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2006-07-20 | | Submited by Ina Delean
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
It 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
the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
"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 you not want to know who has taken it?" cried his wife
"_You_ want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."
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
"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 them."
"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
may 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 anything extraordinary now.
When a woman has five grown-up daughters, she ought to give
over thinking of her own beauty."
"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 newcomers. 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 whichever he
chooses 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 preference."
"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
for 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 last twenty years at least."
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 develop. 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.
Mr. 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, mamma," said Elizabeth, "that we shall meet
him at the assemblies, and that Mrs. Long 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.
"When is your next ball to be, Lizzy?"
"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 teasing?"
"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 daughters 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,
"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 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 that
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 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 choose," 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 acquaintances every day; but for your sakes, we would do
anything. 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.
Not 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
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, etc. 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 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-in-law, 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 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 everybody 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
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 hear 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
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 Mr. 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_; 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 toward him.
She told the story, however, with great spirit among her friends;
for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in
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 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 never to be 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 events of an evening which had raised such
splendid expectations. He had rather hoped that his wife's
views on the stranger would be disappointed; but he soon
found out that he had a 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.
Everybody 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 inquired 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
impatiently, "he would not have danced half so much! For God's
sake, say no more of his partners. O that he had sprained
his ankle in the first place!"
"Oh! my dear, I am quite delighted with him. He is so
excessively handsome! And his sisters are charming women.
I never in my life saw anything 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.
"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."
When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had been
cautious in her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to her
sister just how very much she admired him.
"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
"Oh! you are a great deal too apt, you know, to like people in
general. You never see a fault in anybody. All the world are
good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of
a human being in your life."
"I would not wish to be hasty in censuring anyone; but I always
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
with it everywhere. But to be candid without ostentation or
design--to take the good of everybody'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 judgement 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 making
themselves agreeable when 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 a
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 anxious for his having an estate of his own; but,
though he was now only established 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 great opposition of character. Bingley was endeared to
Darcy by the easiness, openness, and 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 judgement 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
The manner in which they spoke of the Meryton assembly was
sufficiently characteristic. Bingley had never met with more
pleasant people or prettier girls in his life; everybody 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 would not object to know more of.
Miss Bennet was therefore established as a sweet girl, and their
brother felt authorized by such commendation to think of her as
Within 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, in 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 everybody. 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
"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 Mr. 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 is 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 lips."
"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
quite angry at being spoke to."
"Miss Bingley told me," said Jane, "that he never speaks much,
unless among his intimate acquaintances. With _them_ he is
"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; everybody says that he is eat 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
"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,
everything 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 synonymously. A person may be proud
without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of
ourselves, vanity to what we would 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 a
"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.
The ladies of Longbourn soon waited on those of Netherfield.
The visit was soon returned in due form. Miss Bennet's
pleasing manners grew on the goodwill 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 everybody, 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 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 women had better show _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
"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 more leisure
for falling in love as much as she chooses."
"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 fortnight. She danced four dances with him
at Meryton; she saw him one morning at his own house, and
has since dined with him in company 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 also been 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 twelvemonth. 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 beforehand,
it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always
continue 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
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 at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it
clear to himself and his friends that she hardly had 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 nowhere,
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
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 you not think, Mr. Darcy, that I expressed myself
uncommonly well just now, when I was teasing Colonel Forster
to give us a ball at Meryton?"
"With great energy; but it is always a subject which makes a lady
"You are severe on us."
"It will be _her_ turn soon to be teased," said Miss Lucas. "I
am going to open the instrument, Eliza, and you know what
"You are a very strange creature by way of a friend!--always
wanting me to play and sing before anybody and everybody!
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 everybody 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
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 two or three officers, joined eagerly in dancing at
one end of the room.
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 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 society."
"Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue
amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage
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.
"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?"
"Do you not think it would be a proper compliment to the
"It is a compliment which I never pay to any place if I can
"You have a house in town, I conclude?"
Mr. Darcy bowed.
"I had once had some thought 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
towards them, he was struck with the action of doing a very
gallant thing, and called out to her:
"My dear Miss Eliza, why are you not 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
"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 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
those people! What would I give to hear your strictures on them!"
"You 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 bestow."
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 serious about it, I shall consider the matter is
absolutely settled. You will be having a charming mother-in-law,
indeed; and, of course, she will always be 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.
