool, if he takes her with a
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farthing less than ten thousand pounds. I should be sorry to think
so ill of him, in the very beginning of our relationship.’
‘Ten thousand pounds! Heaven forbid! How is half such a sum
to be repaid?’
Mr. Bennet made no answer, and each of them, deep in
thought, continued silent till they reached the house. Their father
then went to the library to write, and the girls walked into the
‘And they are really to be married!’ cried Elizabeth, as soon as
they were by themselves. ‘How strange this is! And for this we are
to be thankful. That they should marry, small as is their chance of
happiness, and wretched as is his character, we are forced to
rejoice! Oh, Lydia!’
‘I comfort myself with thinking,’ replied Jane, ‘that he certainly
would not marry Lydia, if he had not a real regard for her. Though
our kind uncle has done something towards clearing him, I cannot
believe that ten thousand pounds, or any thing like it, has been
advanced. He has children of his own, and may have more. How
could he spare half ten thousand pounds?’
‘If we are ever able to learn what Wickham’s debts have been,’
said Elizabeth, ‘and how much is settled on his side on our sister,
we shall exactly know what Mr. Gardiner has done for them,
because Wickham has not sixpence of his own. The kindness of my
uncle and aunt can never be requited. Their taking her home, and
affording her their personal protection and countenance, is such a
sacrifice to her advantage, as years of gratitude cannot enough
acknowledge. By this time she is actually with them! If such
goodness does not make her miserable now, she will never deserve
to be happy! What a meeting for her, when she first sees my aunt!’
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‘We must endeavour to forget all that has passed on either side,’
said Jane: ‘I hope and trust they will yet be happy. His consenting
to marry her is a proof, I will believe, that he is come to a right way
of thinking. Their mutual affection will steady them; and I flatter
myself they will settle so quietly, and live in so rational a manner,
as may in time make their past imprudence forgotten.’
‘Their conduct has been such,’ replied Elizabeth, ‘as neither
you, nor I, nor any body, can ever forget. It is useless to talk of it.’
It now occurred to the girls that their mother was in all
likelihood perfectly ignorant of what had happened. They went to
the library, therefore, and asked their father, whether he would
not wish them to make it known to her. He was writing, and,
without raising his head, coolly replied,
‘Just as you please.’
‘May we take my uncle’s letter to read to her?’
‘Take whatever you like, and get away.’
Elizabeth took the letter from his writing table, and they went
up stairs together. Mary and Kitty were both with Mrs. Bennet:
one communication would, therefore, do for all. After a slight
preparation for good news, the letter was read aloud. Mrs. Bennet
could hardly contain herself. As soon as Jane had read Mr.
Gardiner’s hope of Lydia’s being soon married, her joy burst forth,
and every following sentence added to its exuberance. She was
now in an irritation as violent from delight, as she had ever been
fidgetty from alarm and vexation. To know that her daughter
would be married was enough. She was disturbed by no fear for
her felicity, nor humbled by any remembrance of her misconduct.
‘My dear, dear Lydia!’ she cried. ‘This is delightful indeed!—
She will be married!—I shall see her again!—She will be married
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at sixteen!—My good, kind brother!—I knew how it would be—I
knew he would manage every thing. How I long to see her! and to
see dear Wickham too! But the clothes, the wedding clothes! I will
write to my sister Gardiner about them directly. Lizzy, my dear,
run down to your father, and ask him how much he will give her.
Stay, stay, I will go myself. Ring the bell, Kitty, for Hill. I will put
on my things in a moment. My dear, dear Lydia!—How merry we
shall be together when we meet!’
Her eldest daughter endeavoured to give some relief to the
violence of these transports, by leading her thoughts to the
obligations which Mr. Gardiner’s behaviour laid them all under.
‘For we must attribute this happy conclusion,’ she added, ‘in a
great measure, to his kindness. We are persuaded that he has
pledged himself to assist Mr. Wickham with money.’
‘Well,’ cried her mother, ‘it is all very right; who should do it but
her own uncle? If he had not had a family of his own, I and my
children must have had all his money you know, and it is the first
time we have ever had any thing from him, except a few presents.
Well! I am so happy. In a short time, I shall have a daughter
married. Mrs. Wickham! How well it sounds. And she was only
sixteen last June. My dear Jane, I am in such a flutter, that I am
sure I can’t write; so I will dictate, and you write for me. We will
settle with your father about the money afterwards; but the things
should be ordered immediately.’
She was then proceeding to all the particulars of calico, muslin,
and cambric, and would shortly have dictated some very plentiful
orders, had not Jane, though with some difficulty, persuaded her
to wait, till her father was at leisure to be consulted. One day’s
delay she observed, would be of small importance; and her mother
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was too happy, to be quite so obstinate as usual. Other schemes
too came into her head.
‘I will go to Meryton,’ said she, ‘as soon as I am dressed, and tell
the good, good news to my sister Philips. And as I come back, I can
call on Lady Lucas and Mrs. Long. Kitty, run down and order the
carriage. An airing would do me a great deal of good, I am sure.
Girls, can I do any thing for you in Meryton? Oh! here comes Hill.
My dear Hill, have you heard the good news? Miss Lydia is going
to be married; and you shall all have a bowl of punch, to make
merry at her wedding.’
Mrs. Hill began instantly to express her joy. Elizabeth received
her congratulations amongst the rest, and then, sick of this folly,
took refuge in her own room, that she might think with freedom.
Poor Lydia’s situation must, at best, be bad enough; but that it
was no worse, she had need to be thankful. She felt it so; and
though, in looking forward, neither rational happiness nor worldly
prosperity, could be justly expected for her sister; in looking back
to what they had feared, only two hours ago, she felt all the
advantages of what they had gained.
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r. Bennet had very often wished, before this period of
his life, that, instead of spending his whole income, he
had laid by an annual sum, for the better provision of
his children, and of his wife, if she survived him. He now wished it
more than ever. Had he done his duty in that respect, Lydia need
not have been indebted to her uncle, for whatever of honour or
credit could now be purchased for her. The satisfaction of
prevailing on one of the most worthless young men in Great
Britain to be her husband, might then have rested in its proper
He was seriously concerned, that a cause of so little advantage
to any one, should be forwarded at the sole expence of his brotherin-
law, and he was determined, if possible, to find out the extent of
his assistance, and to discharge the obligation as soon as he could.
When first Mr. Bennet had married, economy was held to be
perfectly useless; for, of course, they were to have a son. This son
was to join in cutting off the entail, as soon as he should be of age,
and the widow and younger children would by that means be
provided for. Five daughters successively entered the world, but
yet the son was to come; and Mrs. Bennet, for many years after
Lydia’s birth, had been certain that he would. This event had at
last been despaired of; but it was then too late to be saving. Mrs.
Bennet had no turn for economy, and her husband’s love of
independence had alone prevented their exceeding their income.
Five thousand pounds was settled by marriage articles on Mrs.
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Bennet and the children. But in what proportions it should be
divided amongst the latter, depended on the will of the parents.
This was one point, with regard to Lydia at least, which was now
to be settled, and Mr. Bennet could have no hesitation in acceding
to the proposal before him. In terms of grateful acknowledgment
for the kindness of his brother, though expressed most concisely,
he then delivered on paper his perfect approbation of all that was
done, and his willingness to fulfil the engagements that had been
made for him. He had never before supposed that, could Wickham
be prevailed on to marry his daughter, it would be done with so
little inconvenience to himself, as by the present arrangement. He
would scarcely be ten pounds a-year the loser, by the hundred that
was to be paid them; for, what with her board and pocket
allowance, and the continual presents in money, which passed to
her, through her mother’s hands, Lydia’s expences had been very
little within that sum.
That it would be done with such trifling exertion on his side,
too, was another very welcome surprise; for his chief wish at
present, was to have as little trouble in the business as possible.
When the first transports of rage which had produced his activity
in seeking her were over, he naturally returned to all his former
indolence. His letter was soon dispatched; for though dilatory in
undertaking business, he was quick in its execution. He begged to
know farther particulars of what he was indebted to his brother;
but was too angry with Lydia, to send any message to her.
The good news quickly spread through the house; and with
proportionate speed through the neighbourhood. It was borne in
the latter with decent philosophy. To be sure it would have been
more for the advantage of conversation, had Miss Lydia Bennet
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come upon the town; or, as the happiest alternative, been secluded
from the world, in some distant farm house. But there was much
to be talked of, in marrying her; and the good-natured wishes for
her well-doing, which had proceeded before, from all the spiteful
old ladies in Meryton, lost but little of their spirit in this change of
circumstances, because with such an husband, her misery was
considered certain.
It was a fortnight since Mrs. Bennet had been down stairs, but
on this happy day, she again took her seat at the head of her table,
and in spirits oppressively high. No sentiment of shame gave a
damp to her triumph. The marriage of a daughter, which had been
the first object of her wishes, since Jane was sixteen, was now on
the point of accomplishment, and her thoughts and her words ran
wholly on those attendants of elegant nuptials, fine muslins, new
carriages, and servants. She was busily searching through the
neighbourhood for a proper situation for her daughter, and,
without knowing or considering what their income might be,
rejected many as deficient in size and importance.
‘Haye-Park might do,’ said she, ‘if the Gouldings would quit it,
or the great house at Stoke, if the drawing-room were larger; but
Ashworth is too far off! I could not bear to have her ten miles from
me; and as for Purvis Lodge, the attics are dreadful.’
Her husband allowed her to talk on without interruption, while
the servants remained. But when they had withdrawn, he said to
her, ‘Mrs. Bennet, before you take any, or all of these houses, for
your son and daughter, let us come to a right understanding. Into
one house in this neighbourhood, they shall never have
admittance. I will not encourage the impudence of either, by
receiving them at Longbourn.’
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A long dispute followed this declaration; but Mr. Bennet was
firm: it soon led to another; and Mrs. Bennet found, with
amazement and horror, that her husband would not advance a
guinea to buy clothes for his daughter. He protested that she
should receive from him no mark of affection whatever, on the
occasion. Mrs. Bennet could hardly comprehend it. That his anger
could be carried to such a point of inconceivable resentment, as to
refuse his daughter a privilege, without which her marriage would
scarcely seem valid, exceeded all that she could believe possible.
She was more alive to the disgrace, which the want of new clothes
must reflect on her daughter’s nuptials, than to any sense of
shame at her eloping and living with Wickham, a fortnight before
they took place.
Elizabeth was now most heartily sorry that she had, from the
distress of the moment, been led to make Mr. Darcy acquainted
with their fears for her sister; for since her marriage would so
shortly give the proper termination to the elopement, they might
hope to conceal its unfavourable beginning, from all those who
were not immediately on the spot.
She had no fear of its spreading farther, through his means.
There were few people on whose secrecy she would have more
confidently depended; but at the same time, there was no one,
whose knowledge of a sister’s frailty would have mortified her so
much. Not, however, from any fear of disadvantage from it,
individually to herself; for at any rate, there seemed a gulf
impassable between them. Had Lydia’s marriage been concluded
on the most honourable terms, it was not to be supposed that Mr.
Darcy would connect himself with a family, where to every other
objection would now be added, an alliance and relationship of the
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nearest kind with the man whom he so justly scorned.
From such a connection she could not wonder that he should
shrink. The wish of procuring her regard, which she had assured
herself of his feeling in Derbyshire, could not in rational
expectation survive such a blow as this. She was humbled, she was
grieved; she repented, though she hardly knew of what. She
became jealous of his esteem, when she could no longer hope to be
benefited by it. She wanted to hear of him, when there seemed the
least chance of gaining intelligence. She was convinced that she
could have been happy with him; when it was no longer likely they
should meet.
What a triumph for him, as she often thought, could he know
that the proposals which she had proudly spurned only four
months ago, would now have been gladly and gratefully received!
He was as generous, she doubted not, as the most generous of his
sex. But while he was mortal, there must be a triumph.
She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man,
who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His
understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have
answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been to
the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might
have been softened, his manners improved, and from his
judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must
have received benefit of greater importance.
But no such happy marriage could now teach the admiring
multitude what connubial felicity really was. An union of a
different tendency, and precluding the possibility of the other, was
soon to be formed in their family.
How Wickham and Lydia were to be supported in tolerable
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independence, she could not imagine. But how little of permanent
happiness could belong to a couple who were only brought
together because their passions were stronger than their virtue,
she could easily conjecture.
Mr. Gardiner soon wrote again to his brother. To Mr. Bennet’s
acknowledgments he briefly replied, with assurances of his
eagerness to promote the welfare of any of his family; and
concluded with intreaties that the subject might never be
mentioned to him again. The principal purport of his letter was to
inform them, that Mr. Wickham had resolved on quitting the
‘It was greatly my wish that he should do so,’ he added, ‘as soon
as his marriage was fixed on. And I think you will agree with me,
in considering a removal from that corps as highly advisable, both
on his account and my niece’s. It is Mr. Wickham’s intention to go
into the regulars; and, among his former friends, there are still
some who are able and willing to assist him in the army. He has
the promise of an ensigncy in General —’s regiment, now
quartered in the North. It is an advantage to have it so far from
this part of the kingdom. He promises fairly, and I hope among
different people, where they may each have a character to
preserve, they will both be more prudent. I have written to Colonel
Forster, to inform him of our present arrangements, and to
request that he will satisfy the various creditors of Mr. Wickham in
and near Brighton, with assurances of speedy payment, for which
I have pledged myself. And will you give yourself the trouble of
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carrying similar assurances to his creditors in Meryton, of whom I
shall subjoin a list, according to his information. He has given in
all his debts; I hope at least he has not deceived us. Haggerston
has our directions, and all will be completed in a week. They will
then join his regiment, unless they are first invited to Longbourn;
and I understand from Mrs. Gardiner, that my niece is very
desirous of seeing you all, before she leaves the South. She is well,
and begs to be dutifully remembered to you and her mother.—
Your’s, &c.
