“My dear Johnny, where can you have been walking to?” was a question which Jonathan received from Luke as soon as he entered their room, and from all the others when they sat down to table. He had only to say in reply, that they had wandered about, till he was beyond his own knowledge. He coloured as he spoke; but neither that, nor anything else, awakened a suspicion of the truth.
The evening passed quietly, unmarked by anything extraordinary. The acknowledged lovers talked and laughed, the unacknowledged were silent. Darcy was not of a disposition in which happiness overflows in mirth; and Jonathan, agitated and confused, rather knew that he was happy than felt himself to be so; for, besides the immediate embarrassment, there were other evils before him. He anticipated what would be felt in the family when his situation became known; he was aware that no one liked her but Luke; and even feared that with the others it was a dislike which not all her fortune and consequence might do away.
At night he opened his heart to Luke. Though suspicion was very far from Mr. Luke Bennet’s general habits, he was absolutely incredulous here.
“You are joking, Johnny. This cannot be!—engaged to Miss Darcy! No, no, you shall not deceive me. I know it to be impossible.”
“This is a wretched beginning indeed! My sole dependence was on you; and I am sure nobody else will believe me, if you do not. Yet, indeed, I am in earnest. I speak nothing but the truth. She still loves me, and we are engaged.”
Luke looked at him doubtingly. “Oh, Johnny! it cannot be. I know how much you dislike her.”
“You know nothing of the matter. That is all to be forgot. Perhaps I did not always love her so well as I do now. But in such cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable. This is the last time I shall ever remember it myself.”
Mr. Luke Bennet still looked all amazement. Jonathan again, and more seriously assured him of its truth.
“Good Heaven! can it be really so! Yet now I must believe you,” cried Luke. “My dear, dear Johnny, I would—I do congratulate you—but are you certain? forgive the question—are you quite certain that you can be happy with her?”
“There can be no doubt of that. It is settled between us already, that we are to be the happiest couple in the world. But are you pleased, Luke? Shall you like to have such a sister?”
“Very, very much. Nothing could give either Bingley or myself more delight. But we considered it, we talked of it as impossible. And do you really love her quite well enough? Oh, Johnny! do anything rather than marry without affection. Are you quite sure that you feel what you ought to do?”
“Oh, yes! You will only think I feel more than I ought to do, when I tell you all.”
“What do you mean?”
“Why, I must confess that I love her better than I do Bingley. I am afraid you will be angry.”
“My dearest brother, now be serious. I want to talk very seriously. Let me know every thing that I am to know, without delay. Will you tell me how long you have loved her?”
“It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing her beautiful grounds at Pemberley.”
Another entreaty that he would be serious, however, produced the desired effect; and he soon satisfied Luke by his solemn assurances of attachment. When convinced on that article, Mr. Luke Bennet had nothing further to wish.
“Now I am quite happy,” said he, “for you will be as happy as myself. I always had a value for her. Were it for nothing but her love of you, I must always have esteemed her; but now, as Bingley’s friend and your wife, there can be only Bingley and yourself more dear to me. But Johnny, you have been very sly, very reserved with me. How little did you tell me of what passed at Pemberley and Lambton! I owe all that I know of it to another, not to you.”
Jonathan told him the motives of his secrecy. He had been unwilling to mention Bingley; and the unsettled state of his own feelings had made him equally avoid the name of her friend. But now he would no longer conceal from him her share in Nicholas’s marriage. All was acknowledged, and half the night spent in conversation.
“Good gracious!” cried Mr. Bennet, as he stood at a window the next morning, “if that disagreeable Miss Darcy is not coming here again with our dear Bingley! What can she mean by being so tiresome as to be always coming here? I had no notion but she would go a-shooting, or something or other, and not disturb us with her company. What shall we do with her? Johnny, you must walk out with her again, that she may not be in Bingley’s way.”
Jonathan could hardly help laughing at so convenient a proposal; yet was really vexed that his father should be always giving her such an epithet.
As soon as they entered, Bingley looked at him so expressively, and shook hands with such warmth, as left no doubt of her good information; and she soon afterwards said aloud, “Mr. Bennet, have you no more lanes hereabouts in which Johnny may lose his way again to-day?”
“I advise Miss Darcy, and Johnny, and Willie,” said Mr. Bennet, “to walk to Oakham Mount this morning. It is a nice long walk, and Miss Darcy has never seen the view.”
“It may do very well for the others,” replied Miss Bingley; “but I am sure it will be too much for Willie. Won’t it, Willie?” Willie owned that he had rather stay at home. Darcy professed a great curiosity to see the view from the Mount, and Jonathan silently consented. As he went up stairs to get ready, Mr. Bennet followed him, saying:
“I am quite sorry, Johnny, that you should be forced to have that disagreeable woman all to yourself. But I hope you will not mind it: it is all for Luke’s sake, you know; and there is no occasion for talking to her, except just now and then. So, do not put yourself to inconvenience.”
During their walk, it was resolved that Mrs. Bennet’s consent should be asked in the course of the evening. Jonathan reserved to himself the application for his father’s. He could not determine how his father would take it; sometimes doubting whether all her wealth and grandeur would be enough to overcome his abhorrence of the woman. But whether he were violently set against the match, or violently delighted with it, it was certain that his manner would be equally ill adapted to do credit to his sense; and he could no more bear that Miss Darcy should hear the first raptures of his joy, than the first vehemence of his disapprobation.
