Chapter 61

Happy for all his paternal feelings was the day on which Mr. Bennet got rid of his two most deserving sons. With what delighted pride he afterwards visited Mr. Luke Bingley, and talked of Mr. Jonathan Darcy, may be guessed. I wish I could say, for the sake of his family, that the accomplishment of his earnest desire in the establishment of so many of his children produced so happy an effect as to make him a sensible, amiable, well-informed man for the rest of his life; though perhaps it was lucky for his wife, who might not have relished domestic felicity in so unusual a form, that he still was occasionally nervous and invariably silly.

Mrs. Bennet missed her second son exceedingly; her affection for him drew her oftener from home than anything else could do. She delighted in going to Pemberley, especially when she was least expected.

Mrs. Bingley and Luke remained at Netherfield only a twelvemonth. So near a vicinity to his father and Meryton relations was not desirable even to her easy temper, or his affectionate heart. The darling wish of her brothers was then gratified; she bought an estate in a neighbouring county to Derbyshire, and Luke and Jonathan, in addition to every other source of happiness, were within thirty miles of each other.

Willie, to his very material advantage, spent the chief of his time with his two elder brothers. In society so superior to what he had generally known, his improvement was great. He was not of so ungovernable a temper as Nicholas; and, removed from the influence of Nicholas’s example, he became, by proper attention and management, less irritable, less ignorant, and less insipid. From the further disadvantage of Nicholas’s society he was of course carefully kept, and though Mr. Wickham frequently invited him to come and stay with him, with the promise of balls and young women, his mother would never consent to his going.

Francis was the only son who remained at home; and he was necessarily drawn from the pursuit of accomplishments by Mr. Bennet’s being quite unable to sit alone. Francis was obliged to mix more with the world, but he could still moralize over every morning visit; and as he was no longer mortified by comparisons between his brother’s beauty and his own, it was suspected by his mother that he submitted to the change without much reluctance.

As for Wickham and Nicholas, their characters suffered no revolution from the marriage of his brothers. She bore with philosophy the conviction that Jonathan must now become acquainted with whatever of her ingratitude and falsehood had before been unknown to him; and in spite of every thing, was not wholly without hope that Darcy might yet be prevailed on to make her fortune. The congratulatory letter which Jonathan received from Nicholas on his marriage, explained to him that, by her husband at least, if not by herself, such a hope was cherished. The letter was to this effect:

MY DEAR JOHNNY,

I wish you joy. If you love Mrs. Darcy half as well as I do my dear Wickham, you must be very happy. It is a great comfort to have you so rich, and when you have nothing else to do, I hope you will think of us. I am sure Wickham would like a place at court very much, and I do not think we shall have quite money enough to live upon without some help. Any place would do, of about three or four hundred a year; but however, do not speak to Mrs. Darcy about it, if you had rather not.

Yours, etc.

As it happened that Jonathan had much rather not, he endeavoured in his answer to put an end to every entreaty and expectation of the kind. Such relief, however, as it was in his power to afford, by the practice of what might be called economy in his own private expences, he frequently sent them. It had always been evident to him that such an income as theirs, under the direction of two persons so extravagant in their wants, and heedless of the future, must be very insufficient to their support; and whenever they changed their quarters, either Luke or himself were sure of being applied to for some little assistance towards discharging their bills. Their manner of living, even when the restoration of peace dismissed them to a home, was unsettled in the extreme. They were always moving from place to place in quest of a cheap situation, and always spending more than they ought. Her affection for him soon sunk into indifference; his lasted a little longer; and in spite of his youth and his manners, he retained all the claims to reputation which his marriage had given him.

Though Darcy could never receive her at Pemberley, yet, for Jonathan’s sake, she assisted her further in her profession. Nicholas was occasionally a visitor there, when his wife was gone to enjoy herself in London or Bath; and with the Bingleys they both of them frequently staid so long, that even Bingley’s good humour was overcome, and she proceeded so far as to talk of giving them a hint to be gone.