Mr. 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. Phillips, 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 headquarters.
Their visits to Mrs. Phillips were now productive of the most
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. Phillips visited them all, and
this opened to his nieces a store 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
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 anybody'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 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."
"Mamma," 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
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 tete-a-tete between two women
can never end without a quarrel. Come as soon as you can on
receipt of this. My brother and the gentlemen are to dine with
the officers.--Yours ever,
"With the officers!" cried Lydia. "I wonder my aunt did not tell
us of _that_."
"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 they not?"
"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,--
"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 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
headache, there is not much the matter with me.--Yours, etc."
"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 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 carriage."
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
"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
"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
"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 ankles, dirty
stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise.
She was shown 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 inquiries after her sister were not very favourably 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
besides 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 showed 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 to 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
At five o'clock the two ladies retired to dress, and at half-past
six Elizabeth was summoned to dinner. To the civil inquiries
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 former 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 to 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 style, 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."
"To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it
is, above her ankles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! What could
she mean by it? It seems to me to show an abominable sort of
conceited independence, a most country-town indifference to
"It shows 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."
"Not at all," he replied; "they were brightened by the exercise."
A short pause followed this speech, and Mrs. Hurst began again:
"I have a excessive regard for Miss 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 on
"Yes; and they have another, who lives somewhere near Cheapside."
"That is capital," added her sister, and they both laughed heartily.
"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 returned 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 sleep, and when it seemed to her rather
right than pleasant that she should go downstairs 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, 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 things."
"In nursing your sister I am sure you have pleasure," said Bingley;
"and I hope it will be soon increased by seeing her quite well."
Elizabeth thanked him from her heart, and then walked towards
the 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 looked 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
"Neglect! I am sure you neglect nothing that can add to the
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
"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 with 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
pianoforte 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 mean?"
"Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens,
and net purses. I scarcely know anyone who cannot do all this,
and I 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 screen. 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 woman."
"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
"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, 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.
"Elizabeth 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 a 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 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
feelings than by giving his housekeeper directions that every
attention might be paid to the sick lady and her sister.
Elizabeth 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 inquiries 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 judgement 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
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
daughter all attended her into the breakfast parlour. Bingley met
them with hopes that Mrs. Bennet had not found Miss Bennet
worse than she expected.
"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 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 will 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 have 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 the 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
"That is exactly what I should have supposed of you," said
"You begin to comprehend me, do you?" cried he, turning
"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 follow that a deep, intricate
character is more or less estimable than such a one as yours."
"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 a 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."
Everybody 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 it not, 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, Mamma, you are mistaken," said Elizabeth, blushing for
her mother. "You quite mistook Mr. Darcy. He only meant that
there was not such a variety of people to be met with in the
country as in the town, which you must acknowledge to be
"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
Nothing but concern for Elizabeth could enable Bingley to keep
his countenance. His sister was less delicate, and directed her
eyes 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 easy! He had always something to say
to everybody. _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 very
differently. But everybody is to judge for themselves, and the
Lucases are a 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."
"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 to boast of my own child, but to be sure, Jane--one does
not often see anybody better looking. It is what everybody says.
I do not trust my own partiality. When she was only fifteen,
there was a man 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
"I have been used to consider poetry as the _food_ of love," said
"Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Everything 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
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 promised on his first coming into the
country to give a ball at Netherfield.
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
self-consequence, which the attention 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
when she is ill."
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
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
The 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 handwriting, 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
union 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 a year! Letters of business, too! How odious I should
"It is fortunate, then, that they fall to my lot instead of yours."
"Pray tell your sister that I long to see her."
"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 style 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
"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 correspondents."
"Your humility, Mr. Bingley," said Elizabeth, "must disarm
"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 anything with quickness is always prized much 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 upon 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 anyone
"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 believe 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 show off before
"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 dependent 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
"You have only proved by this," cried Elizabeth, "that Mr.
Bingley did not do justice to his own disposition. You have
shown 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
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
intentions 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 choose 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 propriety."
"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
"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 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 awful 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 do."
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."
Mr. Darcy took her advice, and did finish his letter.
When that business was over, he applied to Miss Bingley and
Elizabeth for an indulgence of some music. Miss Bingley moved
with some alacrity to the pianoforte; 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 something 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, 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 sure the
younger girls of running after 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 anything else to propose for my domestic felicity?"
