Mr. Gardiner’s caution to Jonathan was punctually and kindly given on the first favourable opportunity of speaking to him alone; after honestly telling him what he thought, he thus went on:
“You are too sensible a boy, Johnny, 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 her in an affection which the want of fortune would make so very imprudent. I have nothing to say against her; she is a most interesting young woman; and if she had the fortune she 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 mother would depend on your resolution and good conduct, I am sure. You must not disappoint your mother.”
“My dear uncle, 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 Miss Wickham too. She shall not be in love with me, if I can prevent it.”
“Jonathan, you are not serious now.”
“I beg your pardon, I will try again. At present I am not in love with Miss Wickham; no, I certainly am not. But she is, beyond all comparison, the most agreeable woman I ever saw—and if she becomes really attached to me—I believe it will be better that she should not. I see the imprudence of it. Oh! that abominable Miss Darcy! My mother’s opinion of me does me the greatest honour, and I should be miserable to forfeit it. My mother, however, is partial to Miss Wickham. In short, my dear uncle, 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 her first object. When I am in company with her, I will not be wishing. In short, I will do my best.”
“Perhaps it will be as well if you discourage her coming here so very often. At least, you should not remind your father of inviting her.”
“As I did the other day,” said Jonathan with a conscious smile: “very true, it will be wise in me to refrain from that. But do not imagine that she is always here so often. It is on your account that she has been so frequently invited this week. You know my father’s ideas as to the necessity of constant company for his 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.”
His uncle assured him that he was, and Jonathan having thanked him for the kindness of his hints, they parted; a wonderful instance of advice being given on such a point, without being resented.
Miss Collins returned into Hertfordshire soon after it had been quitted by the Gardiners and Luke; but as she took up her abode with the Lucases, her arrival was no great inconvenience to Mr. Bennet. Her marriage was now fast approaching, and he was at length so far resigned as to think it inevitable, and even repeatedly to say, in an ill-natured tone, that he “wished they might be happy.” Thursday was to be the wedding day, and on Wednesday Mr. Lucas paid his farewell visit; and when he rose to take leave, Jonathan, ashamed of his father’s ungracious and reluctant good wishes, and sincerely affected himself, accompanied him out of the room. As they went downstairs together, Christopher said:
“I shall depend on hearing from you very often, John.”
“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 come to Hunsford.”
Jonathan could not refuse, though he foresaw little pleasure in the visit.
“My father and Matthew are coming to me in March,” added Christopher, “and I hope you will consent to be of the party. Indeed, John, you will be as welcome as either of them.”
The wedding took place; the bridegroom and bride set off for Kent from the church door, and everybody had as much to say, or to hear, on the subject as usual. Jonathan soon heard from his friend; and their correspondence was as regular and frequent as it had ever been; that it should be equally unreserved was impossible. Jonathan could never address him 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. Christopher’s first letters were received with a good deal of eagerness; there could not but be curiosity to know how he would speak of his new home, how he would like Sir Edmund, and how happy he would dare pronounce himself to be; though, when the letters were read, Jonathan felt that Christopher expressed himself on every point exactly as he might have foreseen. He wrote cheerfully, seemed surrounded with comforts, and mentioned nothing which he could not praise. The house, furniture, neighbourhood, and roads, were all to his taste, and Sir Edmund’s behaviour was most friendly and obliging. It was Mrs. Collins’s picture of Hunsford and Rosings rationally softened; and Jonathan perceived that he must wait for his own visit there to know the rest.
Luke had already written a few lines to his brother to announce their safe arrival in London; and when he wrote again, Jonathan hoped it would be in his power to say something of the Bingleys.
His impatience for this second letter was as well rewarded as impatience generally is. Luke had been a week in town without either seeing or hearing from Walter. He accounted for it, however, by supposing that his last letter to his friend from Longbourn had by some accident been lost.
“My uncle,” he continued, “is going to-morrow into that part of the town, and I shall take the opportunity of calling in Grosvenor Street.”