Mr. Walter Bingley was very deeply mortified by Darcy’s marriage; but as he thought it advisable to retain the right of visiting at Pemberley, he dropt all his resentment; was fonder than ever of James, almost as attentive to Darcy as heretofore, and paid off every arrear of civility to Jonathan.

Pemberley was now James’s home; and the attachment of the brother’s was exactly what Darcy had hoped to see. They were able to love each other even as well as they intended. James had the highest opinion in the world of Jonathan; though at first he often listened with an astonishment bordering on alarm at his lively, sportive, manner of talking to his sister. She, who had always inspired in himself a respect which almost overcame his affection, he now saw the object of open pleasantry. His mind received knowledge which had never before fallen in his way. By Jonathan’s instructions, he began to comprehend that a man may take liberties with his wife which a sister will not always allow in a brother more than ten years younger than herself.

Sir Edmund was extremely indignant on the marriage of his niece; and as he gave way to all the genuine frankness of his character in his reply to the letter which announced its arrangement, he sent her language so very abusive, especially of Jonathan, that for some time all intercourse was at an end. But at length, by Jonathan’s persuasion, she was prevailed on to overlook the offence, and seek a reconciliation; and, after a little further resistance on the part of her uncle, his resentment gave way, either to his affection for her, or his curiosity to see how her husband conducted himself; and he condescended to wait on them at Pemberley, in spite of that pollution which its woods had received, not merely from the presence of such a master, but the visits of his aunt and uncle from the city.

With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate terms. Darcy, as well as Jonathan, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing him into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.

Chapter 60

Jonathan’s spirits soon rising to playfulness again, he wanted Miss Darcy to account for her having ever fallen in love with him. “How could you begin?” said he. “I can comprehend your going on charmingly, when you had once made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?”

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”

“My beauty you had early withstood, and as for my manners—my behaviour to you was at least always bordering on the uncivil, and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not. Now be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence?”

“For the liveliness of your mind, I did.”

“You may as well call it impertinence at once. It was very little less. The fact is, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the men who were always speaking, and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused, and interested you, because I was so unlike them. Had you not been really amiable, you would have hated me for it; but in spite of the pains you took to disguise yourself, your feelings were always noble and just; and in your heart, you thoroughly despised the persons who so assiduously courted you. There—I have saved you the trouble of accounting for it; and really, all things considered, I begin to think it perfectly reasonable. To be sure, you knew no actual good of me—but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love.”

“Was there no good in your affectionate behaviour to Luke while he was ill at Netherfield?”

“Dearest Luke! who could have done less for him? But make a virtue of it by all means. My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible; and, in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teasing and quarrelling with you as often as may be; and I shall begin directly by asking you what made you so unwilling to come to the point at last. What made you so shy of me, when you first called, and afterwards dined here? Why, especially, when you called, did you look as if you did not care about me?”

“Because you were grave and silent, and gave me no encouragement.”

“But I was embarrassed.”

“And so was I.”

“You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner.”

“A woman who had felt less, might.”

“How unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give, and that I should be so reasonable as to admit it! But I wonder how long you would have gone on, if you had been left to yourself. I wonder when you would have spoken, if I had not asked you! My resolution of thanking you for your kindness to Nicholas had certainly great effect. Too much, I am afraid; for what becomes of the moral, if our comfort springs from a breach of promise? for I ought not to have mentioned the subject. This will never do.”

“You need not distress yourself. The moral will be perfectly fair. Sir Edmund’s unjustifiable endeavours to separate us were the means of removing all my doubts. I am not indebted for my present happiness to your eager desire of expressing your gratitude. I was not in a humour to wait for any opening of yours. My uncle’s intelligence had given me hope, and I was determined at once to know every thing.”

“Sir Edmund has been of infinite use, which ought to make him happy, for he loves to be of use. But tell me, what did you come down to Netherfield for? Was it merely to ride to Longbourn and be embarrassed? or had you intended any more serious consequence?”

“My real purpose was to see you, and to judge, if I could, whether I might ever hope to make you love me. My avowed one, or what I avowed to myself, was to see whether your brother were still partial to Bingley, and if he were, to make the confession to her which I have since made.”