‘E. Gardiner.’
Mr. Bennet and his daughters saw all the advantages of
Wickham’s removal from the —shire, as clearly as Mr. Gardiner
could do. But Mrs. Bennet, was not so well pleased with it. Lydia’s
being settled in the North, just when she had expected most
pleasure and pride in her company, for she had by no means given
up her plan of their residing in Hertfordshire, was a severe
disappointment; and besides, it was such a pity that Lydia should
be taken from a regiment where she was acquainted with every
body, and had so many favourites.
‘She is so fond of Mrs. Forster,’ said she, ‘it will be quite
shocking to send her away! And there are several of the young
men, too, that she likes very much. The officers may not be so
pleasant in General —’s regiment.’
His daughter’s request, for such it might be considered, of
being admitted into her family again, before she set off for the
North, received at first an absolute negative. But Jane and
Elizabeth, who agreed in wishing, for the sake of their sister’s
feelings and consequence, that she should be noticed on her
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marriage by her parents, urged him so earnestly, yet so rationally
and so mildly, to receive her and her husband at Longbourn, as
soon as they were married, that he was prevailed on to think as
they thought, and act as they wished. And their mother had the
satisfaction of knowing, that she should be able to shew her
married daughter in the neighbourhood, before she was banished
to the North. When Mr. Bennet wrote again to his brother,
therefore, he sent his permission for them to come; and it was
settled, that as soon as the ceremony was over, they should
proceed to Longbourn. Elizabeth was surprised, however, that
Wickham should consent to such a scheme, and, had she consulted
only her own inclination, any meeting with him would have been
the last object of her wishes.
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heir sister’s wedding day arrived; and Jane and Elizabeth
felt for her probably more than she felt for herself. The
carriage was sent to meet them at —, and they were to
return in it, by dinner-time. Their arrival was dreaded by the elder
Miss Bennets; and Jane more especially, who gave Lydia the
feelings which would have attended herself, had she been the
culprit, was wretched in the thought of what her sister must
They came. The family were assembled in the breakfast room,
to receive them. Smiles decked the face of Mrs. Bennet, as the
carriage drove up to the door; her husband looked impenetrably
grave; her daughters, alarmed, anxious, uneasy.
Lydia’s voice was heard in the vestibule; the door was thrown
open, and she ran into the room. Her mother stepped forwards,
embraced her, and welcomed her with rapture; gave her hand
with an affectionate smile to Wickham, who followed his lady, and
wished them both joy, with an alacrity which shewed no doubt of
their happiness.
Their reception from Mr. Bennet, to whom they then turned,
was not quite so cordial. His countenance rather gained in
austerity; and he scarcely opened his lips. The easy assurance of
the young couple, indeed, was enough to provoke him. Elizabeth
was disgusted, and even Miss Bennet was shocked. Lydia was
Lydia still; untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless. She
turned from sister to sister, demanding their congratulations, and
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when at length they all sat down, looked eagerly round the room,
took notice of some little alteration in it, and observed, with a
laugh, that it was a great while since she had been there.
Wickham was not at all more distressed than herself, but his
manners were always so pleasing, that had his character and his
marriage been exactly what they ought, his smiles and his easy
address, while he claimed their relationship, would have delighted
them all. Elizabeth had not before believed him quite equal to
such assurance; but she sat down, resolving within herself, to
draw no limits in future to the impudence of an impudent man.
She blushed, and Jane blushed; but the cheeks of the two who
caused their confusion, suffered no variation of colour.
There was no want of discourse. The bride and her mother
could neither of them talk fast enough; and Wickham, who
happened to sit near Elizabeth, began enquiring after his
acquaintance in that neighbourhood, with a good humoured ease,
which she felt very unable to equal in her replies. They seemed
each of them to have the happiest memories in the world. Nothing
of the past was recollected with pain; and Lydia led voluntarily to
subjects, which her sisters would not have alluded to for the world.
‘Only think of its being three months,’ she cried, ‘since I went
away; it seems but a fortnight I declare; and yet there have been
things enough happened in the time. Good gracious! when I went
away, I am sure I had no more idea of being married till I came
back again! though I thought it would be very good fun if I was.’
Her father lifted up his eyes. Jane was distressed. Elizabeth
looked expressively at Lydia; but she, who never heard nor saw
any thing of which she chose to be insensible, gaily continued, ‘Oh!
mamma, do the people here abouts know I am married to-day? I
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was afraid they might not; and we overtook William Goulding in
his curricle, so I was determined he should know it, and so I let
down the side glass next to him, and took off my glove, and let my
hand just rest upon the window frame, so that he might see the
ring, and then I bowed and smiled like any thing.’
Elizabeth could bear it no longer. She got up, and ran out of the
room; and returned no more, till she heard them passing through
the hall to the dining parlour. She then joined them soon enough
to see Lydia, with anxious parade, walk up to her mother’s right
hand, and hear her say to her eldest sister, ‘Ah! Jane, I take your
place now, and you must go lower, because I am a married
It was not to be supposed that time would give Lydia that
embarrassment, from which she had been so wholly free at first.
Her ease and good spirits increased. She longed to see Mrs.
Philips, the Lucases, and all their other neighbours, and to hear
herself called ‘Mrs. Wickham,’ by each of them; and in the mean
time, she went after dinner to shew her ring and boast of being
married, to Mrs. Hill and the two housemaids.
‘Well, mamma,’ said she, when they were all returned to the
breakfast room, ‘and what do you think of my husband? Is not he
a charming man? I am sure my sisters must all envy me. I only
hope they may have half my good luck. They must all go to
Brighton. That is the place to get husbands. What a pity it is,
mamma, we did not all go.’
‘Very true; and if I had my will, we should. But my dear Lydia, I
don’t at all like your going such a way off. Must it be so?’
‘Oh, lord! yes;—there is nothing in that. I shall like it of all
things. You and papa, and my sisters, must come down and see us.
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We shall be at Newcastle all the winter, and I dare say there will
be some balls, and I will take care to get good partners for them
‘I should like it beyond any thing!’ said her mother.
‘And then when you go away, you may leave one or two of my
sisters behind you; and I dare say I shall get husbands for them
before the winter is over.’
‘I thank you for my share of the favour,’ said Elizabeth; ‘but I do
not particularly like your way of getting husbands.’
Their visitors were not to remain above ten days with them. Mr.
Wickham had received his commission before he left London, and
he was to join his regiment at the end of a fortnight.
No one but Mrs. Bennet, regretted that their stay would be so
short; and she made the most of the time, by visiting about with
her daughter, and having very frequent parties at home. These
parties were acceptable to all; to avoid a family circle was even
more desirable to such as did think, than such as did not.
Wickham’s affection for Lydia, was just what Elizabeth had
expected to find it; not equal to Lydia’s for him. She had scarcely
needed her present observation to be satisfied, from the reason of
things, that their elopement had been brought on by the strength
of her love, rather than by his; and she would have wondered why,
without violently caring for her, he chose to elope with her at all,
had she not felt certain that his flight was rendered necessary by
distress of circumstances; and if that were the case, he was not the
young man to resist an opportunity of having a companion.
Lydia was exceedingly fond of him. He was her dear Wickham
on every occasion; no one was to be put in competition with him.
He did every thing best in the world; and she was sure he would
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kill more birds on the first of September, than any body else in the
One morning, soon after their arrival, as she was sitting with
her two elder sisters, she said to Elizabeth,
‘Lizzy, I never gave you an account of my wedding, I believe.
You were not by, when I told mamma, and the others, all about it.
Are not you curious to hear how it was managed?’
‘No really,’ replied Elizabeth; ‘I think there cannot be too little
said on the subject.’
‘La! You are so strange! But I must tell you how it went off. We
were married, you know, at St. Clement’s, because Wickham’s
lodgings were in that parish. And it was settled that we should all
be there by eleven o’clock. My uncle and aunt and I were to go
together; and the others were to meet us at the church. Well,
Monday morning came, and I was in such a fuss! I was so afraid
you know that something would happen to put it off, and then I
should have gone quite distracted. And there was my aunt, all the
time I was dressing, preaching and talking away just as if she was
reading a sermon. However, I did not hear above one word in ten,
for I was thinking, you may suppose, of my dear Wickham. I
longed to know whether he would be married in his blue coat.
‘Well, and so we breakfasted at ten as usual; I thought it would
never be over; for, by the bye, you are to understand, that my
uncle and aunt were horrid unpleasant all the time I was with
them. If you’ll believe me, I did not once put my foot out of doors,
though I was there a fortnight. Not one party, or scheme, or any
thing. To be sure London was rather thin, but however the Little
Theatre was open. Well, and so just as the carriage came to the
door, my uncle was called away upon business to that horrid man
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Mr. Stone. And then, you know, when once they get together,
there is no end of it. Well, I was so frightened I did not know what
to do, for my uncle was to give me away; and if we were beyond
the hour, we could not be married all day. But, luckily, he came
back again in ten minutes time, and then we all set out. However, I
recollected afterwards, that if he had been prevented going, the
wedding need not be put off, for Mr. Darcy might have done as
‘Mr. Darcy!’ repeated Elizabeth, in utter amazement.
‘Oh, yes!—he was to come there with Wickham, you know. But
gracious me! I quite forgot! I ought not to have said a word about
it. I promised them so faithfully! What will Wickham say? It was to
be such a secret!’
‘If it was to be secret,’ said Jane, ‘say not another word on the
subject. You may depend upon my seeking no further.’
‘Oh! certainly,’ said Elizabeth, though burning with curiosity;
‘we will ask you no questions.’
‘Thank you,’ said Lydia, ‘for if you did, I should certainly tell
you all, and then Wickham would he angry.’
On such encouragement to ask, Elizabeth was forced to put it
out of her power, by running away.
But to live in ignorance on such a point was impossible; or at
least it was impossible not to try for information. Mr. Darcy had
been at her sister’s wedding. It was exactly a scene, and exactly
among people, where he had apparently least to do, and least
temptation to go. Conjectures as to the meaning of it, rapid and
wild, hurried into her brain; but she was satisfied with none.
Those that best pleased her, as placing his conduct in the noblest
light, seemed most improbable. She could not bear such suspense;
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and hastily seizing a sheet of paper, wrote a short letter to her
aunt, to request an explanation of what Lydia had dropt, if it were
compatible with the secrecy which had been intended.
‘You may readily comprehend,’ she added, ‘what my curiosity
must be to know how a person unconnected with any of us, and
(comparatively speaking) a stranger to our family, should have
been amongst you at such a time. Pray write instantly, and let me
understand it—unless it is, for very cogent reasons, to remain in
the secrecy which Lydia seems to think necessary; and then I must
endeavour to be satisfied with ignorance.’
‘Not that I shall though,’ she added to herself, as she finished
the letter; ‘and my dear aunt, if you do not tell me in an
honourable manner, I shall certainly be reduced to tricks and
stratagems to find it out.’
Jane’s delicate sense of honour would not allow her to speak to
Elizabeth privately of what Lydia had let fall; Elizabeth was glad of
it;—till it appeared whether her inquiries would receive any
satisfaction, she had rather be without a confidante.
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lizabeth had the satisfaction of receiving an answer to her
letter, as soon as she possibly could. She was no sooner in
possession of it, than hurrying into the little copse, where
she was least likely to be interrupted, she sat down on one of the
benches, and prepared to be happy; for the length of the letter
convinced her that it did not contain a denial.
‘Gracechurch-street, Sept. 6.