"Oh! yes. Do let the portraits of your uncle and aunt Phillips 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 have it taken, for what painter could do justice to those
"It would not be easy, indeed, to catch their expression, but their
colour and shape, and the eyelashes, so remarkably fine, might
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, "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 grouped, 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.
When 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 toward Darcy,
and she had something to say to him before he had advanced
many steps. He addressed himself 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 further from the
door. He then sat down by her, and talked scarcely to anyone
else. Elizabeth, at work in the opposite corner, saw it all with
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 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 sofas 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 anything 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 for 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
chooses, before it begins--but as for the ball, it is quite a settled
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 were 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 she 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 choosing 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 ask nothing about it."
Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr.
Darcy in anything, 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 choose 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 would 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 anything 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. Tease him--laugh
at him. Intimate as you are, you must know how it is to be
"But upon my honour, I do _not_. I do assure you that my
intimacy has not yet taught me _that_. Tease calmness of
manner and presence of mind! No, no--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
"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 acquaintances.
I dearly love a laugh."
"Miss Bingley," said he, "has given me more credit 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."
"Certainly," replied Elizabeth--"there are such people, but I
hope I am not one of _them_. I hope I never ridicule what is
wise and 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
"Perhaps that is not possible for anyone. 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 other so soon as I ought,
nor their offenses 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 forever."
"_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
particular evil--a natural defect, which not even the best
education can overcome."
"And _your_ defect is to hate everybody."
"And yours," he replied with a smile, "is willfully to
"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 had not the smallest objection, and the pianoforte was
opened; and Darcy, after a few moments' recollection, was not
sorry for it. He began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too
In consequence of an agreement between the sisters, Elizabeth
wrote the next morning to their 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
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
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 teasing
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 of spirits.
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,
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 extracts to admire, and some
new observations of threadbare 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.
"I 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! 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 his five daughters at
After amusing himself some time with their curiosity, he thus
"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
"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 tried to explain to her the nature of an entail.
They had often attempted to do 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 is very impertinent
of him to write to you at all, and very hypocritical. I hate such
false friends. Why could he not keep on quarreling 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,
"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
doubts, fearing lest it might seem disrespectful to his memory
for me to be on good terms with anyone 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 in the reach of my influence; and on these
grounds I flatter myself that my present overtures 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'ennight 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 your lady and
daughters, your well-wisher and friend,
"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 again."
"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 by 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 style.--And what
can he mean by apologising for being next in the entail?--We
cannot suppose he would help it if he could.--Could he be a
sensible man, sir?"
"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, "the letter does not seem
defective. The idea of the olive-branch perhaps is not wholly
new, yet I think it is well expressed."
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 daughters.
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 disposed
of in marriage. This gallantry was not much to the taste of
some of his hearers; but Mrs. Bennet, who quarreled with no
compliments, answered most readily.
"You are very kind, 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."
"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 everything
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 excellency of its cooking
was owing. But he was set right there 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.
During 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
of 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 anything 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 the 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 all the alterations
he had been making, and had even vouchsafed to suggest some
herself--some shelves in the closet upstairs."
"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
"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 only one daughter, the heiress of Rosings, and of very
"Ah!" said 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 lady of distinguished birth.
She is unfortunately of a sickly constitution, which has prevented
her from making that progress in many accomplishments which
she could not have otherwise 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 one day,
has deprived the British court of its brightest ornaments.
Her ladyship seemed pleased with the idea; and you may imagine
that I 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 pay."
"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 possible."
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 everything 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. 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, mamma, that my uncle Phillips 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
to-morrow 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.
Mr. 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 right as a rector, made him
altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness,
self-importance and humility.
Having now a good house and a 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 choose
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
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 tete-a-tete with Mrs. Bennet before
breakfast, a conversation beginning with his parsonage-house,
and leading naturally to the avowal of his hopes, that a mistress
might be found for it 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 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 of 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
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
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 another 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 pretense
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 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. Phillip's house, and then made their bows, in
spite of Miss Lydia's pressing entreaties that they should come
in, and even in spite of Mrs. Phillips's throwing up the parlour
window and loudly seconding the invitation.
Mrs. Phillips 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.
Phillips was quite awed by such an excess of good breeding; but
her contemplation of one stranger was soon put to an end 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
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 Phillipses 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.