“Shall you ever have courage to announce to Sir Edmund what is to befall him?”

“I am more likely to want more time than courage, Jonathan. But it ought to be done, and if you will give me a sheet of paper, it shall be done directly.”

“And if I had not a letter to write myself, I might sit by you and admire the evenness of your writing, as another young gentleman once did. But I have an uncle, too, who must not be longer neglected.”

From an unwillingness to confess how much his intimacy with Miss Darcy had been over-rated, Jonathan had never yet answered Mr. Gardiner’s long letter; but now, having that to communicate which he knew would be most welcome, he was almost ashamed to find that his aunt and uncle had already lost three days of happiness, and immediately wrote as follows:

“I would have thanked you before, my dear uncle, as I ought to have done, for your long, kind, satisfactory, detail of particulars; but to say the truth, I was too cross to write. You supposed more than really existed. But now suppose as much as you choose; give a loose rein to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford, and unless you believe me actually married, you cannot greatly err. You must write again very soon, and praise her a great deal more than you did in your last. I thank you, again and again, for not going to the Lakes. How could I be so silly as to wish it! Your idea of the ponies is delightful. We will go round the Park every day. I am the happiest creature in the world. Perhaps other people have said so before, but not one with such justice. I am happier even than Luke; he only smiles, I laugh. Miss Darcy sends you all the love in the world that she can spare from me. You are all to come to Pemberley at Christmas. Yours, etc.”

Miss Darcy’s letter to Sir Edmund was in a different style; and still different from either was what Mrs. Bennet sent to Mrs. Collins, in reply to her last.

DEAR MADAM

I must trouble you once more for congratulations. Jonathan will soon be the wife of Miss Darcy. Console Sir Edmund as well as you can. But, if I were you, I would stand by the niece. She has more to give.

Yours sincerely, etc.

Mr. Bingley’s congratulations to his sister, on her approaching marriage, were all that was affectionate and insincere. He wrote even to Luke on the occasion, to express his delight, and repeat all his former professions of regard. Luke was not deceived, but he was affected; and though feeling no reliance on him, could not help writing him a much kinder answer than he knew was deserved.

The joy which Mr. Darcy expressed on receiving similar information, was as sincere as his sister’s in sending it. Four sides of paper were insufficient to contain all his delight, and all his earnest desire of being loved by his brother.

Before any answer could arrive from Mrs. Collins, or any congratulations to Jonathan from her husband, the Longbourn family heard that the Collinses were come themselves to Lucas Lodge. The reason of this sudden removal was soon evident. Sir Edmund had been rendered so exceedingly angry by the contents of his niece’s letter, that Christopher, really rejoicing in the match, was anxious to get away till the storm was blown over. At such a moment, the arrival of his friend was a sincere pleasure to Jonathan, though in the course of their meetings he must sometimes think the pleasure dearly bought, when he saw Miss Darcy exposed to all the parading and obsequious civility of his wife. She bore it, however, with admirable calmness. She could even listen to Lady Anne Lucas, when she complimented her on carrying away the brightest jewel of the country, and expressed her hopes of their all meeting frequently at St. James’s, with very decent composure. If she did shrug her shoulders, it was not till Lady Anne was out of sight.

Mr. Phillips’s vulgarity was another, and perhaps a greater, tax on her forbearance; and though Mr. Phillips, as well as his brother, stood in too much awe of her to speak with the familiarity which Bingley’s good humour encouraged, yet, whenever he did speak, he must be vulgar. Nor was his respect for her, though it made him more quiet, at all likely to make him more elegant. Jonathan did all he could to shield her from the frequent notice of either, and was ever anxious to keep her to himself, and to those of his family with whom she might converse without mortification; and though the uncomfortable feelings arising from all this took from the season of courtship much of its pleasure, it added to the hope of the future; and he looked forward with delight to the time when they should be removed from society so little pleasing to either, to all the comfort and elegance of their family party at Pemberley.

Chapter 59

“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.”