‘My Dear Niece,
‘I have just received your letter, and shall devote this whole
morning to answering it, as I foresee that a little writing will not
comprise what I have to tell you. I must confess myself surprised
by your application; I did not expect it from you. Don’t think me
angry, however, for I only mean to let you know, that I had not
imagined such enquiries to be necessary on your side. If you do
not choose to understand me, forgive my impertinence. Your
uncle is as much surprised as I am—and nothing but the belief of
your being a party concerned, would have allowed him to act as he
has done. But if you are really innocent and ignorant, I must be
more explicit. On the very day of my coming home from
Longbourn, your uncle had a most unexpected visitor. Mr. Darcy
called, and was shut up with him several hours. It was all over
before I arrived; so my curiosity was not so dreadfully racked as
your’s seems to have been. He came to tell Mr. Gardiner that he
had found out where your sister and Mr. Wickham were, and that
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he had seen and talked with them both, Wickham repeatedly,
Lydia once. From what I can collect, he left Derbyshire only one
day after ourselves, and came to town with the resolution of
hunting for them. The motive professed, was his conviction of its
being owing to himself that Wickham’s worthlessness had not
been so well known, as to make it impossible for any young
woman of character, to love or confide in him. He generously
imputed the whole to his mistaken pride, and confessed that he
had before thought it beneath him, to lay his private actions open
to the world. His character was to speak for itself. He called it,
therefore, his duty to step forward, and endeavour to remedy an
evil, which had been brought on by himself. If he had another
motive, I am sure it would never disgrace him. He had been some
days in town, before he was able to discover them; but he had
something to direct his search, which was more than we had; and
the consciousness of this, was another reason for his resolving to
follow us. There is a lady, it seems, a Mrs. Younge, who was some
time ago governess to Miss Darcy, and was dismissed from her
charge on some cause of disapprobation, though he did not say
what. She then took a large house in Edward-street, and has since
maintained herself by letting lodgings. This Mrs. Younge was, he
knew, intimately acquainted with Wickham; and he went to her
for intelligence of him, as soon as he got to town. But it was two or
three days before he could get from her what he wanted. She
would not betray her trust, I suppose, without bribery and
corruption, for she really did know where her friend was to be
found. Wickham indeed had gone to her, on their first arrival in
London, and had she been able to receive them into her house,
they would have taken up their abode with her. At length,
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however, our kind friend procured the wished-for direction. They
were in — street. He saw Wickham, and afterwards insisted on
seeing Lydia. His first object with her, he acknowledged, had been
to persuade her to quit her present disgraceful situation, and
return to her friends as soon as they could be prevailed on to
receive her, offering his assistance, as far as it would go. But he
found Lydia absolutely resolved on remaining where she was. She
cared for none of her friends, she wanted no help of his, she would
not hear of leaving Wickham. She was sure they should be
married some time or other, and it did not much signify when.
Since such were her feelings, it only remained, he thought, to
secure and expedite a marriage, which, in his very first
conversation with Wickham, he easily learnt, had never been his
design. He confessed himself obliged to leave the regiment, on
account of some debts of honour, which were very pressing; and
scrupled not to lay all the ill-consequences of Lydia’s flight, on her
own folly alone. He meant to resign his commission immediately;
and as to his future situation, he could conjecture very little about
it. He must go somewhere, but he did not know where, and he
knew he should have nothing to live on. Mr. Darcy asked him why
he had not married your sister at once. Though Mr. Bennet was
not imagined to be very rich, he would have been able to do
something for him, and his situation must have been benefited by
marriage. But he found, in reply to this question, that Wickham
still cherished the hope of more effectually making his fortune by
marriage, in some other country. Under such circumstances,
however, he was not likely to be proof against the temptation of
immediate relief. They met several times, for there was much to be
discussed. Wickham of course wanted more than he could get; but
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at length was reduced to be reasonable. Every thing being settled
between them, Mr. Darcy’s next step was to make your uncle
acquainted with it, and he first called in Gracechurch-street the
evening before I came home. But Mr. Gardiner could not be seen,
and Mr. Darcy found, on further enquiry, that your father was still
with him, but would quit town the next morning. He did not judge
your father to be a person whom he could so properly consult as
your uncle, and therefore readily postponed seeing him, till after
the departure of the former. He did not leave his name, and till the
next day, it was only known that a gentleman had called on
business. On Saturday he came again. Your father was gone, your
uncle at home, and, as I said before, they had a great deal of talk
together. They met again on Sunday, and then I saw him too. It
was not all settled before Monday: as soon as it was, the express
was sent off to Longbourn. But our visitor was very obstinate. I
fancy, Lizzy, that obstinacy is the real defect of his character after
all. He has been accused of many faults at different times; but this
is the true one. Nothing was to be done that he did not do himself;
though I am sure (and I do not speak it to be thanked, therefore
say nothing about it,) your uncle would most readily have settled
the whole. They battled it together for a long time, which was
more than either the gentleman or lady concerned in it deserved.
But at last your uncle was forced to yield, and instead of being
allowed to be of use to his niece, was forced to put up with only
having the probable credit of it, which went sorely against the
grain; and I really believe your letter this morning gave him great
pleasure, because it required an explanation that would rob him of
his borrowed feathers, and give the praise where it was due. But,
Lizzy, this must go no farther than yourself, or Jane at most. You
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know pretty well, I suppose, what has been done for the young
people. His debts are to be paid, amounting, I believe, to
considerably more than a thousand pounds, another thousand in
addition to her own settled upon her, and his commission
purchased. The reason why all this was to be done by him alone,
was such as I have given above. It was owing to him, to his reserve,
and want of proper consideration, that Wickham’s character had
been so misunderstood, and consequently that he had been
received and noticed as he was. Perhaps there was some truth in
this; though I doubt whether his reserve, or anybody’s reserve, can
be answerable for the event. But in spite of all this fine talking, my
dear Lizzy, you may rest perfectly assured, that your uncle would
never have yielded, if we had not given him credit for another
interest in the affair. When all this was resolved on, he returned
again to his friends, who were still staying at Pemberley; but it was
agreed that he should be in London once more when the wedding
took place, and all money matters were then to receive the last
finish. I believe I have now told you every thing. It is a relation
which you tell me is to give you great surprise; I hope at least it
will not afford you any displeasure. Lydia came to us; and
Wickham had constant admission to the house. He was exactly
what he had been, when I knew him in Hertfordshire; but I would
not tell you how little I was satisfied with her behaviour while she
staid with us, if I had not perceived, by Jane’s letter last
Wednesday, that her conduct on coming home was exactly of a
piece with it, and therefore what I now tell you, can give you no
fresh pain. I talked to her repeatedly in the most serious manner,
representing to her all the wickedness of what she had done, and
all the unhappiness she had brought on her family. If she heard
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me, it was by good luck, for I am sure she did not listen. I was
sometimes quite provoked, but then I recollected my dear
Elizabeth and Jane, and for their sakes had patience with her. Mr.
Darcy was punctual in his return, and as Lydia informed you,
attended the wedding. He dined with us the next day, and was to
leave town again on Wednesday or Thursday. Will you be very
angry with me, my dear Lizzy, if I take this opportunity of saying
(what I was never bold enough to say before) how much I like him.
His behaviour to us has, in every respect, been as pleasing as
when we were in Derbyshire. His understanding and opinions all
please me; he wants nothing but a little more liveliness, and that, if
he marry prudently, his wife may teach him. I thought him very
sly;—he hardly ever mentioned your name. But slyness seems the
fashion. Pray forgive me, if I have been very presuming, or at least
do not punish me so far, as to exclude me from P. I shall never be
quite happy till I have been all round the park. A low phaeton,
with a nice little pair of ponies, would be the very thing. But I
must write no more. The children have been wanting me this half
hour. Your’s, very sincerely,
M. Gardiner.’
The contents of this letter threw Elizabeth into a flutter of
spirits, in which it was difficult to determine whether pleasure or
pain bore the greatest share. The vague and unsettled suspicions
which uncertainty had produced of what Mr. Darcy might have
been doing to forward her sister’s match, which she had feared to
encourage, as an exertion of goodness too great to be probable,
and at the same time dreaded to be just, from the pain of
obligation, were proved beyond their greatest extent to be true!
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He had followed them purposely to town, he had taken on himself
all the trouble and mortification attendant on such a research; in
which supplication had been necessary to a woman whom he must
abominate and despise, and where he was reduced to meet,
frequently meet, reason with, persuade, and finally bribe, the man
whom he always most wished to avoid, and whose very name it
was punishment to him to pronounce. He had done all this for a
girl whom he could neither regard nor esteem. Her heart did
whisper, that he had done it for her. But it was a hope shortly
checked by other considerations, and she soon felt that even her
vanity was insufficient, when required to depend on his affection
for her, for a woman who had already refused him, as able to
overcome a sentiment so natural as abhorrence against
relationship with Wickham. Brother-in-law of Wickham! Every
kind of pride must revolt from the connection. He had to be sure
done much. She was ashamed to think how much. But he had
given a reason for his interference, which asked no extraordinary
stretch of belief. It was reasonable that he should feel he had been
wrong; he had liberality, and he had the means of exercising it;
and though she would not place herself as his principal
inducement, she could, perhaps, believe, that remaining partiality
for her, might assist his endeavours in a cause where her peace of
mind must be materially concerned. It was painful, exceedingly
painful, to know that they were under obligations to a person who
could never receive a return. They owed the restoration of Lydia,
her character, every thing to him. Oh! how heartily did she grieve
over every ungracious sensation she had ever encouraged, every
saucy speech she had ever directed towards him. For herself she
was humbled; but she was proud of him. Proud that in a cause of
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compassion and honour, he had been able to get the better of
himself. She read over her aunt’s commendation of him again and
again. It was hardly enough; but it pleased her. She was even
sensible of some pleasure, though mixed with regret, on finding
how steadfastly both she and her uncle had been persuaded that
affection and confidence subsisted between Mr. Darcy and herself.
She was roused from her seat, and her reflections, by some
one’s approach; and before she could strike into another path, she
was overtaken by Wickham.
I am afraid I interrupt your solitary ramble, my dear sister?’
said he, as he joined her.
‘You certainly do,’ she replied with a smile; ‘but it does not
follow that the interruption must be unwelcome.’
‘I should be sorry indeed, if it were. We were always good
friends; and now we are better.’
‘True. Are the others coming out?’
‘I do not know. Mrs. Bennet and Lydia are going in the carriage
to Meryton. And so, my dear sister, I find from our uncle and aunt,
that you have actually seen Pemberley.’
She replied in the affirmative.
‘I almost envy you the pleasure, and yet I believe it would be too
much for me, or else I could take it in my way to Newcastle. And
you saw the old housekeeper, I suppose? Poor Reynolds, she was
always very fond of me. But of course she did not mention my
name to you.
‘Yes, she did.’
‘And what did she say?’
‘That you were gone into the army, and she was afraid had not
turned out well. At such a distance as that, you know, things are
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strangely misrepresented.’
‘Certainly,’ he replied, biting his lips. Elizabeth hoped she had
silenced him; but he soon afterwards said,
‘I was surprised to see Darcy in town last month. We passed
each other several times. I wonder what he can be doing there.’
‘Perhaps preparing for his marriage with Miss de Bourgh,’ said
Elizabeth. ‘It must be something particular, to take him there at
this time of year.’
‘Undoubtedly. Did you see him while you were at Lambton? I
thought I understood from the Gardiners that you had.’
‘Yes; he introduced us to his sister.’
‘And do you like her?’
‘Very much.’
‘I have heard, indeed, that she is uncommonly improved within
this year or two. When I last saw her, she was not very promising.
I am very glad you liked her. I hope she will turn out well.’
‘I dare say she will; she has got over the most trying age.’
‘Did you go by the village of Kympton?’
‘I do not recollect that we did.’
‘I mention it, because it is the living which I ought to have had.
A most delightful place!—Excellent Parsonage House! It would
have suited me in every respect.’
‘How should you have liked making sermons?’
‘Exceedingly well. I should have considered it as part of my
duty, and the exertion would soon have been nothing. One ought
not to repine;—but, to be sure, it would have been such a thing for
me! The quiet, the retirement of such a life, would have answered
all my ideas of happiness! But it was not to be. Did you ever hear
Darcy mention the circumstance, when you were in Kent?’
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‘I have heard from authority, which I thought as good, that it
was left you conditionally only, and at the will of the present
‘You have. Yes, there was something in that; I told you so from
the first, you may remember.’
‘I did hear, too, that there was a time, when sermon-making was
not so palatable to you as it seems to be at present; that you
actually declared your resolution of never taking orders, and that
the business had been compromised accordingly.’
‘You did! and it was not wholly without foundation. You may
remember what I told you on that point, when first we talked of it.’
They were now almost at the door of the house, for she had
walked fast to get rid of him; and unwilling for her sister’s sake, to
provoke him, she only said in reply, with a good-humoured smile,
‘Come, Mr. Wickham, we are brother and sister, you know. Do
not let us quarrel about the past. In future, I hope we shall be
always of one mind.’
She held out her hand; he kissed it with affectionate gallantry,
though he hardly knew how to look, and they entered the house.
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r. Wickham was so perfectly satisfied with this
conversation, that he never again distressed himself,
or provoked his dear sister Elizabeth, by introducing
the subject of it; and she was pleased to find that she had said
enough to keep him quiet.
The day of his and Lydia’s departure soon came, and Mrs.
Bennet was forced to submit to a separation, which, as her
husband by no means entered into her scheme of their all going to
Newcastle, was likely to continue at least a twelvemonth.
‘Oh! my dear Lydia,’ she cried, ‘when shall we meet again?’
‘Oh, lord! I don’t know. Not these two or three years perhaps.’
‘Write to me very often, my dear.’
‘As often as I can. But you know married women have never
much time for writing. My sisters may write to me. They will have
nothing else to do.’
Mr. Wickham’s adieus were much more affectionate than his
wife’s. He smiled, looked handsome, and said many pretty things.
