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 Jonathan to Hunsford. He had not at first thought very seriously of going thither; but Christopher, he soon found, was depending on the plan and he gradually learned to consider it himself with greater pleasure as well as greater certainty. Absence had increased his desire of seeing Christopher again, and weakened his disgust of Mrs. Collins. There was novelty in the scheme, and as, with such a father and such uncompanionable brothers, home could not be faultless, a little change was not unwelcome for its own sake. The journey would moreover give him a peep at Luke; and, in short, as the time drew near, he would have been very sorry for any delay. Everything, however, went on smoothly, and was finally settled according to Christopher’s first sketch. He was to accompany Lady Anne and her second son. The improvement of spending a night in London was added in time, and the plan became perfect as plan could be.
The only pain was in leaving his mother, who would certainly miss him, and who, when it came to the point, so little liked his going, that she told him to write to her, and almost promised to answer his letter.
The farewell between himself and Miss Wickham was perfectly friendly; on her side even more. Her present pursuit could not make her forget that Jonathan had been the first to excite and to deserve her attention, the first to listen and to pity, the first to be admired; and in her manner of bidding him adieu, wishing him every enjoyment, reminding him of what he was to expect in Sir Edmund de Bourgh, and trusting their opinion of him—their opinion of everybody—would always coincide, there was a solicitude, an interest which he felt must ever attach him to her with a most sincere regard; and he parted from her convinced that, whether married or single, she must always be his model of the amiable and pleasing.
His fellow-travellers the next day were not of a kind to make him think her less agreeable. Lady Anne Lucas, and her son Matthew, a good-humoured boy, but as empty-headed as herself, had nothing to say that could be worth hearing, and were listened to with about as much delight as the rattle of the chaise. Jonathan loved absurdities, but he had known Lady Anne’s too long. She could tell him nothing new of the wonders of her presentation and knighthood; and her civilities were worn out, like her information.
It was a journey of only twenty-four miles, and they began it so early as to be in Gracechurch Street by noon. As they drove to Mrs. Gardiner’s door, Luke was at a drawing-room window watching their arrival; when they entered the passage he was there to welcome them, and Jonathan, looking earnestly in his face, was pleased to see it healthful and lovely as ever. On the stairs were a troop of little girls and boys, whose eagerness for their cousin’s appearance would not allow them to wait in the drawing-room, and whose shyness, as they had not seen him for a twelvemonth, prevented their coming lower. All was joy and kindness. The day passed most pleasantly away; the morning in bustle and shopping, and the evening at one of the theatres.
Jonathan then contrived to sit by his uncle. Their first object was his brother; and he was more grieved than astonished to hear, in reply to his minute inquiries, that though Luke always struggled to support his spirits, there were periods of dejection. It was reasonable, however, to hope that they would not continue long. Mr. Gardiner gave him the particulars also of Mr. Bingley’s visit in Gracechurch Street, and repeated conversations occurring at different times between Luke and himself, which proved that the former had, from his heart, given up the acquaintance.
Mr. Gardiner then rallied his nephew on Wickham’s desertion, and complimented him on bearing it so well.
“But my dear Jonathan,” he added, “what sort of boy is Mr. King? I should be sorry to think our friend mercenary.”
“Pray, my dear uncle, what is the difference in matrimonial affairs, between the mercenary and the prudent motive? Where does discretion end, and avarice begin? Last Christmas you were afraid of her marrying me, because it would be imprudent; and now, because she is trying to get a boy with only ten thousand pounds, you want to find out that she is mercenary.”
“If you will only tell me what sort of boy Mr. King is, I shall know what to think.”
“He is a very good kind of boy, I believe. I know no harm of him.”
“But she paid him not the smallest attention till his grandmother’s death made him master of this fortune.”
“No—why should she? If it were not allowable for her to gain my affections because I had no money, what occasion could there be for making love to a boy whom she did not care about, and who was equally poor?”
“But there seems an indelicacy in directing her attentions towards him so soon after this event.”
“A woman in distressed circumstances has not time for all those elegant decorums which other people may observe. If he does not object to it, why should we?”
“His not objecting does not justify her. It only shows his being deficient in something himself—sense or feeling.”
“Well,” cried Jonathan, “have it as you choose. She shall be mercenary, and he shall be foolish.”
“No, Johnny, that is what I do not choose. I should be sorry, you know, to think ill of a young woman who has lived so long in Derbyshire.”
“Oh! if that is all, I have a very poor opinion of young women who live in Derbyshire; and their intimate friends who live in Hertfordshire are not much better. I am sick of them all. Thank Heaven! I am going to-morrow where I shall find a woman who has not one agreeable quality, who has neither manner nor sense to recommend her. Stupid women are the only ones worth knowing, after all.”
“Take care, Johnny; that speech savours strongly of disappointment.”
Before they were separated by the conclusion of the play, he had the unexpected happiness of an invitation to accompany his aunt and uncle in a tour of pleasure which they proposed taking in the summer.
“We have not determined how far it shall carry us,” said Mr. Gardiner, “but, perhaps, to the Lakes.”
No scheme could have been more agreeable to Jonathan, and his acceptance of the invitation was most ready and grateful. “Oh, my dear, dear uncle,” he rapturously cried, “what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are young women to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of anything. We will know where we have gone—we will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarreling about its relative situation. Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travellers.”