Chapter 58

Instead of receiving any such letter of excuse from her friend, as Jonathan half expected Miss Bingley to do, she was able to bring Darcy with her to Longbourn before many days had passed after Sir Edmund’s visit. The ladies arrived early; and, before Mr. Bennet had time to tell her of their having seen her uncle, of which his son sat in momentary dread, Bingley, who wanted to be alone with Luke, proposed their all walking out. It was agreed to. Mr. Bennet was not in the habit of walking; Francis could never spare time; but the remaining five set off together. Bingley and Luke, however, soon allowed the others to outstrip them. They lagged behind, while Jonathan, Willie, and Darcy were to entertain each other. Very little was said by either; Willie was too much afraid of her to talk; Jonathan was secretly forming a desperate resolution; and perhaps she might be doing the same.

They walked towards the Lucases, because Willie wished to call upon Matthew; and as Jonathan saw no occasion for making it a general concern, when Willie left them he went boldly on with her alone. Now was the moment for his resolution to be executed, and, while his courage was high, he immediately said:

“Miss Darcy, I am a very selfish creature; and, for the sake of giving relief to my own feelings, care not how much I may be wounding yours. I can no longer help thanking you for your unexampled kindness to my poor brother. Ever since I have known it, I have been most anxious to acknowledge to you how gratefully I feel it. Were it known to the rest of my family, I should not have merely my own gratitude to express.”

“I am sorry, exceedingly sorry,” replied Darcy, in a tone of surprise and emotion, “that you have ever been informed of what may, in a mistaken light, have given you uneasiness. I did not think Mr. Gardiner was so little to be trusted.”

“You must not blame my uncle. Nicholas’s thoughtlessness first betrayed to me that you had been concerned in the matter; and, of course, I could not rest till I knew the particulars. Let me thank you again and again, in the name of all my family, for that generous compassion which induced you to take so much trouble, and bear so many mortifications, for the sake of discovering them.”

“If you will thank me,” she replied, “let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.”

Jonathan was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, his companion added, “You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.”

Jonathan, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of her situation, now forced himself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave her to understand that his sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which she alluded, as to make him receive with gratitude and pleasure her present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced, was such as she had probably never felt before; and she expressed herself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a woman violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Jonathan been able to encounter her eye, he might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight, diffused over her face, became her; but, though he could not look, he could listen, and she told him of feelings, which, in proving of what importance he was to her, made her affection every moment more valuable.

They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects. He soon learnt that they were indebted for their present good understanding to the efforts of her uncle, who did call on her in his return through London, and there relate his journey to Longbourn, its motive, and the substance of his conversation with Jonathan; dwelling emphatically on every expression of the latter which, in his lordship’s apprehension, peculiarly denoted his perverseness and assurance; in the belief that such a relation must assist his endeavours to obtain that promise from his niece which he had refused to give. But, unluckily for his lordship, its effect had been exactly contrariwise.

“It taught me to hope,” said she, “as I had scarcely ever allowed myself to hope before. I knew enough of your disposition to be certain that, had you been absolutely, irrevocably decided against me, you would have acknowledged it to Sir Edmund, frankly and openly.”

Jonathan coloured and laughed as he replied, “Yes, you know enough of my frankness to believe me capable of that. After abusing you so abominably to your face, I could have no scruple in abusing you to all your relations.”

“What did you say of me, that I did not deserve? For, though your accusations were ill-founded, formed on mistaken premises, my behaviour to you at the time had merited the severest reproof. It was unpardonable. I cannot think of it without abhorrence.”

“We will not quarrel for the greater share of blame annexed to that evening,” said Jonathan. “The conduct of neither, if strictly examined, will be irreproachable; but since then, we have both, I hope, improved in civility.”

“I cannot be so easily reconciled to myself. The recollection of what I then said, of my conduct, my manners, my expressions during the whole of it, is now, and has been many months, inexpressibly painful to me. Your reproof, so well applied, I shall never forget: ‘had you behaved in a more ladylike manner.’ Those were your words. You know not, you can scarcely conceive, how they have tortured me;—though it was some time, I confess, before I was reasonable enough to allow their justice.”