‘He is as fine a fellow,’ said Mr. Bennet, as soon as they were
out of the house, ‘as ever I saw. He simpers, and smirks, and
makes love to us all. I am prodigiously proud of him. I defy even
Sir William Lucas himself, to produce a more valuable son-in-law.’
The loss of her daughter made Mrs. Bennet very dull for several
‘I often think,’ said she, ‘that there is nothing so bad as parting
with one’s friends. One seems so forlorn without them.’
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‘This is the consequence you see, Madam, of marrying a
daughter,’ said Elizabeth. ‘It must make you better satisfied that
your other four are single.’
‘It is no such thing. Lydia does not leave me because she is
married; but only because her husband’s regiment happens to be
so far off. If that had been nearer, she would not have gone so
But the spiritless condition which this event threw her into, was
shortly relieved, and her mind opened again to the agitation of
hope, by an article of news, which then began to be in circulation.
The housekeeper at Netherfield had received orders to prepare for
the arrival of her master, who was coming down in a day or two, to
shoot there for several weeks. Mrs. Bennet was quite in the
fidgets. She looked at Jane, and smiled, and shook her head by
‘Well, well, and so Mr. Bingley is coming down, sister,’ (for Mrs.
Phillips first brought her the news.) ‘Well, so much the better. Not
that I care about it, though. He is nothing to us, you know, and I
am sure I never want to see him again. But, however, he is very
welcome to come to Netherfield, if he likes it. And who knows
what may happen? But that is nothing to us. You know, sister, we
agreed long ago never to mention a word about it. And so, is it
quite certain he is coming?’
‘You may depend on it,’ replied the other, ‘for Mrs. Nicholls was
in Meryton last night; I saw her passing by, and went out myself
on purpose to know the truth of it; and she told me that it was
certain true. He comes down on Thursday at the latest, very likely
on Wednesday. She was going to the butcher’s, she told me, on
purpose to order in some meat on Wednesday, and she has got
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three couple of ducks, just fit to be killed.’
Miss Bennet had not been able to hear of his coming, without
changing colour. It was many months since she had mentioned his
name to Elizabeth; but now, as soon as they were alone together,
she said,
‘I saw you look at me to-day, Lizzy, when my aunt told us of the
present report; and I know I appeared distressed. But don’t
imagine it was from any silly cause. I was only confused for the
moment, because I felt that I should be looked at. I do assure you,
that the news does not affect me either with pleasure or pain. I am
glad of one thing, that he comes alone; because we shall see the
less of him. Not that I am afraid of myself, but I dread other
people’s remarks.’
Elizabeth did not know what to make of it. Had she not seen
him in Derbyshire, she might have supposed him capable of
coming there, with no other view than what was acknowledged;
but she still thought him partial to Jane, and she wavered as to the
greater probability of his coming there with his friend’s
permission, or being bold enough to come without it.
‘Yet it is hard,’ she sometimes thought, ‘that this poor man
cannot come to a house, which he has legally hired, without
raising all this speculation! I will leave him to himself.’
In spite of what her sister declared, and really believed to be
her feelings, in the expectation of his arrival, Elizabeth could
easily perceive that her spirits were affected by it. They were more
disturbed, more unequal, than she had often seen them.
The subject which had been so warmly canvassed between
their parents, about a twelvemonth ago, was now brought forward
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‘As soon as ever Mr Bingley comes, my dear,’ said Mrs. Bennet,
‘you will wait on him of course.’
‘No, no. You forced me into visiting him last year, and promised
if I went to see him, he should marry one of my daughters. But it
ended in nothing, and I will not be sent on a fool’s errand again.
His wife represented to him how absolutely necessary such an
attention would be from all the neighbouring gentlemen, on his
returning to Netherfield.
‘’Tis an etiquette I despise,’ said he. ‘If he wants our society, let
him seek it. He knows where we live. I will not spend my hours in
running after my neighbours every time they go away, and come
back again.’
‘Well, all I know is, that it will be abominably rude if you do not
wait on him. But, however, that shan’t prevent my asking him to
dine here, I am determined. We must have Mrs. Long and the
Gouldings soon. That will make thirteen with ourselves, so there
will be just room at table for him.’
Consoled by this resolution, she was the better able to bear her
husband’s incivility; though it was very mortifying to know that
her neighbours might all see Mr. Bingley in consequence of it,
before they did. As the day of his arrival drew near,
‘I begin to be sorry that he comes at all,’ said Jane to her sister.
‘It would be nothing; I could see him with perfect indifference, but
I can hardly bear to hear it thus perpetually talked of. My mother
means well; but she does not know, no one can know how much I
suffer from what she says. Happy shall I be, when his stay at
Netherfield is over!’
‘I wish I could say any thing to comfort you,’ replied Elizabeth;
‘but it is wholly out of my power. You must feel it; and the usual
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satisfaction of preaching patience to a sufferer is denied me,
because you have always so much.’
Mr. Bingley arrived. Mrs. Bennet, through the assistance of
servants, contrived to have the earliest tidings of it, that the period
of anxiety and fretfulness on her side, might be as long as it could.
She counted the days that must intervene before their invitation
could be sent; hopeless of seeing him before. But on the third
morning after his arrival in Hertfordshire, she saw him from her
dressing-room window, enter the paddock, and ride towards the
Her daughters were eagerly called to partake of her joy. Jane
resolutely kept her place at the table; but Elizabeth, to satisfy her
mother, went to the window—she looked,—she saw Mr. Darcy
with him, and sat down again by her sister.
‘There is a gentleman with him, mamma,’ said Kitty; ‘who can it
‘Some acquaintance or other, my dear, I suppose; I am sure I do
not know.’
‘La!’ replied Kitty, ‘it looks just like that man that used to be
with him before. Mr. what’s his name. That tall, proud man.’
‘Good gracious! Mr. Darcy!—and so it does I vow. Well, any
friend of Mr. Bingley’s will always be welcome here to be sure; but
else I must say that I hate the very sight of him.’
Jane looked at Elizabeth with surprise and concern. She knew
but little of their meeting in Derbyshire, and therefore felt for the
awkwardness which must attend her sister, in seeing him almost
for the first time after receiving his explanatory letter. Both sisters
were uncomfortable enough. Each felt for the other, and of course
for themselves; and their mother talked on, of her dislike of Mr.
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Darcy, and her resolution to be civil to him only as Mr. Bingley’s
friend, without being heard by either of them. But Elizabeth had
sources of uneasiness which could not be suspected by Jane, to
whom she had never yet had courage to shew Mrs. Gardiner’s
letter, or to relate her own change of sentiment towards him. To
Jane, he could be only a man whose proposals she had refused,
and whose merit she had undervalued; but to her own more
extensive information, he was the person, to whom the whole
family were indebted for the first of benefits, and whom she
regarded herself with an interest, if not quite so tender, at least as
reasonable and just, as what Jane felt for Bingley. Her
astonishment at his coming—at his coming to Netherfield, to
Longbourn, and voluntarily seeking her again, was almost equal to
what she had known on first witnessing his altered behaviour in
The colour which had been driven from her face, returned for
half a minute with an additional glow, and a smile of delight added
lustre to her eyes, as she thought for that space of time, that his
affection and wishes must still be unshaken. But she would not be
‘Let me first see how he behaves,’ said she; ‘it will then be early
enough for expectation.’
She sat intently at work, striving to be composed, and without
daring to lift up her eyes, till anxious curiosity carried them to the
face of her sister, as the servant was approaching the door. Jane
looked a little paler than usual, but more sedate than Elizabeth
had expected. On the gentlemen’s appearing, her colour
increased; yet she received them with tolerable ease, and with a
propriety of behaviour equally free from any symptom of
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resentment, or any unnecessary complaisance.
Elizabeth said as little to either as civility would allow, and sat
down again to her work, with an eagerness which it did not often
command. She had ventured only one glance at Darcy. He looked
serious as usual; and she thought, more as he had been used to
look in Hertfordshire, than as she had seen him at Pemberley. But,
perhaps he could not in her mother’s presence be what he was
before her uncle and aunt. It was a painful, but not an improbable,
Bingley, she had likewise seen for an instant, and in that short
period saw him looking both pleased and embarrassed. He was
received by Mrs. Bennet with a degree of civility, which made her
two daughters ashamed, especially when contrasted with the cold
and ceremonious politeness of her curtsey and address to his
Elizabeth particularly, who knew that her mother owed to the
latter the preservation of her favourite daughter from
irremediable infamy, was hurt and distressed to a most painful
degree by a distinction so ill applied.
Darcy, after enquiring of her how Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner did, a
question which she could not answer without confusion, said
scarcely any thing. He was not seated by her; perhaps that was the
reason of his silence; but it had not been so in Derbyshire. There
he had talked to her friends, when he could not to herself. But now
several minutes elapsed, without bringing the sound of his voice;
and when occasionally, unable to resist the impulse of curiosity,
she raised her eyes to his face, she as often found him looking at
Jane, as at herself, and frequently on no object but the ground.
More thoughtfulness, and less anxiety to please than when they
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last met, were plainly expressed. She was disappointed, and angry
with herself for being so.
‘Could I expect it to be otherwise!’ said she. ‘Yet why did he
She was in no humour for conversation with any one but
himself; and to him she had hardly courage to speak.
She enquired after his sister, but could do no more.
‘It is a long time, Mr. Bingley, since you went away,’ said Mrs.
He readily agreed to it.
‘I began to be afraid you would never come back again. People
did say, you meant to quit the place entirely at Michaelmas; but,
however, I hope it is not true. A great many changes have
happened in the neighbourhood, since you went away.
Miss Lucas is married and settled. And one of my own daughters.
I suppose you have heard of it; indeed, you must have seen it
in the papers. It was in the Times and the Courier, I know; though
it was not put in as it ought to be. It was only said, “Lately, George
Wickham, Esq. to Miss Lydia Bennet,” without there being a
syllable said of her father, or the place where she lived, or any
thing. It was my brother Gardiner’s drawing up too, and I wonder
how he came to make such an awkward business of it. Did you see
Bingley replied that he did, and made his congratulations.
Elizabeth dared not lift up her eyes. How Mr. Darcy looked,
therefore, she could not tell.
‘It is a delightful thing, to be sure, to have a daughter well
married,’ continued her mother, ‘but at the same time, Mr.
Bingley, it is very hard to have her taken such a way from me.
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They are gone down to Newcastle, a place quite northward, it
seems, and there they are to stay, I do not know how long. His
regiment is there; for I suppose you have heard of his leaving the
—shire, and of his being gone into the regulars. Thank Heaven! he
has some friends, though perhaps not so many as he deserves.’
Elizabeth, who knew this to be levelled at Mr. Darcy, was in
such misery of shame, that she could hardly keep her seat. It drew
from her, however, the exertion of speaking, which nothing else
had so effectually done before; and she asked Bingley, whether he
meant to make any stay in the country at present. A few weeks, he
‘When you have killed all your own birds, Mr. Bingley,’ said her
mother, ‘I beg you will come here, and shoot as many as you
please, on Mr. Bennet’s manor. I am sure he will be vastly happy
to oblige you, and will save all the best of the covies for you.’
Elizabeth’s misery increased, at such unnecessary, such
officious attention! Were the same fair prospect to arise at present,
as had flattered them a year ago, every thing, she was persuaded,
would be hastening to the same vexatious conclusion. At that
instant she felt, that years of happiness could not make Jane or
herself amends, for moments of such painful confusion.
‘The first wish of my heart,’ said she to herself, ‘is never more to
be in company with either of them. Their society can afford no
pleasure, that will atone for such wretchedness as this! Let me
never see either one or the other again!’
Yet the misery, for which years of happiness were to offer no
compensation, received soon afterwards material relief, from
observing how much the beauty of her sister re-kindled the
admiration of her former lover. When first he came in, he had
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spoken to her but little; but every five minutes seemed to be giving
her more of his attention. He found her as handsome as she had
been last year; as good-natured, and as unaffected, though not
quite so chatty. Jane was anxious that no difference should be
perceived in her at all, and was really persuaded that she talked as
much as ever. But her mind was so busily engaged, that she did
not always know when she was silent.
When the gentlemen rose to go away, Mrs. Bennet was mindful
of her intended civility, and they were invited and engaged to dine
at Longbourn in a few days time.
‘You are quite a visit in my debt, Mr. Bingley,’ she added, ‘for
when you went to town last winter, you promised to take a family
dinner with us, as soon as you returned. I have not forgot, you see;
and I assure you, I was very much disappointed that you did not
come back and keep your engagement.’
Bingley looked a little silly at this reflection, and said something
of his concern, at having been prevented by business. They then
went away.
Mrs. Bennet had been strongly inclined to ask them to stay and
dine there, that day; but, though she always kept a very good table,
she did not think any thing less than two courses, could be good
enough for a man, on whom she had such anxious designs, or
satisfy the appetite and pride of one who had ten thousand a-year.
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s soon as they were gone, Elizabeth walked out to recover
her spirits; or in other words, to dwell without
interruption on those subjects that must deaden them
more. Mr. Darcy’s behaviour astonished and vexed her.
‘Why, if he came only to be silent, grave, and indifferent,’ said
she, ‘did he come at all?’