He wrote again when the visit was paid, and he had seen Mr. Bingley. “I did not think Walter in spirits,” were his words, “but he was very glad to see me, and reproached me for giving him no notice of my coming to London. I was right, therefore, my last letter had never reached him. I inquired after their sister, of course. She was well, but so much engaged with Miss Darcy that they scarcely ever saw her. I found that Mr. Darcy was expected to dinner. I wish I could see him. My visit was not long, as Walter and Mr. Hurst were going out. I dare say I shall see them soon here.”
Jonathan shook his head over this letter. It convinced him that accident only could discover to Miss Bingley his brother’s being in town.
Four weeks passed away, and Luke saw nothing of her. He endeavoured to persuade himself that he did not regret it; but he could no longer be blind to Mr. Bingley’s inattention. After waiting at home every morning for a fortnight, and inventing every evening a fresh excuse for him, the visitor did at last appear; but the shortness of his stay, and yet more, the alteration of his manner would allow Luke to deceive himself no longer. The letter which he wrote on this occasion to his brother will prove what he felt.
“My dearest Johnny will, I am sure, be incapable of triumphing in his better judgement, at my expense, when I confess myself to have been entirely deceived in Mr. Bingley’s regard for me. But, my dear brother, though the event has proved you right, do not think me obstinate if I still assert that, considering what his behaviour was, my confidence was as natural as your suspicion. I do not at all comprehend his 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. Walter did not return my visit till yesterday; and not a note, not a line, did I receive in the meantime. When he did come, it was very evident that he had no pleasure in it; he 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 he went away I was perfectly resolved to continue the acquaintance no longer. I pity, though I cannot help blaming him. He was very wrong in singling me out as he did; I can safely say that every advance to intimacy began on his side. But I pity him, because he must feel that he has been acting wrong, and because I am very sure that anxiety for his sister is the cause of it. I need not explain myself farther; and though we know this anxiety to be quite needless, yet if he feels it, it will easily account for his behaviour to me; and so deservedly dear as she is to her brother, whatever anxiety he must feel on her behalf is natural and amiable. I cannot but wonder, however, at his having any such fears now, because, if she had at all cared about me, we must have met, long ago. She knows of my being in town, I am certain, from something he said himself; and yet it would seem, by his manner of talking, as if he wanted to persuade himself that she is really partial to Mr. 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 aunt and uncle. Let me hear from you very soon. Mr. Bingley said something of her 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 Lady Anne and Matthew. I am sure you will be very comfortable there.—Yours, etc.”
This letter gave Jonathan some pain; but his spirits returned as he considered that Luke would no longer be duped, by the brother at least. All expectation from the sister was now absolutely over. He would not even wish for a renewal of her attentions. Her character sunk on every review of it; and as a punishment for her, as well as a possible advantage to Luke, he seriously hoped she might really soon marry Miss Darcy’s brother, as by Wickham’s account, he would make her abundantly regret what she had thrown away.
Mr. Gardiner about this time reminded Jonathan of his promise concerning that gentleman, and required information; and Jonathan had such to send as might rather give contentment to his uncle than to himself. Her apparent partiality had subsided, her attentions were over, she was the admirer of some one else. Jonathan was watchful enough to see it all, but he could see it and write of it without material pain. His heart had been but slightly touched, and his vanity was satisfied with believing that he would have been her only choice, had fortune permitted it. The sudden acquisition of ten thousand pounds was the most remarkable charm of the young gentleman to whom she was now rendering herself agreeable; but Jonathan, less clear-sighted perhaps in this case than in Christopher’s, did not quarrel with her for her wish of independence. Nothing, on the contrary, could be more natural; and while able to suppose that it cost her a few struggles to relinquish him, he was ready to allow it a wise and desirable measure for both, and could very sincerely wish her happy.
All this was acknowledged to Mr. Gardiner; and after relating the circumstances, he thus went on: “I am now convinced, my dear uncle, that I have never been much in love; for had I really experienced that pure and elevating passion, I should at present detest her very name, and wish her all manner of evil. But my feelings are not only cordial towards her; they are even impartial towards Mr. King. I cannot find out that I hate him at all, or that I am in the least unwilling to think him a very good sort of boy. 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 her, I cannot say that I regret my comparative insignificance. Importance may sometimes be purchased too dearly. Willie and Nicholas take her 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 beautiful young women must have something to live on as well as the plain.”