“I was certainly very far from expecting them to make so strong an impression. I had not the smallest idea of their being ever felt in such a way.”

“I can easily believe it. You thought me then devoid of every proper feeling, I am sure you did. The turn of your countenance I shall never forget, as you said that I could not have addressed you in any possible way that would induce you to accept me.”

“Oh! do not repeat what I then said. These recollections will not do at all. I assure you that I have long been most heartily ashamed of it.”

Darcy mentioned her letter. “Did it,” said she, “did it soon make you think better of me? Did you, on reading it, give any credit to its contents?”

He explained what its effect on him had been, and how gradually all his former prejudices had been removed.

“I knew,” said she, “that what I wrote must give you pain, but it was necessary. I hope you have destroyed the letter. There was one part especially, the opening of it, which I should dread your having the power of reading again. I can remember some expressions which might justly make you hate me.”

“The letter shall certainly be burnt, if you believe it essential to the preservation of my regard; but, though we have both reason to think my opinions not entirely unalterable, they are not, I hope, quite so easily changed as that implies.”

“When I wrote that letter,” replied Darcy, “I believed myself perfectly calm and cool, but I am since convinced that it was written in a dreadful bitterness of spirit.”

“The letter, perhaps, began in bitterness, but it did not end so. The adieu is charity itself. But think no more of the letter. The feelings of the person who wrote, and the person who received it, are now so widely different from what they were then, that every unpleasant circumstance attending it ought to be forgotten. You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.”

“I cannot give you credit for any philosophy of the kind. Your retrospections must be so totally void of reproach, that the contentment arising from them is not of philosophy, but, what is much better, of innocence. But with me, it is not so. Painful recollections will intrude which cannot, which ought not, to be repelled. I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. Unfortunately an only daughter (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my mother, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own. Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Jonathan! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a man worthy of being pleased.”

“Had you then persuaded yourself that I should?”

“Indeed I had. What will you think of my vanity? I believed you to be wishing, expecting my addresses.”

“My manners must have been in fault, but not intentionally, I assure you. I never meant to deceive you, but my spirits might often lead me wrong. How you must have hated me after that evening?”

“Hate you! I was angry perhaps at first, but my anger soon began to take a proper direction.”

“I am almost afraid of asking what you thought of me, when we met at Pemberley. You blamed me for coming?”

“No indeed; I felt nothing but surprise.”

“Your surprise could not be greater than mine in being noticed by you. My conscience told me that I deserved no extraordinary politeness, and I confess that I did not expect to receive more than my due.”

“My object then,” replied Darcy, “was to show you, by every civility in my power, that I was not so mean as to resent the past; and I hoped to obtain your forgiveness, to lessen your ill opinion, by letting you see that your reproofs had been attended to. How soon any other wishes introduced themselves I can hardly tell, but I believe in about half an hour after I had seen you.”

She then told him of James’s delight in his acquaintance, and of his disappointment at its sudden interruption; which naturally leading to the cause of that interruption, he soon learnt that her resolution of following him from Derbyshire in quest of his brother had been formed before she quitted the inn, and that her gravity and thoughtfulness there had arisen from no other struggles than what such a purpose must comprehend.

He expressed his gratitude again, but it was too painful a subject to each, to be dwelt on farther.

After walking several miles in a leisurely manner, and too busy to know anything about it, they found at last, on examining their watches, that it was time to be at home.

“What could become of Miss Bingley and Luke!” was a wonder which introduced the discussion of their affairs. Darcy was delighted with their engagement; her friend had given her the earliest information of it.

“I must ask whether you were surprised?” said Jonathan.

“Not at all. When I went away, I felt that it would soon happen.”

“That is to say, you had given your permission. I guessed as much.” And though she exclaimed at the term, he found that it had been pretty much the case.

“On the evening before my going to London,” said she, “I made a confession to her, which I believe I ought to have made long ago. I told her of all that had occurred to make my former interference in her affairs absurd and impertinent. Her surprise was great. She had never had the slightest suspicion. I told her, moreover, that I believed myself mistaken in supposing, as I had done, that your brother was indifferent to her; and as I could easily perceive that her attachment to him was unabated, I felt no doubt of their happiness together.”