She could settle it in no way that gave her pleasure.
‘He could be still amiable, still pleasing, to my uncle and aunt,
when he was in town; and why not to me? If he fears me, why
come hither? If he no longer cares for me, why silent? Teazing,
teazing, man! I will think no more about him.’
Her resolution was for a short time involuntarily kept by the
approach of her sister, who joined her with a cheerful look, which
shewed her better satisfied with their visitors, than Elizabeth.
‘Now,’ said she, ‘that this first meeting is over, I feel perfectly
easy. I know my own strength, and I shall never be embarrassed
again by his coming. I am glad he dines here on Tuesday. It will
then be publicly seen, that on both sides, we meet only as common
and indifferent acquaintance.’
‘Yes, very indifferent indeed,’ said Elizabeth, laughingly. ‘Oh,
Jane, take care.’
‘My dear Lizzy, you cannot think me so weak, as to be in danger
‘I think you are in very great danger of making him as much in
love with you as ever.’
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They did not see the gentlemen again till Tuesday; and Mrs.
Bennet, in the meanwhile, was giving way to all the happy
schemes, which the good humour, and common politeness of
Bingley, in half an hour’s visit, had revived.
On Tuesday there was a large party assembled at Longbourn;
and the two, who were most anxiously expected, to the credit of
their punctuality as sportsmen, were in very good time. When they
repaired to the dining-room, Elizabeth eagerly watched to see
whether Bingley would take the place, which, in all their former
parties, had belonged to him, by her sister. Her prudent mother,
occupied by the same ideas, forbore to invite him to sit by herself.
On entering the room, he seemed to hesitate; but Jane happened
to look round, and happened to smile: it was decided. He placed
himself by her.
Elizabeth, with a triumphant sensation, looked towards his
friend. He bore it with noble indifference, and she would have
imagined that Bingley had received his sanction to be happy, had
she not seen his eyes likewise turned towards Mr. Darcy, with an
expression of half-laughing alarm.
His behaviour to her sister was such, during dinner time, as
shewed an admiration of her, which, though more guarded than
formerly, persuaded Elizabeth, that if left wholly to himself, Jane’s
happiness, and his own, would be speedily secured. Though she
dared not depend upon the consequence, she yet received
pleasure from observing his behaviour. It gave her all the
animation that her spirits could boast; for she was in no cheerful
humour. Mr. Darcy was almost as far from her, as the table could
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divide them. He was on one side of her mother. She knew how
little such a situation would give pleasure to either, or make either
appear to advantage. She was not near enough to hear any of their
discourse, but she could see how seldom they spoke to each other,
and how formal and cold was their manner, whenever they did.
Her mother’s ungraciousness, made the sense of what they owed
him more painful to Elizabeth’s mind; and she would, at times,
have given any thing to be privileged to tell him, that his kindness
was neither unknown nor unfelt by the whole of the family.
She was in hopes that the evening would afford some
opportunity of bringing them together; that the whole of the visit
would not pass away without enabling them to enter into
something more of conversation, than the mere ceremonious
salutation attending his entrance. Anxious and uneasy, the period
which passed in the drawing-room, before the gentlemen came,
was wearisome and dull to a degree, that almost made her uncivil.
She looked forward to their entrance, as the point on which all her
chance of pleasure for the evening must depend.
‘If he does not come to me, then,’ said she, ‘I shall give him up
for ever.’
The gentlemen came; and she thought he looked as if he would
have answered her hopes; but, alas! the ladies had crowded round
the table, where Miss Bennet was making tea, and Elizabeth
pouring out the coffee, in so close a confederacy, that there was
not a single vacancy near her, which would admit of a chair. And
on the gentlemen’s approaching, one of the girls moved closer to
her than ever, and said, in a whisper,
‘The men shan’t come and part us, I am determined. We want
none of them; do we?’
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Darcy had walked away to another part of the room. She
followed him with her eyes, envied every one to whom he spoke,
had scarcely patience enough to help anybody to coffee; and then
was enraged against herself for being so silly!
‘A man who has once been refused! How could I ever be foolish
enough to expect a renewal of his love? Is there one among the
sex, who would not protest against such a weakness as a second
proposal to the same woman? There is no indignity so abhorrent
to their feelings!’
She was a little revived, however, by his bringing back his
coffee cup himself; and she seized the opportunity of saying,
‘Is your sister at Pemberley still?’
‘Yes, she will remain there till Christmas.’
‘And quite alone? Have all her friends left her?’
‘Mrs. Annesley is with her. The others have been gone on to
Scarborough, these three weeks.’
She could think of nothing more to say; but if he wished to
converse with her, he might have better success. He stood by her,
however, for some minutes, in silence; and, at last, on the young
lady’s whispering to Elizabeth again, he walked away.
When the tea-things were removed, and the card tables placed,
the ladies all rose, and Elizabeth was then hoping to be soon
joined by him, when all her views were overthrown, by seeing him
fall a victim to her mother’s rapacity for whist players, and in a few
moments after seated with the rest of the party. She now lost
every expectation of pleasure. They were confined for the evening
at different tables, and she had nothing to hope, but that his eyes
were so often turned towards her side of the room, as to make him
play as unsuccessfully as herself.
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Mrs. Bennet had designed to keep the two Netherfield
gentlemen to supper; but their carriage was unluckily ordered
before any of the others, and she had no opportunity of detaining
‘Well girls,’ said she, as soon as they were left to themselves,
‘What say you to the day? I think every thing has passed off
uncommonly well, I assure you. The dinner was as well dressed as
any I ever saw. The venison was roasted to a turn—and everybody
said, they never saw so fat a haunch. The soup was fifty times
better than what we had at the Lucas’s last week; and even Mr.
Darcy acknowledged, that the partridges were remarkably well
done; and I suppose he has two or three French cooks at least.
And, my dear Jane, I never saw you look in greater beauty. Mrs.
Long said so too, for I asked her whether you did not. And what do
you think she said besides? “Ah! Mrs. Bennet, we shall have her at
Netherfield at last.” She did indeed. I do think Mrs. Long is as
good a creature as ever lived—and her nieces are very pretty
behaved girls, and not at all handsome: I like them prodigiously.’
Mrs. Bennet, in short, was in very great spirits; she had seen
enough of Bingley’s behaviour to Jane, to be convinced that she
would get him at last; and her expectations of advantage to her
family, when in a happy humour, were so far beyond reason, that
she was quite disappointed at not seeing him there again the next
day, to make his proposals.
‘It has been a very agreeable day,’ said Miss Bennet to
Elizabeth. ‘The party seemed so well selected, so suitable one with
the other I hope we may often meet again.’
Elizabeth smiled.
‘Lizzy, you must not do so. You must not suspect me. It
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mortifies me. I assure you that I have now learnt to enjoy his
conversation as an agreeable and sensible young man, without
having a wish beyond it. I am perfectly satisfied from what his
manners now are, that he never had any design of engaging my
affection. It is only that he is blessed with greater sweetness of
address, and a stronger desire of generally pleasing than any other
‘You are very cruel,’ said her sister, ‘you will not let me smile,
and are provoking me to it every moment.’
‘How hard it is in some cases to be believed!’
‘And how impossible in others!’
‘But why should you wish to persuade me that I feel more than
I acknowledge?’
‘That is a question which I hardly know how to answer. We all
love to instruct, though we can teach only what is not worth
knowing. Forgive me; and if you persist in indifference, do not
make me your confidante.’
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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, &c. &c.; 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?’
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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 intreaty that she would not
give into 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 up
stairs 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
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her daughter. His ease and cheerfulness rendered him a most
agreeable addition to their evening party; and he bore with the illjudged
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
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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 her’s 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 every body 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 any one 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
She then hastened away to her mother, who had purposely
broken up the card party, and was sitting up stairs with Kitty.
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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
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 shewed how
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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
‘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 sha’nt 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
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
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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 any one 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
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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
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.
Philips, 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.
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ne morning, about a week after Bingley’s engagement
with Jane had been formed, as he and the females of the
family were sitting together in the dining room, their
attention was suddenly drawn to the window, by the sound of a
carriage; and they perceived a chaise and four driving up the lawn.
It was too early in the morning for visitors, and besides, the
equipage did not answer to that of any of their neighbours. The
horses were post; and neither the carriage, nor the livery of the
servant who preceded it, were familiar to them. As it was certain,
however, that somebody was coming, Bingley instantly prevailed
on Miss Bennet to avoid the confinement of such an intrusion, and
walk away with him into the shrubbery. They both set off, and the
conjectures of the remaining three continued, though with little
satisfaction, till the door was thrown open, and their visitor
entered. It was Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
They were of course all intending to be surprised; but their
astonishment was beyond their expectation; and on the part of
Mrs. Bennet and Kitty, though she was perfectly unknown to
them, even inferior to what Elizabeth felt.
She entered the room with an air more than usually
ungracious, made no other reply to Elizabeth’s salutation, than a
slight inclination of the head, and sat down without saying a word.
Elizabeth had mentioned her name to her mother, on her
ladyship’s entrance, though no request of introduction had been
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Mrs. Bennet all amazement, though flattered by having a guest
of such high importance, received her with the utmost politeness.
After sitting for a moment in silence, she said very stiffly to
‘I hope you are well, Miss Bennet. That lady I suppose is your
Elizabeth replied very concisely that she was.
‘And that I suppose is one of your sisters.
‘Yes, madam,’ said Mrs. Bennet, delighted to speak to a Lady
Catherine. ‘She is my youngest girl but one. My youngest of all, is
lately married, and my eldest is somewhere about the grounds,
walking with a young man, who I believe will soon become a part
of the family.’
‘You have a very small park here,’ returned Lady Catherine
after a short silence.
‘It is nothing in comparison of Rosings, my Lady, I dare say; but
I assure you it is much larger than Sir William Lucas’s.’
‘This must be a most inconvenient sitting room for the evening,
in summer; the windows are full west.’
Mrs. Bennet assured her that they never sat there after dinner,
and then added,
‘May I take the liberty of asking your ladyship whether you left
Mr. and Mrs. Collins well.’
‘Yes, very well. I saw them the night before last.’
Elizabeth now expected that she would produce a letter for her
from Charlotte, as it seemed the only probable motive for her
calling. But no letter appeared, and she was completely puzzled.
Mrs. Bennet, with great civility, begged her ladyship to take
some refreshment; but Lady Catherine very resolutely, and not
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very politely, declined eating any thing; and then rising up, said to
‘Miss Bennet, there seemed to be a prettyish kind of a little
wilderness on one side of your lawn. I should be glad to take a turn
in it, if you will favour me with your company.’
‘Go, my dear,’ cried her mother, ‘and shew her ladyship about
the different walks. I think she will be pleased with the hermitage.’
Elizabeth obeyed, and running into her own room for her
parasol, attended her noble guest down stairs. As they passed
through the hall, Lady Catherine opened the doors into the diningparlour
and drawing-room, and pronouncing them, after a short
survey, to be decent looking rooms, walked on.
Her carriage remained at the door, and Elizabeth saw that her
waiting-woman was in it. They proceeded in silence along the
gravel walk that led to the copse; Elizabeth was determined to
make no effort for conversation with a woman, who was now more
than usually insolent and disagreeable.
‘How could I ever think her like her nephew?’ said she, as she
looked in her face.
As soon as they entered the copse, Lady Catherine began in the
following manner:—
‘You can be at no loss, Miss Bennet, to understand the reason of
my journey hither. Your own heart, your own conscience, must tell
you why I come.’
Elizabeth looked with unaffected astonishment.
‘Indeed, you are mistaken, Madam. I have not been at all able to
account for the honour of seeing you here.’
‘Miss Bennet,’ replied her ladyship, in an angry tone, ‘you ought
to know, that I am not to be trifled with. But however insincere
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you may choose to be, you shall not find me so. My character has
ever been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness, and in a cause
of such moment as this, I shall certainly not depart from it. A
report of a most alarming nature, reached me two days ago. I was
told, that not only your sister was on the point of being most
advantageously married, but that you, that Miss Elizabeth Bennet,
would, in all likelihood, be soon afterwards united to my nephew,
my own nephew, Mr. Darcy. Though I know it must be a
scandalous falsehood; though I would not injure him so much as to
suppose the truth of it possible, I instantly resolved on setting off
for this place, that I might make my sentiments known to you.’
‘If you believed it impossible to be true,’ said Elizabeth,
colouring with astonishment and disdain, ‘I wonder you took the
trouble of coming so far. What could your ladyship propose by it?’
‘At once to insist upon having such a report universally
‘Your coming to Longbourn, to see me and my family,’ said
Elizabeth, coolly, ‘will be rather a confirmation of it; if, indeed,
such a report is in existence.’
‘If! do you then pretend to be ignorant of it? Has it not been
industriously circulated by yourselves? Do you not know that such
a report is spread abroad?’
‘I never heard that it was.’
‘And can you likewise declare, that there is no foundation for
‘I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship.
You may ask questions, which I shall not choose to answer.’
‘This is not to be borne. Miss Bennet, I insist on being satisfied.
Has he, has my nephew, made you an offer of marriage?’
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‘Your ladyship has declared it to be impossible.’
