Mrs. Gardiner's caution to Elizabeth was punctually and kindly given on th_irst favourable opportunity of speaking to her alone; after honestly tellin_er what she thought, she thus went on:
"You are too sensible a girl, Lizzy, to fall in love merely because you ar_arned against it; and, therefore, I am not afraid of speaking openly.
Seriously, I would have you be on your guard. Do not involve yourself o_ndeavour to involve him in an affection which the want of fortune would mak_o very imprudent. I have nothing to say against _him_ ; he is a mos_nteresting young man; and if he had the fortune he ought to have, I shoul_hink you could not do better. But as it is, you must not let your fancy ru_way with you. You have sense, and we all expect you to use it. Your fathe_ould depend on _your_ resolution and good conduct, I am sure. You must no_isappoint 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, an_f 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 mos_greeable man I ever saw—and if he becomes really attached to me—I believe i_ill be better that he should not. I see the imprudence of it. Oh! _that_bominable 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 o_aking any of you unhappy; but since we see every day that where there i_ffection, young people are seldom withheld by immediate want of fortune fro_ntering into engagements with each other, how can I promise to be wiser tha_o many of my fellow-creatures if I am tempted, or how am I even to know tha_t would be wisdom to resist? All that I can promise you, therefore, is not t_e 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 m_est."
"Perhaps it will be as well if you discourage his coming here so very often.
At least, you should not _remind_ your mother of inviting him."
"As I did the other day," said Elizabeth with a conscious smile: "very true,
it will be wise in me to refrain from _that_. But do not imagine that he i_lways here so often. It is on your account that he has been so frequentl_nvited this week. You know my mother's ideas as to the necessity of constan_ompany for her friends. But really, and upon my honour, I will try to do wha_ 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 th_indness of her hints, they parted; a wonderful instance of advice being give_n such a point, without being resented.
Mr. Collins returned into Hertfordshire soon after it had been quitted by th_ardiners and Jane; but as he took up his abode with the Lucases, his arriva_as no great inconvenience to Mrs. Bennet. His marriage was now fas_pproaching, 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_ the_ight be happy." Thursday was to be the wedding day, and on Wednesday Mis_ucas paid her farewell visit; and when she rose to take leave, Elizabeth,
ashamed of her mother's ungracious and reluctant good wishes, and sincerel_ffected herself, accompanied her out of the room. As they went downstair_ogether, Charlotte said:
"I shall depend on hearing from you very often, Eliza."
" _That_ you certainly shall."
"And I have another favour to ask you. Will you come and see me?"
"We shall often meet, I hope, in Hertfordshire."
"I am not likely to leave Kent for some time. Promise me, therefore, to com_o 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 hop_ou will consent to be of the party. Indeed, Eliza, you will be as welcome a_ither of them."
The wedding took place; the bride and bridegroom set off for Kent from th_hurch door, and everybody had as much to say, or to hear, on the subject a_sual. Elizabeth soon heard from her friend; and their correspondence was a_egular and frequent as it had ever been; that it should be equally unreserve_as impossible. Elizabeth could never address her without feeling that all th_omfort of intimacy was over, and though determined not to slacken as _orrespondent, 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; ther_ould not but be curiosity to know how she would speak of her new home, ho_he would like Lady Catherine, and how happy she would dare pronounce hersel_o be; though, when the letters were read, Elizabeth felt that Charlott_xpressed herself on every point exactly as she might have foreseen. She wrot_heerfully, seemed surrounded with comforts, and mentioned nothing which sh_ould not praise. The house, furniture, neighbourhood, and roads, were all t_er taste, and Lady Catherine's behaviour was most friendly and obliging. I_as Mr. Collins's picture of Hunsford and Rosings rationally softened; an_lizabeth perceived that she must wait for her own visit there to know th_est.
Jane had already written a few lines to her sister to announce their saf_rrival in London; and when she wrote again, Elizabeth hoped it would be i_er power to say something of the Bingleys.
Her impatience for this second letter was as well rewarded as impatienc_enerally is. Jane had been a week in town without either seeing or hearin_rom Caroline. She accounted for it, however, by supposing that her las_etter 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, an_ shall take the opportunity of calling in Grosvenor Street."
She wrote again when the visit was paid, and she had seen Miss Bingley. "I di_ot think Caroline in spirits," were her words, "but she was very glad to se_e, and reproached me for giving her no notice of my coming to London. I wa_ight, therefore, my last letter had never reached her. I inquired after thei_rother, of course. He was well, but so much engaged with Mr. Darcy that the_carcely ever saw him. I found that Miss Darcy was expected to dinner. I wis_ could see her. My visit was not long, as Caroline and Mrs. Hurst were goin_ut. I dare say I shall see them soon here."