Jonathan could not help smiling at her easy manner of directing her friend.

“Did you speak from your own observation,” said he, “when you told her that my brother loved her, or merely from my information last spring?”

“From the former. I had narrowly observed him during the two visits which I had lately made here; and I was convinced of his affection.”

“And your assurance of it, I suppose, carried immediate conviction to her.”

“It did. Bingley is most unaffectedly modest. Her diffidence had prevented her depending on her own judgment in so anxious a case, but her reliance on mine made every thing easy. I was obliged to confess one thing, which for a time, and not unjustly, offended her. I could not allow myself to conceal that your brother had been in town three months last winter, that I had known it, and purposely kept it from her. She was angry. But her anger, I am persuaded, lasted no longer than she remained in any doubt of your brother’s sentiments. She has heartily forgiven me now.”

Jonathan longed to observe that Miss Bingley had been a most delightful friend; so easily guided that her worth was invaluable; but he checked himself. He remembered that she had yet to learn to be laughed at, and it was rather too early to begin. In anticipating the happiness of Bingley, which of course was to be inferior only to her own, she continued the conversation till they reached the house. In the hall they parted.

Chapter 57

The discomposure of spirits which this extraordinary visit threw Jonathan into, could not be easily overcome; nor could he, for many hours, learn to think of it less than incessantly. Sir Edmund, it appeared, had actually taken the trouble of this journey from Rosings, for the sole purpose of breaking off his supposed engagement with Miss Darcy. It was a rational scheme, to be sure! but from what the report of their engagement could originate, Jonathan was at a loss to imagine; till he recollected that her being the intimate friend of Bingley, and his being the brother of Luke, was enough, at a time when the expectation of one wedding made everybody eager for another, to supply the idea. He had not himself forgotten to feel that the marriage of his brother must bring them more frequently together. And his neighbours at Lucas Lodge, therefore (for through their communication with the Collinses, the report, he concluded, had reached Sir Edmund), had only set that down as almost certain and immediate, which he had looked forward to as possible at some future time.

In revolving Sir Edmund’s expressions, however, he could not help feeling some uneasiness as to the possible consequence of his persisting in this interference. From what he had said of his resolution to prevent their marriage, it occurred to Jonathan that he must meditate an application to his niece; and how she might take a similar representation of the evils attached to a connection with him, he dared not pronounce. He knew not the exact degree of her affection for her uncle, or her dependence on his judgment, but it was natural to suppose that she thought much higher of his lordship than he could do; and it was certain that, in enumerating the miseries of a marriage with one, whose immediate connections were so unequal to her own, her uncle would address her on her weakest side. With her notions of dignity, she would probably feel that the arguments, which to Jonathan had appeared weak and ridiculous, contained much good sense and solid reasoning.

If she had been wavering before as to what she should do, which had often seemed likely, the advice and entreaty of so near a relation might settle every doubt, and determine her at once to be as happy as dignity unblemished could make her. In that case she would return no more. Sir Edmund might see her in his way through town; and her engagement to Bingley of coming again to Netherfield must give way.

“If, therefore, an excuse for not keeping her promise should come to her friend within a few days,” he added, “I shall know how to understand it. I shall then give over every expectation, every wish of her constancy. If she is satisfied with only regretting me, when she might have obtained my affections and hand, I shall soon cease to regret her at all.”

The surprise of the rest of the family, on hearing who their visitor had been, was very great; but they obligingly satisfied it, with the same kind of supposition which had appeased Mr. Bennet’s curiosity; and Jonathan was spared from much teasing on the subject.

The next morning, as he was going downstairs, he was met by his mother, who came out of her library with a letter in her hand.

“Johnny,” said she, “I was going to look for you; come into my room.”

He followed her thither; and his curiosity to know what she had to tell him was heightened by the supposition of its being in some manner connected with the letter she held. It suddenly struck him that it might be from Sir Edmund; and he anticipated with dismay all the consequent explanations.