‘It ought to be so; it must be so, while he retains the use of his
reason. But your arts and allurements may, in a moment of
infatuation, have made him forget what he owes to himself and to
all his family. You may have drawn him in.’
‘If I have, I shall be the last person to confess it.’
‘Miss Bennet, do you know who I am? I have not been
accustomed to such language as this. I am almost the nearest
relation he has in the world, and am entitled to know all his
dearest concerns.’
‘But you are not entitled to know mine; nor will such behaviour
as this, ever induce me to be explicit.’
‘Let me be rightly understood. This match, to which you have
the presumption to aspire, can never take place. No, never. Mr.
Darcy is engaged to my daughter. Now what have you to say?’
‘Only this; that if he is so, you can have no reason to suppose he
will make an offer to me.’
Lady Catherine hesitated for a moment, and then replied,
‘The engagement between them is of a peculiar kind. From
their infancy, they have been intended for each other. It was the
favourite wish of his mother, as well as of her’s. While in their
cradles, we planned the union: and now, at the moment when the
wishes of both sisters would be accomplished, in their marriage, to
be prevented by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance
in the world, and wholly unallied to the family! Do you pay no
regard to the wishes of his friends? To his tacit engagement with
Miss De Bourgh? Are you lost to every feeling of propriety and
delicacy? Have you not heard me say, that from his earliest hours
he was destined for his cousin?’
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‘Yes, and I had heard it before. But what is that to me? If there
is no other objection to my marrying your nephew, I shall certainly
not be kept from it, by knowing that his mother and aunt wished
him to marry Miss De Bourgh. You both did as much as you could,
in planning the marriage. Its completion depended on others. If
Mr. Darcy is neither by honour nor inclination confined to his
cousin, why is not he to make another choice? And if I am that
choice, why may not I accept him?’
‘Because honour, decorum, prudence, nay, interest, forbid it.
Yes, Miss Bennet, interest; for do not expect to be noticed by his
family or friends, if you wilfully act against the inclinations of all.
You will be censured, slighted, and despised, by every one
connected with him. Your alliance will be a disgrace; your name
will never even be mentioned by any of us.’
‘These are heavy misfortunes,’ replied Elizabeth. ‘But the wife
of Mr. Darcy must have such extraordinary sources of happiness
necessarily attached to her situation, that she could, upon the
whole, have no cause to repine.
‘Obstinate, headstrong girl! I am ashamed of you! Is this your
gratitude for my attentions to you last spring? Is nothing due to
me on that score?
‘Let us sit down. You are to understand, Miss Bennet, that I
came here with the determined resolution of carrying my purpose;
nor will I be dissuaded from it. I have not been used to submit to
any person’s whims. I have not been in the habit of brooking
‘That will make your ladyship’s situation at present more
pitiable; but it will have no effect on me.’
‘I will not be interrupted. Hear me in silence. My daughter and
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my nephew are formed for each other. They are descended on the
maternal side, from the same noble line; and, on the father’s, from
respectable, honourable, and ancient, though untitled families.
Their fortune on both sides is splendid. They are destined for each
other by the voice of every member of their respective houses; and
what is to divide them? The upstart pretensions of a young woman
without family, connections, or fortune. Is this to be endured! But
it must not, shall not be. If you were sensible of your own good,
you would not wish to quit the sphere, in which you have been
brought up.’
‘In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as
quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s
daughter; so far we are equal.’
‘True. You are a gentleman’s daughter. But who was your
mother? Who are your uncles and aunts? Do not imagine me
ignorant of their condition.’
‘Whatever my connections may be,’ said Elizabeth, ‘if your
nephew does not object to them, they can be nothing to you.’
‘Tell me once for all, are you engaged to him?’
Though Elizabeth would not, for the mere purpose of obliging
Lady Catherine, have answered this question; she could not but
say, after a moment’s deliberation,
‘I am not.’
Lady Catherine seemed pleased.
‘And will you promise me, never to enter into such an
‘I will make no promise of the kind.’
‘Miss Bennet I am shocked and astonished. I expected to find a
more reasonable young woman. But do not deceive yourself into a
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belief that I will ever recede. I shall not go away, till you have
given me the assurance I require.
‘And I certainly never shall give it. I am not to be intimidated
into anything so wholly unreasonable. Your ladyship wants Mr.
Darcy to marry your daughter; but would my giving you the
wished-for promise, make their marriage at all more probable?
Supposing him to be attached to me, would my refusing to accept
his hand, make him wish to bestow it on his cousin? Allow me to
say, Lady Catherine, that the arguments with which you have
supported this extraordinary application, have been as frivolous as
the application was ill-judged. You have widely mistaken my
character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as
these. How far your nephew might approve of your interference in
his affairs, I cannot tell; but you have certainly no right to concern
yourself in mine. I must beg, therefore, to be importuned no
farther on the subject.’
‘Not so hasty, if you please. I have by no means done. To all the
objections I have already urged, I have still another to add. I am no
stranger to the particulars of your youngest sister’s infamous
elopement. I know it all; that the young man’s marrying her, was a
patched-up business, at the expence of your father and uncles.
And is such a girl to be my nephew’s sister? Is her husband, is the
son of his late father’s steward, to be his brother? Heaven and
earth!—of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to
be thus polluted?’
‘You can now have nothing farther to say,’ she resentfully
answered. ‘You have insulted me, in every possible method. I must
beg to return to the house.’
And she rose as she spoke. Lady Catherine rose also, and they
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turned back. Her ladyship was highly incensed.
‘You have no regard, then, for the honour and credit of my
nephew! Unfeeling, selfish girl! Do you not consider that a
connection with you, must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody?’
‘Lady Catherine, I have nothing farther to say. You know my
‘You are then resolved to have him?’
‘I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that
manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness,
without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected
with me.’
‘It is well. You refuse, then, to oblige me. You refuse to obey the
claims of duty, honour, and gratitude. You are determined to ruin
him in the opinion of all his friends, and make him the contempt of
the world.’
‘Neither duty, nor honour, nor gratitude,’ replied Elizabeth,
‘have any possible claim on me, in the present instance. No
principle of either, would be violated by my marriage with Mr.
Darcy. And with regard to the resentment of his family, or the
indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his
marrying me, it would not give me one moment’s concern—and
the world in general would have too much sense to join in the
‘And this is your real opinion! This is your final resolve! Very
well. I shall now know how to act. Do not imagine, Miss Bennet,
that your ambition will ever be gratified. I came to try you. I hoped
to find you reasonable; but depend upon it I will carry my point.’
In this manner Lady Catherine talked on, till they were at the
door of the carriage, when turning hastily round, she added,
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‘I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. I send no compliments to
your mother. You deserve no such attention. I am most seriously
Elizabeth made no answer; and without attempting to persuade
her ladyship to return into the house, walked quietly into it
herself. She heard the carriage drive away as she proceeded up
stairs. Her mother impatiently met her at the door of the dressingroom,
to ask why Lady Catherine would not come in again and
rest herself.
‘She did not choose it,’ said her daughter, ‘she would go.’
‘She is a very fine-looking woman! and her calling here was
prodigiously civil! for she only came, I suppose, to tell us the
Collinses were well. She is on her road somewhere, I dare say, and
so passing through Meryton, thought she might as well call on you.
I suppose she had nothing particular to say to you, Lizzy?’
Elizabeth was forced to give into a little falsehood here; for to
acknowledge the substance of their conversation was impossible.
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he discomposure of spirits, which this extraordinary visit
threw Elizabeth into, could not be easily overcome; nor
could she for many hours, learn to think of it less than
incessantly. Lady Catherine it appeared, had actually taken the
trouble of this journey from Rosings, for the sole purpose of
breaking off her supposed engagement with Mr. Darcy. It was a
rational scheme to be sure! but from what the report of their
engagement could originate, Elizabeth was at a loss to imagine; till
she recollected that his being the intimate friend of Bingley, and
her being the sister of Jane, was enough, at a time when the
expectation of one wedding, made every body eager for another, to
supply the idea. She had not herself forgotten to feel that the
marriage of her sister must bring them more frequently together.
And her neighbours at Lucas lodge, therefore, (for through their
communication with the Collinses, the report she concluded had
reached Lady Catherine) had only set that down, as almost certain
and immediate, which she had looked forward to as possible, at
some future time.
In revolving Lady Catherine’s expressions, however, she could
not help feeling some uneasiness as to the possible consequence of
her persisting in this interference. From what she had said of her
resolution to prevent their marriage, it occurred to Elizabeth that
she must meditate an application to her nephew; and how he
might take a similar representation of the evils attached to a
connection with her, she dared not pronounce. She knew not the
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exact degree of his affection for his aunt, or his dependence on her
judgment, but it was natural to suppose that he thought much
higher of her ladyship than she could do; and it was certain, that in
enumerating the miseries of a marriage with one, whose
immediate connections were so unequal to his own, his aunt
would address him on his weakest side. With his notions of
dignity, he would probably feel that the arguments, which to
Elizabeth had appeared weak and ridiculous, contained much
good sense and solid reasoning.
If he had been wavering before, as to what he should do, which
had often seemed likely, the advice and intreaty of so near a
relation might settle every doubt, and determine him at once to be
as happy, as dignity unblemished could make him. In that case he
would return no more. Lady Catherine might see him in her way
through town; and his engagement to Bingley of coming again to
Netherfield must give way.
‘If, therefore, an excuse for not keeping his promise, should
come to his friend within a few days,’ she added, ‘I shall know how
to understand it. I shall then give over every expectation, every
wish of his constancy. If he is satisfied with only regretting me,
when he might have obtained my affections and hand; I shall soon
cease to regret him at all.’
The surprise of the rest of the family, on hearing who their
visitor had been, was very great; but they obligingly satisfied it,
with the same kind of supposition, which had appeased Mrs.
Bennet’s curiosity; and Elizabeth was spared from much teazing
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on the subject.
The next morning, as she was going down stairs, she was met
by her father, who came out of his library with a letter in his hand.
‘Lizzy,’ said he, ‘I was going to look for you; come into my
She followed him thither; and her curiosity to know what he
had to tell her, was heightened by the supposition of its being in
some manner connected with the letter he held. It suddenly struck
her that it might be from Lady Catherine; and she anticipated with
dismay all the consequent explanations.
She followed her father to the fire place, and they both sat
down. He then said,
‘I have received a letter this morning that has astonished me
exceedingly. As it principally concerns yourself, you ought to know
its contents. I did not know before, that I had two daughters on the
brink of matrimony. Let me congratulate you, on a very important
The colour now rushed into Elizabeth’s cheeks in the
instantaneous conviction of its being a letter from the nephew,
instead of the aunt; and she was undetermined whether most to be
pleased that he explained himself at all, or offended that his letter
was not rather addressed to herself; when her father continued,
‘You look conscious. Young ladies have great penetration in
such matters as these; but I think I may defy even your sagacity, to
discover the name of your admirer. This letter is from Mr. Collins.’
‘From Mr. Collins! and what can he have to say?’
‘Something very much to the purpose of course. He begins with
congratulations on the approaching nuptials of my eldest
daughter, of which it seems he has been told, by some of the goodJane
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natured, gossiping Lucases. I shall not sport with your impatience,
by reading what he says on that point. What relates to yourself, is
as follows. ‘Having thus offered you the sincere congratulations of
Mrs. Collins and myself on this happy event, let me now add a
short hint on the subject of another; of which we have been
advertised by the same authority. Your daughter Elizabeth, it is
presumed, will not long bear the name of Bennet, after her elder
sister has resigned it, and the chosen partner of her fate, may be
reasonably looked up to, as one of the most illustrious personages
in this land.’
‘Can you possibly guess, Lizzy, who is meant by this?’ ‘This
young gentleman is blessed in a peculiar way, with every thing the
heart of mortal can most desire,—splendid property, noble
kindred, and extensive patronage. Yet in spite of all these
temptations, let me warn my cousin Elizabeth, and yourself, of
what evils you may incur, by a precipitate closure with this
gentleman’s proposals, which, of course, you will be inclined to
take immediate advantage of.’
‘Have you any idea, Lizzy, who this gentleman is? But now it
comes out.’
‘My motive for cautioning you, is as follows. We have reason to
imagine that his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, does not look on
the match with a friendly eye.’
‘Mr. Darcy, you see, is the man! Now, Lizzy, I think I have
surprised you. Could he, or the Lucases, have pitched on any man,
within the circle of our acquaintance, whose name would have
given the lie more effectually to what they related? Mr. Darcy, who
never looks at any woman but to see a blemish, and who probably
never looked at you in his life! It is admirable!’
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Elizabeth tried to join in her father’s pleasantry, but could only
force one most reluctant smile. Never had his wit been directed in
a manner so little agreeable to her.
‘Are you not diverted?’
‘Oh! yes. Pray read on.’