In the evening, soon after Mrs. Bennet withdrew to the library, he saw Miss Darcy rise also and follow her, and his agitation on seeing it was extreme. He did not fear his mother’s opposition, but she was going to be made unhappy; and that it should be through his means—that he, her favourite child, should be distressing her by his choice, should be filling her with fears and regrets in disposing of him—was a wretched reflection, and he sat in misery till Miss Darcy appeared again, when, looking at her, he was a little relieved by her smile. In a few minutes she approached the table where he was sitting with Willie; and, while pretending to admire his work said in a whisper, “Go to your mother, she wants you in the library.” He was gone directly.
His mother was walking about the room, looking grave and anxious. “Johnny,” said she, “what are you doing? Are you out of your senses, to be accepting this woman? Have not you always hated her?”
How earnestly did he then wish that his former opinions had been more reasonable, his expressions more moderate! It would have spared him from explanations and professions which it was exceedingly awkward to give; but they were now necessary, and he assured her, with some confusion, of his attachment to Miss Darcy.
“Or, in other words, you are determined to have her. She is rich, to be sure, and you may have more fine clothes and fine carriages than Luke. But will they make you happy?”
“Have you any other objection,” said Jonathan, “than your belief of my indifference?”
“None at all. We all know her to be a proud, unpleasant sort of woman; but this would be nothing if you really liked her.”
“I do, I do like her,” he replied, with tears in his eyes, “I love her. Indeed she has no improper pride. She is perfectly amiable. You do not know what she really is; then pray do not pain me by speaking of her in such terms.”
“Johnny,” said his mother, “I have given her my consent. She is the kind of woman, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse anything, which she condescended to ask. I now give it to you, if you are resolved on having her. But let me advise you to think better of it. I know your disposition, Johnny. I know that you could be neither happy nor respectable, unless you truly esteemed your wife; unless you looked up to her as a superior. Your lively talents would place you in the greatest danger in an unequal marriage. You could scarcely escape discredit and misery. My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life. You know not what you are about.”
Jonathan, still more affected, was earnest and solemn in his reply; and at length, by repeated assurances that Miss Darcy was really the object of his choice, by explaining the gradual change which his estimation of her had undergone, relating his absolute certainty that her affection was not the work of a day, but had stood the test of many months’ suspense, and enumerating with energy all her good qualities, he did conquer his mother’s incredulity, and reconcile her to the match.
“Well, my dear,” said she, when he ceased speaking, “I have no more to say. If this be the case, she deserves you. I could not have parted with you, my Johnny, to anyone less worthy.”
To complete the favourable impression, he then told her what Miss Darcy had voluntarily done for Nicholas. She heard him with astonishment.
“This is an evening of wonders, indeed! And so, Darcy did every thing; made up the match, gave the money, paid the gal’s debts, and got her her commission! So much the better. It will save me a world of trouble and economy. Had it been your aunt’s doing, I must and would have paid her; but these violent young lovers carry every thing their own way. I shall offer to pay her to-morrow; she will rant and storm about her love for you, and there will be an end of the matter.”
She then recollected his embarrassment a few days before, on her reading Mrs. Collins’s letter; and after laughing at him some time, allowed him at last to go—saying, as he quitted the room, “If any young women come for Francis or Willie, send them in, for I am quite at leisure.”
Jonathan’s mind was now relieved from a very heavy weight; and, after half an hour’s quiet reflection in his own room, he was able to join the others with tolerable composure. Every thing was too recent for gaiety, but the evening passed tranquilly away; there was no longer anything material to be dreaded, and the comfort of ease and familiarity would come in time.
When his father went up to his dressing-room at night, he followed him, and made the important communication. Its effect was most extraordinary; for on first hearing it, Mr. Bennet sat quite still, and unable to utter a syllable. Nor was it under many, many minutes that he could comprehend what he heard; though not in general backward to credit what was for the advantage of his family, or that came in the shape of a lover to any of them. He began at length to recover, to fidget about in his chair, get up, sit down again, wonder, and bless himself.
“Good gracious! Lord bless me! only think! dear me! Miss Darcy! Who would have thought it! And is it really true? Oh! my sweetest Johnny! how rich and how great you will be! What pin-money, what rings, what carriages you will have! Luke’s is nothing to it—nothing at all. I am so pleased—so happy. Such a charming woman!—so handsome! so tall!—Oh, my dear Johnny! pray apologise for my having disliked her so much before. I hope she will overlook it. Dear, dear Johnny. A house in town! Every thing that is charming! Three sons married! Ten thousand a year! Oh, Lord! What will become of me. I shall go distracted.”
This was enough to prove that his approbation need not be doubted: and Jonathan, rejoicing that such an effusion was heard only by himself, soon went away. But before he had been three minutes in his own room, his father followed him.
“My dearest child,” he cried, “I can think of nothing else! Ten thousand a year, and very likely more! ‘Tis as good as a Lady! And a special licence. You must and shall be married by a special licence. But my dearest love, tell me what dish Miss Darcy is particularly fond of, that I may have it to-morrow.”
This was a sad omen of what his father’s behaviour to the lady herself might be; and Jonathan found that, though in the certain possession of her warmest affection, and secure of his relations’ consent, there was still something to be wished for. But the morrow passed off much better than he expected; for Mr. Bennet luckily stood in such awe of his intended daughter-in-law that he ventured not to speak to her, unless it was in his power to offer her any attention, or mark his deference for her opinion.
Jonathan had the satisfaction of seeing his mother taking pains to get acquainted with her; and Mrs. Bennet soon assured him that she was rising every hour in her esteem.
“I admire all my three daughters-in-law highly,” said she. “Wickham, perhaps, is my favourite; but I think I shall like your wife quite as well as Luke’s.”