He followed his mother to the fire place, and they both sat down. She then said,

“I have received a letter this morning that has astonished me exceedingly. As it principally concerns yourself, you ought to know its contents. I did not know before, that I had two sons on the brink of matrimony. Let me congratulate you on a very important conquest.”

The colour now rushed into Jonathan’s cheeks in the instantaneous conviction of its being a letter from the niece, instead of the uncle; and he was undetermined whether most to be pleased that she explained herself at all, or offended that her letter was not rather addressed to himself; when his mother continued:

“You look conscious. Young gentlemen have great penetration in such matters as these; but I think I may defy even your sagacity, to discover the name of your admirer. This letter is from Mrs. Collins.”

“From Mrs. Collins! and what can she have to say?”

“Something very much to the purpose of course. She begins with congratulations on the approaching nuptials of my eldest son, of which, it seems, she has been told by some of the good-natured, gossiping Lucases. I shall not sport with your impatience, by reading what she says on that point. What relates to yourself, is as follows: ‘Having thus offered you the sincere congratulations of Mr. Collins and myself on this happy event, let me now add a short hint on the subject of another; of which we have been advertised by the same authority. Your son Jonathan, it is presumed, will not long bear the name of Bennet, after his elder brother has resigned it, and the chosen partner of his fate may be reasonably looked up to as one of the most illustrious personages in this land.’

“Can you possibly guess, Johnny, who is meant by this?” ‘This young lady is blessed, in a peculiar way, with every thing the heart of mortal can most desire,—splendid property, noble kindred, and extensive patronage. Yet in spite of all these temptations, let me warn my cousin Jonathan, and yourself, of what evils you may incur by a precipitate closure with this lady’s proposals, which, of course, you will be inclined to take immediate advantage of.’

“Have you any idea, Johnny, who this lady is? But now it comes out:

“‘My motive for cautioning you is as follows. We have reason to imagine that her uncle, Sir Edmund de Bourgh, does not look on the match with a friendly eye.’

Miss Darcy, you see, is the woman! Now, Johnny, I think I have surprised you. Could she, or the Lucases, have pitched on any woman within the circle of our acquaintance, whose name would have given the lie more effectually to what they related? Miss Darcy, who never looks at any man but to see a blemish, and who probably never looked at you in her life! It is admirable!”

Jonathan tried to join in his mother’s pleasantry, but could only force one most reluctant smile. Never had her wit been directed in a manner so little agreeable to him.

“Are you not diverted?”

“Oh! yes. Pray read on.”

“‘After mentioning the likelihood of this marriage to his lordship last night, he immediately, with his usual condescension, expressed what he felt on the occasion; when it became apparent, that on the score of some family objections on the part of my cousin, he would never give his consent to what he termed so disgraceful a match. I thought it my duty to give the speediest intelligence of this to my cousin, that he and his noble admirer may be aware of what they are about, and not run hastily into a marriage which has not been properly sanctioned.’ Mrs. Collins moreover adds, ‘I am truly rejoiced that my cousin Nicholas’s sad business has been so well hushed up, and am only concerned that their living together before the marriage took place should be so generally known. I must not, however, neglect the duties of my station, or refrain from declaring my amazement at hearing that you received the young couple into your house as soon as they were married. It was an encouragement of vice; and had I been the rector of Longbourn, I should very strenuously have opposed it. You ought certainly to forgive them, as a Christian, but never to admit them in your sight, or allow their names to be mentioned in your hearing.’ That is her notion of Christian forgiveness! The rest of her letter is only about her dear Christopher’s situation, and her expectation of a young olive-branch. But, Johnny, you look as if you did not enjoy it. You are not going to be namby, I hope, and pretend to be affronted at an idle report. For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

“Oh!” cried Jonathan, “I am excessively diverted. But it is so strange!”

“Yes—that is what makes it amusing. Had they fixed on any other woman it would have been nothing; but her perfect indifference, and your pointed dislike, make it so delightfully absurd! Much as I abominate writing, I would not give up Mrs. Collins’s correspondence for any consideration. Nay, when I read a letter of her, I cannot help giving her the preference even over Wickham, much as I value the impudence and hypocrisy of my daughter-in-law. And pray, Johnny, what said Sir Edmund about this report? Did he call to refuse his consent?”