‘After mentioning the likelihood of this marriage to her ladyship
last night, she immediately, with her usual condescension,
expressed what she felt on the occasion; when it become apparent,
that on the score of some family objections on the part of my
cousin, she would never give her consent to what she termed so
disgraceful a match. I thought it my duty to give the speediest
intelligence of this to my cousin, that she and her noble admirer
may be aware of what they are about, and not run hastily into a
marriage which has not been properly sanctioned.’ ‘Mr. Collins
moreover adds,’ ‘I am truly rejoiced that my cousin Lydia’s sad
business has been so well hushed up, and am only concerned that
their living together before the marriage took place, should be so
generally known. I must not, however, neglect the duties of my
station, or refrain from declaring my amazement, at hearing that
you received the young couple into your house as soon as they
were married. It was an encouragement of vice; and had I been
the rector of Longbourn, I should very strenuously have opposed
it. You ought certainly to forgive them as a christian, but never to
admit them in your sight, or allow their names to be mentioned in
your hearing.’ ‘That is his notion of christian forgiveness! The rest
of his letter is only about his dear Charlotte’s situation, and his
expectation of a young olive-branch. But, Lizzy, you look as if you
did not enjoy it. You are not going to be Missish, I hope, and
pretend to be affronted at an idle report. For what do we live, but
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to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?’
‘Oh!’ cried Elizabeth, ‘I am excessively diverted. But it is so
‘Yes—that is what makes it amusing. Had they fixed on any
other man it would have been nothing; but his perfect
indifference, and your pointed dislike, make it so delightfully
absurd! Much as I abominate writing, I would not give up Mr.
Collins’s correspondence for any consideration. Nay, when I read
a letter of his, I cannot help giving him the preference even over
Wickham, much as I value the impudence and hypocrisy of my
son-in-law. And pray, Lizzy, what said Lady Catherine about this
report? Did she call to refuse her consent?’
To this question his daughter replied only with a laugh; and as
it had been asked without the least suspicion, she was not
distressed by his repeating it. Elizabeth had never been more at a
loss to make her feelings appear what they were not. It was
necessary to laugh, when she would rather have cried. Her father
had most cruelly mortified her, by what he said of Mr. Darcy’s
indifference, and she could do nothing but wonder at such a want
of penetration, or fear that perhaps, instead of his seeing too little,
she might have fancied too much.
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nstead 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 your’s. 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
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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;
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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 heart-felt 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
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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 gentleman-like
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
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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
retrospections 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,
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(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 shewed 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
‘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.’
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‘My object then,’ replied Darcy, ‘was to shew 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 any thing 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
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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
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
‘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
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to be laught 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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y dear Lizzy, where can you have been walking to?’
was a question which Elizabeth received from Jane
as soon as she entered their room, and from all the
others when they sat down to table. She had only to say in reply,
that they had wandered about, till she was beyond her own
knowledge. She coloured as she spoke; but neither that, nor any
thing else, awakened a suspicion of the truth.
The evening passed quietly, unmarked by any thing extraordinary.
The acknowledged lovers talked and laughed, the
unacknowledged were silent. Darcy was not of a disposition in
which happiness overflows in mirth; and Elizabeth, agitated and
confused, rather knew that she was happy, than felt herself to be
so; for, besides the immediate embarrassment, there were other
evils before her. She anticipated what would be felt in the family
when her situation became known; she was aware that no one
liked him but Jane; and even feared that with the others it was a
dislike which not all his fortune and consequence might do away.
At night she opened her heart to Jane. Though suspicion was
very far from Miss Bennet’s general habits, she was absolutely
incredulous here.
‘You are joking, Lizzy. This cannot be!—engaged to Mr. Darcy!
No, no, you shall not deceive me. I know it to be impossible.’
‘This is a wretched beginning indeed! My sole dependence was
on you; and I am sure nobody else will believe me, if you do not.
Yet, indeed, I am in earnest. I speak nothing but the truth. He still
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loves me, and we are engaged.’
Jane looked at her doubtingly. ‘Oh, Lizzy! it cannot be. I know
how much you dislike him.’
‘You know nothing of the matter. That is all to be forgot.—
Perhaps I did not always love him so well as I do now. But in such
cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable. This is the last
time I shall ever remember it myself.’
Miss Bennet still looked all amazement. Elizabeth again, and
more seriously assured her of its truth.
‘Good Heaven! can it be really so! Yet now I must believe you,’
cried Jane. ‘My dear, dear Lizzy, I would—I do congratulate you—
but are you certain? forgive the question—are you quite certain
that you can be happy with him?’
‘There can be no doubt of that. It is settled between us already,
that we are to be the happiest couple in the world. But are you
pleased, Jane? Shall you like to have such a brother?’
‘Very, very much. Nothing could give either Bingley or myself
more delight. But we considered it, we talked of it as impossible.
And do you really love him quite well enough? Oh, Lizzy! do any
thing rather than marry without affection. Are you quite sure that
you feel what you ought to do?’
‘Oh, yes! You will only think I feel more than I ought to do,
when I tell you all.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Why, I must confess, that I love him better than I do Bingley. I
am afraid you will be angry.’
‘My dearest sister, now be serious. I want to talk very seriously.
Let me know every thing that I am to know, without delay. Will
you tell me how long you have loved him?’
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‘It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it
began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his
beautiful grounds at Pemberley.’
Another intreaty that she would be serious, however, produced
the desired effect; and she soon satisfied Jane by her solemn
assurances of attachment. When convinced on that article, Miss
Bennet had nothing farther to wish.
‘Now I am quite happy,’ said she, ‘for you will be as happy as
myself. I always had a value for him. Were it for nothing but his
love of you, I must always have esteemed him; but now, as
Bingley’s friend and your husband, there can be only Bingley and
yourself more dear to me. But Lizzy, you have been very sly, very
reserved with me. How little did you tell me of what passed at
Pemberley and Lambton! I owe all that I know of it, to another,
not to you.’
Elizabeth told her the motives of her secrecy. She had been
unwilling to mention Bingley; and the unsettled state of her own
feelings had made her equally avoid the name of his friend. But
now she would no longer conceal from her, his share in Lydia’s
marriage. All was acknowledged, and half the night spent in
‘Good gracious!’ cried Mrs. Bennet, as she stood at a window
the next morning, ‘if that disagreeable Mr. Darcy is not coming
here again with our dear Bingley! What can he mean by being so
tiresome as to be always coming here? I had no notion but he
would go a shooting, or something or other, and not disturb us
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with his company. What shall we do with him? Lizzy, you must
walk out with him again, that he may not be in Bingley’s way.’
Elizabeth could hardly help laughing at so convenient a
proposal; yet was really vexed that her mother should be always
giving him such an epithet.
As soon as they entered, Bingley looked at her so expressively,
and shook hands with such warmth, as left no doubt of his good
information; and he soon afterwards said aloud, ‘Mr. Bennet,’ have
you no more lanes hereabouts in which Lizzy may lose her way
again to-day?’
‘I advise Mr. Darcy, and Lizzy, and Kitty,’ said Mrs. Bennet, ‘to
walk to Oakham Mount this morning. It is a nice long walk, and
Mr. Darcy has never seen the view.’
‘It may do very well for the others,’ replied Mr. Bingley; ‘but I
am sure it will be too much for Kitty. Wont it, Kitty?’
Kitty owned that she had rather stay at home. Darcy professed
a great curiosity to see the view from the Mount, and Elizabeth
silently consented. As she went up stairs to get ready, Mrs. Bennet
followed her, saying;
‘I am quite sorry, Lizzy, that you should be forced to have that
disagreeable man all to yourself. But I hope you will not mind it: it
is all for Jane’s sake, you know; and there is no occasion for
talking to him, except just now and then. So, do not put yourself to
During their walk, it was resolved that Mr. Bennet’s consent
should be asked in the course of the evening. Elizabeth reserved to
herself the application for her mother’s. She could not determine
how her mother would take it; sometimes doubting whether all his
wealth and grandeur would be enough to overcome her
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abhorrence of the man. But whether she were violently set against
the match, or violently delighted with it, it was certain that her
manner would be equally ill adapted to do credit to her sense; and
she could no more bear that Mr. Darcy should hear the first
raptures of her joy, than the first vehemence of her
In the evening, soon after Mr. Bennet withdrew to the library,
she saw Mr. Darcy rise also and follow him, and her agitation on
seeing it was extreme. She did not fear her father’s opposition, but
he was going to be made unhappy, and that it should be through
her means, that she, his favourite child, should be distressing him
by her choice, should be filling him with fears and regrets in
disposing of her, was a wretched reflection, and she sat in misery
till Mr. Darcy appeared again, when, looking at him, she was a
little relieved by his smile. In a few minutes he approached the
table where she was sitting with Kitty; and, while pretending to
admire her work, said in a whisper, ‘Go to your father, he wants
you in the library.’ She was gone directly.
Her father was walking about the room, looking grave and
anxious. ‘Lizzy,’ said he, ‘what are you doing? Are you out of your
senses, to be accepting this man? Have not you always hated
How earnestly did she then wish that her former opinions had
been more reasonable, her expressions more moderate! It would
have spared her from explanations and professions which it was
exceedingly awkward to give; but they were now necessary, and
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she assured him with some confusion, of her attachment to Mr.
‘Or in other words, you are determined to have him. He is rich,
to be sure, and you may have more fine clothes and fine carriages
than Jane. But will they make you happy?’
‘Have you any other objection,’ said Elizabeth, ‘than your belief
of my indifference?’
‘None at all. We all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of
man; but this would be nothing if you really liked him.’
‘I do, I do like him,’ she replied, with tears in her eyes, ‘I love
him. Indeed he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable.
You do not know what he really is; then pray do not pain me by
speaking of him in such terms.’
‘Lizzy,’ said her father, ‘I have given him my consent. He is the
kind of man, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse any
thing, which he condescended to ask. I now give it to you, if you
are resolved on having him. But let me advise you to think better
of it. I know your disposition, Lizzy. I know that you could be
neither happy nor respectable, unless you truly esteemed your
husband; unless you looked up to him as a superior. Your lively
talents would place you in the greatest danger in an unequal
marriage. You could scarcely escape discredit and misery. My
child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect
your partner in life. You know not what you are about.’
Elizabeth, still more affected, was earnest and solemn in her
reply; and at length, by repeated assurances that Mr. Darcy was
really the object of her choice, by explaining the gradual change
which her estimation of him had undergone, relating her absolute
certainty that his affection was not the work of a day, but had
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stood the test of many months suspense, and numerating with
energy all his good qualities, she did conquer her father’s
incredulity, and reconcile him to the match.
‘Well, my dear,’ said he, when she ceased speaking, ‘I have no
more to say. If this be the case, he deserves you. I could not have
parted with you, my Lizzy, to any one less worthy.’
To complete the favourable impression, she then told him what
Mr. Darcy had voluntarily done for Lydia. He heard her with
‘This is an evening of wonders, indeed! And so, Darcy did every
thing; made up the match, gave the money, paid the fellow’s debts,
and got him his commission! So much the better. It will save me a
world of trouble and economy. Had it been your uncle’s doing, I
must and would have paid him; but these violent young lovers
carry every thing their own way. I shall offer to pay him tomorrow;
he will rant and storm about his love for you, and there
will be an end of the matter.’
He then recollected her embarrassment a few days before, on
his reading Mr. Collins’s letter; and after laughing at her some
time, allowed her at last to go—saying, as she quitted the room, ‘If
any young men come for Mary or Kitty, send them in, for I am
quite at leisure.’
Elizabeth’s mind was now relieved from a very heavy weight;
and, after half an hour’s quiet reflection in her own room, she was
able to join the others with tolerable composure. Every thing was
too recent for gaiety, but the evening passed tranquilly away;
there was no longer any thing material to be dreaded, and the
comfort of ease and familiarity would come in time.
When her mother went up to her dressing-room at night, she
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followed her, and made the important communication. Its effect
was most extraordinary; for on first hearing it, Mrs. Bennet sat
quite still, and unable to utter a syllable. Nor was it under many,
many minutes, that she could comprehend what she heard;
though not in general backward to credit what was for the
advantage of her family, or that came in the shape of a lover to any
of them. She began at length to recover, to fidget about in her
chair, get up, sit down again, wonder, and bless herself.
‘Good gracious! Lord bless me! only think! dear me! Mr. Darcy!
Who would have thought it! And is it really true? Oh! my sweetest
Lizzy! how rich and how great you will be! What pin-money, what
jewels, what carriages you will have! Jane’s is nothing to it—
nothing at all. I am so pleased—so happy. Such a charming
man!—so handsome! so tall!—Oh, my dear Lizzy! pray apologise
for my having disliked him so much before. I hope he will overlook
it. Dear, dear Lizzy. A house in town! Every thing that is
charming! Three daughters married! Ten thousand a year! Oh,
Lord! What will become of me. I shall go distracted.’
This was enough to prove that her approbation need not be
doubted: and Elizabeth, rejoicing that such an effusion was heard
only by herself, soon went away. But before she had been three
minutes in her own room, her mother followed her.
‘My dearest child,’ she cried, ‘I can think of nothing else! Ten
thousand a year, and very likely more! ’Tis as good as a Lord! And
a special licence. You must and shall be married by a special
licence. But my dearest love, tell me what dish Mr. Darcy is
particularly fond of, that I may have it to-morrow.