Phillips protested that they would have a nice comfortable 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 in the
wrong, she could no more explain such behaviour than her sister.
Mr. Collins on his return highly gratified Mrs. Bennet by
admiring Mrs. Phillips'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 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.
As 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 drawing-room, 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. Phillips 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. Phillips a very attentive listener, whose opinion of
his consequence 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
mantelpiece, 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 broad-faced, stuffy
uncle Phillips, breathing port wine, who followed them into
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, 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 to sink into insignificance; to
the young ladies he certainly was nothing; but he had still at
intervals a kind listener in Mrs. Phillips, and was by her
watchfulness, most abundantly supplied with coffee and muffin.
When the card-tables were placed, he had the opportunity of
obliging her in turn, by sitting down to whist.
"I know little of the game at present," said he, "but I shall be
glad to improve myself, for in my situation in life--" Mrs. Phillips
was very glad for his compliance, but could not wait for his
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 anyone 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 a 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 Mr. 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,
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 very warmly.
"I have spent four days in the same house with him, and I think
him very disagreeable."
"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 too 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
"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. Everybody is disgusted with his pride.
You will not find him more favourably spoken of by anyone."
"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 chooses to be seen."
"I should take him, even on _my_ slight acquaintance, to be an
ill-tempered 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_ 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
before 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 anything and
everything, 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 further 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 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 further by his account of their
present quarters, and the very great attentions and excellent
acquaintances 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 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 you not 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 anything 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 anything to deserve
to lose it. I have a warm, unguarded temper, and I may have
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?
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 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 uncle, Mr. Phillips, appears to do so much credit to--but
he gave up everything 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
superintendence, 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 his 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 had often been his best friend.
It has connected him nearer with virtue than with 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 brothers."
"What sort of 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 education."
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 chooses. 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. Phillips. The usual
inquiries as to his success was made by the latter. It had not
been very great; he had lost every point; but when Mrs. Phillips
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 that she
would not make herself uneasy.
"I know very well, madam," said he, "that when persons sit down
to a card-table, they must take their chances 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 was 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
"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
"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
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 for 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
"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 for her nephew, who chooses that
everyone connected with him should have an understanding of
the first class."
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. Phillips's supper party, but
his manners recommended him to everybody. 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 Mrs. Phillips, protesting that he did not in
the least regard his losses at whist, enumerating all the dishes
at supper, and repeatedly fearing that he crowded his cousins,
had more to say than he could well manage before the carriage
stopped at Longbourn House.
Elizabeth 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 endured
such unkindness, was enough to interest all her tender feelings;
and nothing remained therefore 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
"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
"Very true, indeed; and now, my dear Jane, what have you got
to say on 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 choose, 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
man who had any value for his character, could be capable of it.
Can his most intimate friends be so excessively deceived in him?
"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, everything 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
"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 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
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 attentions of
her brother; and Elizabeth thought with pleasure of dancing a
great deal with Mr. Wickham, and of seeing a confirmation of
everything in Mr. Darcy's look and behavior. 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 is 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 everybody."
Elizabeth's spirits were so high on this 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 the 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 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 Mr. Wickham for those very dances;
and to have Mr. Collins instead! her liveliness had never been
worse timed. There was no help for it, however. Mr. Wickham's
happiness and her own were perforce 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 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 extremely
agreeable to _her_. Elizabeth, however, did not choose 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 very 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 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.
Till 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 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 wanted 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. Attendance,
forbearance, patience 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 first
two 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."
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 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 sort 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
by 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
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 stopped with a bow of
superior courtesy to compliment him on his dancing and his
"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 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 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
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
"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 reports 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
"I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours," he coldly
replied. She said no more, and they went down the other dance
and parted in silence; and 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 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
quite forgot to tell you, among his other communication, 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
always been 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 that 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."
"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
has 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 everything 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 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?"
"No; he never saw him till the other morning at Meryton."
"This account then is what he has received from Mr. Darcy.
I am 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 defense 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 to still think of both gentlemen as I
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 Mr. 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 the 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 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 entreat 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
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
in your excellent judgement 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 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
"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
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 her
expectation that Jane would soon be 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 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 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
"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 for 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 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, imperturbably 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
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 tithes as may be
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 manner towards everybody,
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 anybody 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
The rest of the evening brought her little amusement. She was
teased by Mr. Collins, who continued most perseveringly by her
side, and though he could not prevail on 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 offense of Mr. Darcy's further
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
carriage a quarter of an hour after everybody 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 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
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 especially 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.