Elizabeth shook her head over this letter. It convinced her that accident onl_ould discover to Mr. Bingley her sister's being in town.
Four weeks passed away, and Jane saw nothing of him. She endeavoured t_ersuade herself that she did not regret it; but she could no longer be blin_o Miss Bingley's inattention. After waiting at home every morning for _ortnight, and inventing every evening a fresh excuse for her, the visitor di_t last appear; but the shortness of her stay, and yet more, the alteration o_er manner would allow Jane to deceive herself no longer. The letter which sh_rote on this occasion to her sister will prove what she felt.
"My dearest Lizzy will, I am sure, be incapable of triumphing in her bette_udgement, at my expense, when I confess myself to have been entirely deceive_n Miss Bingley's regard for me. But, my dear sister, though the event ha_roved you right, do not think me obstinate if I still assert that,
considering what her behaviour was, my confidence was as natural as you_uspicion. I do not at all comprehend her reason for wishing to be intimat_ith me; but if the same circumstances were to happen again, I am sure _hould be deceived again. Caroline did not return my visit till yesterday; an_ot a note, not a line, did I receive in the meantime. When she did come, i_as very evident that she had no pleasure in it; she made a slight, forma_pology, 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 wa_erfectly resolved to continue the acquaintance no longer. I pity, though _annot help blaming her. She was very wrong in singling me out as she did; _an safely say that every advance to intimacy began on her side. But I pit_er, because she must feel that she has been acting wrong, and because I a_ery sure that anxiety for her brother is the cause of it. I need not explai_yself farther; and though _we_ know this anxiety to be quite needless, ye_f she feels it, it will easily account for her behaviour to me; and s_eservedly dear as he is to his sister, whatever anxiety she must feel on hi_ehalf is natural and amiable. I cannot but wonder, however, at her having an_uch 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 sai_erself; and yet it would seem, by her manner of talking, as if she wanted t_ersuade herself that he is really partial to Miss Darcy. I cannot understan_t. If I were not afraid of judging harshly, I should be almost tempted to sa_hat there is a strong appearance of duplicity in all this. But I wil_ndeavour to banish every painful thought, and think only of what will make m_appy—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 neve_eturning to Netherfield again, of giving up the house, but not with an_ertainty. We had better not mention it. I am extremely glad that you hav_uch pleasant accounts from our friends at Hunsford. Pray go to see them, wit_ir William and Maria. I am sure you will be very comfortable there.—Yours,
This letter gave Elizabeth some pain; but her spirits returned as sh_onsidered that Jane would no longer be duped, by the sister at least. Al_xpectation from the brother was now absolutely over. She would not even wis_or a renewal of his attentions. His character sunk on every review of it; an_s a punishment for him, as well as a possible advantage to Jane, sh_eriously hoped he might really soon marry Mr. Darcy's sister, as by Wickham'_ccount, she would make him abundantly regret what he had thrown away.
Mrs. Gardiner about this time reminded Elizabeth of her promise concernin_hat gentleman, and required information; and Elizabeth had such to send a_ight rather give contentment to her aunt than to herself. His apparen_artiality had subsided, his attentions were over, he was the admirer of som_ne else. Elizabeth was watchful enough to see it all, but she could see i_nd write of it without material pain. Her heart had been but slightl_ouched, and her vanity was satisfied with believing that _she_ would hav_een his only choice, had fortune permitted it. The sudden acquisition of te_housand pounds was the most remarkable charm of the young lady to whom he wa_ow rendering himself agreeable; but Elizabeth, less clear-sighted perhaps i_his case than in Charlotte's, did not quarrel with him for his wish o_ndependence. Nothing, on the contrary, could be more natural; and while abl_o suppose that it cost him a few struggles to relinquish her, she was read_o allow it a wise and desirable measure for both, and could very sincerel_ish him happy.
All this was acknowledged to Mrs. Gardiner; and after relating th_ircumstances, she thus went on: "I am now convinced, my dear aunt, that _ave never been much in love; for had I really experienced that pure an_levating passion, I should at present detest his very name, and wish him al_anner of evil. But my feelings are not only cordial towards _him_ ; they ar_ven impartial towards Miss King. I cannot find out that I hate her at all, o_hat I am in the least unwilling to think her a very good sort of girl. Ther_an be no love in all this. My watchfulness has been effectual; and though _ertainly should be a more interesting object to all my acquaintances were _istractedly in love with him, I cannot say that I regret my comparativ_nsignificance. Importance may sometimes be purchased too dearly. Kitty an_ydia take his defection much more to heart than I do. They are young in th_ays of the world, and not yet open to the mortifying conviction that handsom_oung men must have something to live on as well as the plain."