This was a sad omen of what her mother’s behaviour to the
gentleman himself might be; and Elizabeth found, that though in
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the certain possession of his warmest affection, and secure of her
relations’ consent, there was still something to be wished for. But
the morrow passed off much better than she expected; for Mrs.
Bennet luckily stood in such awe of her intended son-in-law, that
she ventured not to speak to him, unless it was in her power to
offer him any attention, or mark her deference for his opinion.
Elizabeth had the satisfaction of seeing her father taking pains
to get acquainted with him; and Mr. Bennet soon assured her that
he was rising every hour in his esteem.
‘I admire all my three sons-in-law highly,’ said he. ‘Wickham,
perhaps, is my favourite; but I think I shall like your husband quite
as well as Jane’s.’
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lizabeth’s spirits soon rising to playfulness again, she
wanted Mr. Darcy to account for his having ever fallen in
love with her. ‘How could you begin?’ said she. ‘I can
comprehend your going on charmingly, when you had once made
a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?’
‘I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words,
which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle
before I knew that I had begun.’
‘My beauty you had early withstood, and as for my manners—
my behaviour to you was at least always bordering on the uncivil,
and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain
than not. Now be sincere; did you admire me for my
‘For the liveliness of your mind, I did.’
‘You may as well call it impertinence at once. It was very little
less. The fact is, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of
officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were
always speaking and looking, and thinking for your approbation
alone. I roused, and interested you, because I was so unlike them.
Had you not been really amiable you would have hated me for it;
but in spite of the pains you took to disguise yourself, your feelings
were always noble and just; and in your heart, you thoroughly
despised the persons who so assiduously courted you. There—I
have saved you the trouble of accounting for it; and really, all
things considered, I begin to think it perfectly reasonable. To be
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sure, you knew no actual good of me—but nobody thinks of that
when they fall in love.’
‘Was there no good in your affectionate behaviour to Jane,
while she was ill at Netherfield?’
‘Dearest Jane! who could have done less for her? But make a
virtue of it by all means. My good qualities are under your
protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible;
and, in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teazing and
quarrelling with you as often as may be; and I shall begin directly
by asking you what made you so unwilling to come to the point at
last. What made you so shy of me, when you first called, and
afterwards dined here? Why, especially, when you called, did you
look as if you did not care about me?’
‘Because you were grave and silent, and gave me no
‘But I was embarrassed.’
‘And so was I.’
‘You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner.’
‘A man who had felt less, might.’
‘How unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give,
and that I should be so reasonable as to admit it! But I wonder
how long you would have gone on, if you had been left to yourself.
I wonder when you would have spoken, if I had not asked you! My
resolution of thanking you for your kindness to Lydia had
certainly great effect. Too much, I am afraid; for what becomes of
the moral, if our comfort springs from a breach of promise, for I
ought not to have mentioned the subject? This will never do.’
‘You need not distress yourself. The moral will be perfectly fair.
Lady Catherine’s unjustifiable endeavours to separate us, were the
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means of removing all my doubts. I am not indebted for my
present happiness to your eager desire of expressing your
gratitude. I was not in a humour to wait for any opening of your’s.
My aunt’s intelligence had given me hope, and I was determined
at once to know every thing.’
‘Lady Catherine has been of infinite use, which ought to make
her happy, for she loves to be of use. But tell me, what did you
come down to Netherfield for? Was it merely to ride to Longbourn
and be embarrassed? or had you intended any more serious
‘My real purpose was to see you, and to judge, if I could,
whether I might ever hope to make you love me. My avowed one,
or what I avowed to myself, was to see whether your sister were
still partial to Bingley, and if she were, to make the confession to
him which I have since made.’
‘Shall you ever have courage to announce to Lady Catherine,
what is to befall her?’
‘I am more likely to want time than courage, Elizabeth. But it
ought to be done, and if you will give me a sheet of paper, it shall
be done directly.’
‘And if I had not a letter to write myself, I might sit by you, and
admire the evenness of your writing, as another young lady once
did. But I have an aunt, too, who must not be longer neglected.’
From an unwillingness to confess how much her intimacy with
Mr. Darcy had been over-rated, Elizabeth had never yet answered
Mrs. Gardiner’s long letter, but now, having that to communicate
which she knew would be most welcome, she was almost ashamed
to find, that her uncle and aunt had already lost three days of
happiness, and immediately wrote as follows:
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‘I would have thanked you before, my dear aunt, as I ought to
have done, for your long, kind, satisfactory, detail of particulars;
but to say the truth, I was too cross to write. You supposed more
than really existed. But now suppose as much as you chuse; give a
loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible
flight which the subject will afford, and unless you believe me
actually married, you cannot greatly err. You must write again
very soon, and praise him a great deal more than you did in your
last. I thank you, again and again, for not going to the Lakes. How
could I be so silly as to wish it! Your idea of the ponies is
delightful. We will go round the Park every day. I am the happiest
creature in the world. Perhaps other people have said so before,
but not one with such justice. I am happier even than Jane; she
only smiles, I laugh. Mr. Darcy sends you all the love in the world,
that he can spare from me. You are all to come to Pemberley at
Christmas. Your’s, &c.’
Mr. Darcy’s letter to Lady Catherine, was in a different style;
and still different from either, was what Mr. Bennet sent to Mr.
Collins, in reply to his last.
‘Dear Sir,
‘I must trouble you once more for congratulations. Elizabeth
will soon be the wife of Mr. Darcy. Console Lady Catherine as well
as you can. But, if I were you, I would stand by the nephew. He
has more to give.
‘Your’s sincerely, &c.’
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Miss Bingley’s congratulations to her brother, on his
approaching marriage, were all that was affectionate and
insincere. She wrote even to Jane on the occasion, to express her
delight, and. repeat all her former professions of regard. Jane was
not deceived, but she was affected; and though feeling no reliance
on her, could not help writing her a much kinder answer than she
knew was deserved.
The joy which Miss Darcy expressed on receiving similar
information, was as sincere as her brother’s in sending it. Four
sides of paper were insufficient to contain all her delight, and all
her earnest desire of being loved by her sister.
Before any answer could arrive from Mr. Collins, or any
congratulations to Elizabeth, from his wife, the Longbourn family
heard that the Collinses were come themselves to Lucas lodge.
The reason of this sudden removal was soon evident. Lady
Catherine had been rendered so exceedingly angry by the
contents of her nephew’s letter, that Charlotte, really rejoicing in
the match, was anxious to get away till the storm was blown over.
At such a moment, the arrival of her friend was a sincere pleasure
to Elizabeth, though in the course of their meetings she must
sometimes think the pleasure dearly bought, when she saw Mr.
Darcy exposed to all the parading and obsequious civility of her
husband. He bore it however with admirable calmness. He could
even listen to Sir William Lucas, when he complimented him on
carrying away the brightest jewel of the country, and expressed
his hopes of their all meeting frequently at St. James’s, with very
decent composure. If he did shrug his shoulders, it was not till Sir
William was out of sight.
Mrs. Philips’s vulgarity was another, and perhaps a greater tax
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on his forbearance; and though Mrs. Philips, as well as her sister,
stood in too much awe of him to speak with the familiarity which
Bingley’s good humour encouraged, yet, whenever she did speak,
she must be vulgar. Nor was her respect for him, though it made
her more quiet, at all likely to make her more elegant. Elizabeth
did all she could, to shield him from the frequent notice of either,
and was ever anxious to keep him to herself, and to those of her
family with whom he might converse without mortification; and
though the uncomfortable feelings arising from all this took from
the season of courtship much of its pleasure, it added to the hope
of the future; and she looked forward with delight to the time
when they should be removed from society so little pleasing to
either, to all the comfort and elegance of their family party at
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appy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which
Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving
daughters. With what delighted pride she afterwards
visited Mrs. Bingley and talked of Mrs. Darcy may be guessed. I
wish I could say, for the sake of her family, that the
accomplishment of her earnest desire in the establishment of so
many of her children, produced so happy an effect as to make her
a sensible, amiable, well-informed woman for the rest of her life;
though perhaps it was lucky for her husband, who might not have
relished domestic felicity in so unusual a form, that she still was
occasionally nervous and invariably silly.
Mr. Bennet missed his second daughter exceedingly; his
affection for her drew him oftener from home than any thing else
could do. He delighted in going to Pemberley, especially when he
was least expected.
Mr. Bingley and Jane remained at Netherfield only a
twelvemonth. So near a vicinity to her mother and Meryton
relations was not desirable even to his easy temper, or her
affectionate heart. The darling wish of his sisters was then
gratified; he bought an estate in a neighbouring county to
Derbyshire, and Jane and Elizabeth, in addition to every other
source of happiness, were within thirty miles of each other.
Kitty, to her very material advantage, spent the chief of her
time with her two elder sisters. In society so superior to what she
had generally known, her improvement was great. She was not of
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so ungovernable a temper as Lydia, and, removed from the
influence of Lydia’s example, she became, by proper attention and
management, less irritable, less ignorant, and less insipid. From
the farther disadvantage of Lydia’s society she was of course
carefully kept, and though Mrs. Wickham frequently invited her to
come and stay with her, with the promise of balls and young men,
her father would never consent to her going.
Mary was the only daughter who remained at home; and she
was necessarily drawn from the pursuit of accomplishments by
Mrs. Bennet’s being quite unable to sit alone. Mary was obliged to
mix more with the world, but she could still moralize over every
morning visit; and as she was no longer mortified by comparisons
between her sisters’ beauty and her own, it was suspected by her
father that she submitted to the change without much reluctance.
As for Wickham and Lydia, their characters suffered no
revolution from the marriage of her sisters. He bore with
philosophy the conviction that Elizabeth must now become
acquainted with whatever of his ingratitude and falsehood had
before been unknown to her; and in spite of every thing, was not
wholly without hope that Darcy might yet be prevailed on to make
his fortune. The congratulatory letter which Elizabeth received
from Lydia on her marriage, explained to her that, by his wife at
least, if not by himself, such a hope was cherished. The letter was
to this effect:
‘My Dear Lizzy,
‘I wish you joy. If you love Mr. Darcy half as well as I do my
dear Wickham, you must be very happy. It is a great comfort to
have you so rich, and when you have nothing else to do, I hope you
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will think of us. I am sure Wickham would like a place at court
very much, and I do not think we shall have quite money enough
to live upon without some help. Any place would do, of about three
or four hundred a year; but, however, do not speak to Mr. Darcy
about it, if you had rather not.
‘Your’s, &c.’
As it happened that Elizabeth had much rather not, she
endeavoured in her answer to put an end to every intreaty and
expectation of the kind. Such relief, however, as it was in her
power to afford, by the practice of what might be called economy
in her own private expences, she frequently sent them. It had
always been evident to her that such an income as theirs, under
the direction of two persons so extravagant in their wants, and
heedless of the future, must be very insufficient to their support;
and whenever they changed their quarters, either Jane or herself
were sure of being applied to, for some little assistance towards
discharging their bills. Their manner of living, even when the
restoration of peace dismissed them to a home, was unsettled in
the extreme. They were always moving from place to place in
quest of a cheap situation, and always spending more than they
ought. His affection for her soon sunk into indifference; her’s
lasted a little longer; and in spite of her youth and her manners,
she retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had
given her.
Though Darcy could never receive him at Pemberley, yet, for
Elizabeth’s sake, he assisted him farther in his profession. Lydia
was occasionally a visitor there, when her husband was gone to
enjoy himself in London or Bath; and with the Bingleys they both
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of them frequently staid so long, that even Bingley’s good humour
was overcome, and he proceeded so far as to talk of giving them a
hint to be gone.
Miss Bingley was very deeply mortified by Darcy’s marriage;
but as she thought it advisable to retain the right of visiting at
Pemberley, she dropt all her resentment; was fonder than ever of
Georgiana, almost as attentive to Darcy as heretofore, and paid off
every arrear of civility to Elizabeth.
Pemberley was now Georgiana’s home; and the attachment of
the sisters was exactly what Darcy had hoped to see.
They were able to love each other, even as well as they
intended. Georgiana had the highest opinion in the world of
Elizabeth; though at first she often listened with an astonishment
bordering on alarm, at her lively, sportive, manner of talking to
her brother. He, who had always inspired in herself a respect
which almost overcame her affection, she now saw the object of
open pleasantry. Her mind received knowledge which had never
before fallen in her way. By Elizabeth’s instructions she began to
comprehend that a woman may take liberties with her husband,
which a brother will not always allow in a sister more than ten
years younger than himself.
Lady Catherine was extremely indignant on the marriage of her
nephew; and as she gave way to all the genuine frankness of her
character, in her reply to the letter which announced its
arrangement, she sent him language so very abusive, especially of
Elizabeth, that for some time all intercourse was at an end. But at
length, by Elizabeth’s persuasion, he was prevailed on to overlook
the offence, and seek a reconciliation; and, after a little farther
resistance on the part of his aunt, her resentment gave way, either
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to her affection for him, or her curiosity to see how his wife
conducted herself; and she condescended to wait on them at
Pemberley, in spite of that pollution which its woods had received,
not merely from the presence of such a mistress, but the visits of
her uncle and aunt from the city.
With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate
terms. Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they
were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the
persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means
of uniting them.
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