The 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 anything but a blush of surprise,
Mrs. Bennet answered instantly, "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 upstairs." And, gathering
her work together, she was hastening away, when Elizabeth
"Dear madam, do not go. I beg you will not go. Mr. Collins
must excuse me. He can have nothing to say to me that anybody
need not hear. I am going away myself."
"No, no, nonsense, Lizzy. I desire you to 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."
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 began.
"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 would 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 further, 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 that it will add very greatly to my happiness; and
thirdly--which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that
it is the particular 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 footstool, that she said, 'Mr.
Collins, you must marry. A clergyman like you must marry.
Choose properly, choose 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 anything 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 towards
Longbourn instead of my own neighbourhood, where I can
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 choose 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 but
for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the
violence 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 four 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 further 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 to 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 a rather
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 could make you so. Nay, were
your friend Lady Catherine to know me, I am persuaded she
would find 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 when I
have the honour of seeing her again, I shall speak in the very
highest terms of your modesty, economy, and other amiable
"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 self-reproach. This matter may be
considered, therefore, as finally settled." And rising as she
thus spoke, she would have quitted the room, had Mr. Collins
not thus addressed her:
"When I do myself the honour of speaking to you next on the
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
"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 to 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 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 further
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 choose 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 pretensions 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, if he persisted in considering her repeated
refusals as flattering encouragement, to apply to her father,
whose negative might be uttered in such a manner as to be
decisive, and whose behavior at least could not be mistaken
for the affectation and coquetry of an elegant female.
Mr. 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 or 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 steadfastly 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 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 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 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 everything
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
"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
"Come here, child," cried her father as she appeared. "I have
sent for you on an affair of importance. I understand that Mr.
Collins has made you an offer of marriage. Is it true?" Elizabeth
replied that it was. "Very well--and this offer of marriage you
"I have, sir."
"Very well. We now come to the point. Your mother insists
upon your accepting it. Is it not 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, in talking 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
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
Mr. Collins, meanwhile, was meditating in solitude on what had
passed. He thought too well of himself to comprehend on what
motives 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 hardly had 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, 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 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 anybody. 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 her or soothe 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 the room 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 me and Mr. Collins 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 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 evil duty of us all; the
peculiar duty of a young man who has been so fortunate as I
have been in 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 showing 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
The 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
allusions 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 meant
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 everybody, 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
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
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. 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 he companion taken leave, than a glance from Jane
invited her to follow her upstairs. 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 town directly, and of their meaning to dine in Grosvenor
Street, where Mr. Hurst had a house. The next was in these
words: "I do not pretend to regret anything I shall leave in
Hertfordshire, except your society, my dearest friend; but we
will hope, at some future period, to enjoy many returns of that
delightful intercourse we have known, and in the meanwhile may
lessen the pain of separation by a very frequent and most
unreserved correspondence. I depend on you for that." To
these highflown 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 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 comfortless hotel. Many of my acquaintances are already
there for the winter; I wish that I could hear that you, my dearest
friend, had any intention of making one of the crowd--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
"It is only evident that Miss Bingley does not mean that he
"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
"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 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 which will secure the happiness of so many?"
"What do you think 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?"
"You shall have it in a 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 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 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 anyone; and all that I can hope in this case is that
she is deceiving herself."
"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
"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,
could influence a young man so totally independent of everyone.
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 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.
The 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 else 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 secure 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 might 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 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,
everything 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 waived 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 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 matrimony,
marriage had always been her object; it was the only 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 a 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 engagements might
allow 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
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 upon your guard. Risk anything
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 offence."
"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, and 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 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
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 hers, 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 herself 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 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
"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 you?"
But Elizabeth had now recollected herself, and making a strong
effort for it, was able to assure 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
wishing to marry you. But when you have had time to think it
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, connection, 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
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 had not
supposed it to be 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.
Elizabeth was sitting with her mother and sisters, reflecting on
what she had heard, and doubting whether she was 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
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 the mischief; and the other that she herself had
been barbarously misused by them all; and on these two points
she principally dwelt during the rest of the day. Nothing could
console and nothing could 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
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
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
ill-natured 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 more 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,
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 dishonorable to the stability of her lover, she
could not prevent its frequently occurring. 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 attachment.
As for Jane, _her_ anxiety under this suspense was, of course,
more painful than Elizabeth's, but whatever she felt she was
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
would 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 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 love-making 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 anything 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
her 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
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 anything at all."
"Let us be thankful that you are preserved from a state of such
"I never can be thankful, Mr. Bennet, for anything about the
entail. How anyone 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.
Miss 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 country.
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 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
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 of his own happiness
to the caprice of their inclination. Had his own happiness,
however, been the only sacrifice, he might have been allowed to
sport with it in whatever 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; whatever 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
"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 _that_ pain. A little time, therefore--I shall certainly
try to get the better."
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 anyone 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 anybody. 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 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 steady, prudent 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
everybody's sake, that she may feel something like regard and
esteem for our cousin."
"To oblige you, I would try to believe almost anything, 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 married 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 entreat 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
"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 choose 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 everybody 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 light, it
is nothing in comparison of 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 was 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
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 a little in
love now and then. It is something to think of, and it 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 in 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 make the most of it."
Mr. Wickham's society was of material service in dispelling the
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 everybody
was pleased to know how much they had always disliked Mr.
Darcy before they had known anything of the matter.
Miss Bennet was the only creature who could suppose there might
be any extenuating circumstances 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.
After 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 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
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. Phillips, 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 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
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 upon 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 it not 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 the 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 inconsistencies are very frequent."
"An excellent consolation in its way," said Elizabeth, "but it will
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 a 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 upon 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
that they should 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
"So much the better. I hope they will not meet at all. But does
not Jane correspond with his sister? _She_ will not be able to
"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 reanimated, 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 same time,
than as she hoped 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 stayed a week at Longbourn; and what with the
Phillipses, 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 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
occasion, Mrs. Gardiner, rendered suspicious by Elizabeth's
warm commendation, 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 acquaintances in common; and though Wickham had
been little there since the death of Darcy's father, 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 some 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 Darcy formerly spoken of as a very proud, ill-natured
Mrs. Gardiner's caution to Elizabeth was punctually and kindly
given on the first favourable opportunity of speaking to her
alone; after honestly telling her what she thought, she thus went
"You are too sensible a girl, Lizzy, to fall in love merely because
you are warned against it; and, therefore, I am not afraid of
speaking openly. Seriously, I would have you be on your guard.
Do not involve yourself or endeavour to involve him in an
affection which the want of fortune would make so very
imprudent. I have nothing to say against _him_; he is a most
interesting young man; and if he had the fortune he ought to
have, I should think you could not do better. But as it is, you
must not let your fancy run away with you. You have sense, and
we all expect you to use it. Your father would depend on
_your_ resolution and good conduct, I am sure. You must not
disappoint your father."
"My dear aunt, this is being serious indeed."
"Yes, and I hope to engage you to be serious likewise."
"Well, then, you need not be under any alarm. I will take care
of myself, and of Mr. Wickham too. He shall not be in love with
me, if I can prevent it."
"Elizabeth, you are not serious now."
"I beg your pardon, I will try again. At present I am not in
love with Mr. Wickham; no, I certainly am not. But he is, beyond
all comparison, the most agreeable man I ever saw--and if he
becomes really attached to me--I believe it will be better that
he should not. I see the imprudence of it. Oh! _that_ abominable
Mr. Darcy! My father's opinion of me does me the greatest
honour, and I should be miserable to forfeit it. My father,
however, is partial to Mr. Wickham. In short, my dear aunt,
I should be very sorry to be the means of making any of you
unhappy; but since we see every day that where there is
affection, young people are seldom withheld by immediate want
of fortune from entering into engagements with each other, how
can I promise to be wiser than so many of my fellow-creatures
if I am tempted, or how am I even to know that it would be
wisdom to resist? All that I can promise you, therefore, is not
to be in a hurry. I will not be in a hurry to believe myself his
first object. When I am in company with him, I will not be
wishing. In short, I will do my best."
"Perhaps it will be as well if you discourage his coming here so
very often. At least, you should not _remind_ you mother of
"As I did the other day," said Elizabeth with a conscious smile:
"very true, it will be wise in me to refrain from _that_. But do
not imagine that he is always here so often. It is on your
account that he has been so frequently invited this week. You
know my mother's ideas as to the necessity of constant company
for her friends. But really, and upon my honour, I will try to do
what I think to be the wisest; and now I hope you are satisfied."
Her aunt assured her that she was, and Elizabeth having thanked
her for the kindness of her hints, they parted; a wonderful
instance of advice being given on such a point, without being
Mr. Collins returned into Hertfordshire soon after it had been
quitted by the Gardiners and Jane; but as he took up his abode
with the Lucases, his arrival was no great inconvenience to Mrs.
Bennet. His marriage was now fast approaching, and she was at
length so far resigned as to think it inevitable, and even
repeatedly to say, in an ill-natured tone, that she "_wished_ they
might be happy." Thursday was to be the wedding day, and on
Wednesday Miss Lucas paid her farewell visit; and when she
rose to take leave, Elizabeth, ashamed of her mother's
ungracious and reluctant good wishes, and sincerely affected
herself, accompanied her out of the room. As they went
downstairs together, Charlotte said:
"I shall depend on hearing from you very often, Eliza."
"_That_ you certainly shall."
"And I have another favour to ask you. Will you come and see
"We shall often meet, I hope, in Hertfordshire."
"I am not likely to leave Kent for some time. Promise me,
therefore, to come to Hunsford."
Elizabeth could not refuse, though she foresaw little pleasure
in the visit.
"My father and Maria are coming to me in March," added
Charlotte, "and I hope you will consent to be of the party.
Indeed, Eliza, you will be as welcome as either of them."
The wedding took place; the bride and bridegroom set off for
Kent from the church door, and everybody had as much to say,
or to hear, on the subject as usual. Elizabeth soon heard from
her friend; and their correspondence was as regular and frequent
as it had ever been; that it should be equally unreserved was
impossible. Elizabeth could never address her without feeling
that all the comfort of intimacy was over, and though determined
not to slacken as a correspondent, it was for the sake of what
had been, rather than what was. Charlotte's first letters were
received with a good deal of eagerness; there could not but be
curiosity to know how she would speak of her new home, how
she would like Lady Catherine, and how happy she would dare
pronounce herself to be; though, when the letters were read,
Elizabeth felt that Charlotte expressed herself on every point
exactly as she might have foreseen. She wrote cheerfully,
seemed surrounded with comforts, and mentioned nothing which
she could not praise. The house, furniture, neighbourhood, and
roads, were all to her taste, and Lady Catherine's behaviour
was most friendly and obliging. It was Mr. Collins's picture
of Hunsford and Rosings rationally softened; and Elizabeth
perceived that she must wait for her own visit there to know the
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
Her impatience for this second letter was as well rewarded as
impatience generally is. Jane had been a week in town without
either seeing or hearing from Caroline. She accounted for it,
however, by supposing that her last letter to her friend from
Longbourn had by some accident been lost.
"My aunt," she continued, "is going to-morrow into that part of
the town, and I shall take the opportunity of calling in Grosvenor
She wrote again when the visit was paid, and she had seen Miss
Bingley. "I did not think Caroline in spirits," were her words,
"but she was very glad to see me, and reproached me for giving
her no notice of my coming to London. I was right, therefore,
my last letter had never reached her. I inquired after their
brother, of course. He was well, but so much engaged with Mr.
Darcy that they scarcely ever saw him. I found that Miss Darcy
was expected to dinner. I wish I could see her. My visit was
not long, as Caroline and Mrs. Hurst were going out. I dare say
I shall see them soon here."
Elizabeth shook her head over this letter. It convinced her that
accident only could discover to Mr. Bingley her sister's being in
Four weeks passed away, and Jane saw nothing of him. She
endeavoured to persuade herself that she did not regret it; but
she could no longer be blind to Miss Bingley's inattention. After
waiting at home every morning for a fortnight, and inventing
every evening a fresh excuse for her, the visitor did at last
appear; but the shortness of her stay, and yet more, the alteration
of her manner would allow Jane to deceive herself no longer.
The letter which she wrote on this occasion to her sister will
prove what she felt.
"My dearest Lizzy will, I am sure, be incapable of triumphing in
her better judgement, at my expense, when I confess myself to
have been entirely deceived in Miss Bingley's regard for me.
But, my dear sister, though the event has proved you right, do
not think me obstinate if I still assert that, considering what
her behaviour was, my confidence was as natural as your suspicion.
I do not at all comprehend her reason for wishing to be intimate
with me; but if the same circumstances were to happen again, I
am sure I should be deceived again. Caroline did not return my
visit till yesterday; and not a note, not a line, did I receive
in the meantime. When she did come, it was very evident that she
had no pleasure in it; she made a slight, formal apology, for not
calling before, said not a word of wishing to see me again, and
was in every respect so altered a creature, that when she went
away I was perfectly resolved to continue the acquaintance no
longer. I pity, though I cannot help blaming her. She was very
wrong in singling me out as she did; I can safely say that every
advance to intimacy began on her side. But I pity her, because
she must feel that she has been acting wrong, and because I am
very sure that anxiety for her brother is the cause of it. I need
not explain myself farther; and though _we_ know this anxiety to
be quite needless, yet if she feels it, it will easily account
for her behaviour to me; and so deservedly dear as he is to his
sister, whatever anxiety she must feel on his behalf is natural
and amiable. I cannot but wonder, however, at her having any
such fears now, because, if he had at all cared about me, we
must have met, long ago. He knows of my being in town, I am
certain, from something she said herself; and yet it would seem,
by her manner of talking, as if she wanted to persuade herself
that he is really partial to Miss Darcy. I cannot understand it.
If I were not afraid of judging harshly, I should be almost
tempted to say that there is a strong appearance of duplicity in
all this. But I will endeavour to banish every painful thought,
and think only of what will make me happy--your affection, and
the invariable kindness of my dear uncle and aunt. Let me hear
from you very soon. Miss Bingley said something of his never
returning to Netherfield again, of giving up the house, but not
with any certainty. We had better not mention it. I am extremely
glad that you have such pleasant accounts from our friends at
Hunsford. Pray go to see them, with Sir William and Maria. I am
sure you will be very comfortable there.--Yours, etc."
This letter gave Elizabeth some pain; but her spirits returned as
she considered that Jane would no longer be duped, by the sister
at least. All expectation from the brother was now absolutely
over. She would not even wish for a renewal of his attentions.
His character sunk on every review of it; and as a punishment for
him, as well as a possible advantage to Jane, she seriously hoped
he might really soon marry Mr. Darcy's sister, as by Wickham's
account, she would make him abundantly regret what he had
Mrs. Gardiner about this time reminded Elizabeth of her promise
concerning that gentleman, and required information; and
Elizabeth had such to send as might rather give contentment to
her aunt than to herself. His apparent partiality had subsided,
his attentions were over, he was the admirer of some one else.
Elizabeth was watchful enough to see it all, but she could see it
and write of it without material pain. Her heart had been but
slightly touched, and her vanity was satisfied with believing that
_she_ would have been his only choice, had fortune permitted it.
The sudden acquisition of ten thousand pounds was the most
remarkable charm of the young lady to whom he was now rendering
himself agreeable; but Elizabeth, less clear-sighted perhaps in
this case than in Charlotte's, did not quarrel with him for his
wish of independence. Nothing, on the contrary, could be more
natural; and while able to suppose that it cost him a few struggles
to relinquish her, she was ready to allow it a wise and desirable
measure for both, and could very sincerely wish him happy.
All this was acknowledged to Mrs. Gardiner; and after relating
the circumstances, she thus went on: "I am now convinced, my
dear aunt, that I have never been much in love; for had I really
experienced that pure and elevating passion, I should at present
detest his very name, and wish him all manner of evil. But my
feelings are not only cordial towards _him_; they are even
impartial towards Miss King. I cannot find out that I hate her at
all, or that I am in the least unwilling to think her a very good
sort of girl. There can be no love in all this. My watchfulness
has been effectual; and though I certainly should be a more
interesting object to all my acquaintances were I distractedly
in love with him, I cannot say that I regret my comparative
insignificance. Importance may sometimes be purchased too
dearly. Kitty and Lydia take his defection much more to heart
than I do. They are young in the ways of the world, and not
yet open to the mortifying conviction that handsome young men
must have something to live on as well as the plain."
With no greater events than these in the Longbourn family, and
otherwise diversified by little beyond the walks to Meryton,
sometimes dirty and sometimes cold, did January and February
pass away. March was to take Elizabeth to Hunsford. She had
not at first thought very seriously of going thither; but Charlotte,
she soon found, was depending on the plan and she gradually
learned to consider it herself with greater pleasure as well as
greater certainty. Absence had increased