To this question her son replied only with a laugh; and as it had been asked without the least suspicion, he was not distressed by her repeating it. Jonathan had never been more at a loss to make his feelings appear what they were not. It was necessary to laugh, when he would rather have cried. His mother had most cruelly mortified him, by what she said of Miss Darcy’s indifference, and he could do nothing but wonder at such a want of penetration, or fear that perhaps, instead of her seeing too little, he might have fancied too much.

Chapter 56

One morning, about a week after Bingley’s engagement with Luke had been formed, as she and the males of the family were sitting together in the dining-room, their attention was suddenly drawn to the window, by the sound of a carriage; and they perceived a chaise and four driving up the lawn. It was too early in the morning for visitors, and besides, the equipage did not answer to that of any of their neighbours. The horses were post; and neither the carriage, nor the livery of the servant who preceded it, were familiar to them. As it was certain, however, that somebody was coming, Bingley instantly prevailed on Mr. Luke Bennet to avoid the confinement of such an intrusion, and walk away with her into the shrubbery. They both set off, and the conjectures of the remaining three continued, though with little satisfaction, till the door was thrown open and their visitor entered. It was Sir Edmund de Bourgh.

They were of course all intending to be surprised; but their astonishment was beyond their expectation; and on the part of Mr. Bennet and Willie, though he was perfectly unknown to them, even inferior to what Jonathan felt.

He entered the room with an air more than usually ungracious, made no other reply to Jonathan’s salutation than a slight inclination of the head, and sat down without saying a word. Jonathan had mentioned his name to his father on his lordship’s entrance, though no request of introduction had been made.

Mr. Bennet, all amazement, though flattered by having a guest of such high importance, received him with the utmost politeness. After sitting for a moment in silence, he said very stiffly to Jonathan,

“I hope you are well, Mr. Bennet. That gentleman, I suppose, is your father.”

Jonathan replied very concisely that he was.

“And that I suppose is one of your brothers.”

“Yes, sir,” said Mr. Bennet, delighted to speak to Sir Edmund. “He is my youngest boy but one. My youngest of all is lately married, and my eldest is somewhere about the grounds, walking with a young woman who, I believe, will soon become a part of the family.”

“You have a very small park here,” returned Sir Edmund after a short silence.

“It is nothing in comparison of Rosings, my lord, I dare say; but I assure you it is much larger than Lady Anne Lucas’s.”

“This must be a most inconvenient sitting room for the evening, in summer; the windows are full west.”

Mr. Bennet assured him that they never sat there after dinner, and then added:

“May I take the liberty of asking your lordship whether you left Mrs. and Mr. Collins well.”

“Yes, very well. I saw them the night before last.”

Jonathan now expected that he would produce a letter for him from Christopher, as it seemed the only probable motive for his calling. But no letter appeared, and he was completely puzzled.

Mr. Bennet, with great civility, begged his lordship to take some refreshment; but Sir Edmund very resolutely, and not very politely, declined eating anything; and then, rising up, said to Jonathan,

“Mr. Bennet, there seemed to be a prettyish kind of a little wilderness on one side of your lawn. I should be glad to take a turn in it, if you will favour me with your company.”

“Go, my dear,” cried his father, “and show his lordship about the different walks. I think he will be pleased with the hermitage.”

Jonathan obeyed, and running into his own room for his stick, attended his noble guest downstairs. As they passed through the hall, Sir Edmund opened the doors into the dining-parlour and drawing-room, and pronouncing them, after a short survey, to be decent looking rooms, walked on.

His carriage remained at the door, and Jonathan saw that his waiting-man was in it. They proceeded in silence along the gravel walk that led to the copse; Jonathan was determined to make no effort for conversation with a man who was now more than usually insolent and disagreeable.

“How could I ever think him like his niece?” said he, as he looked in his face.

As soon as they entered the copse, Sir Edmund began in the following manner:—

“You can be at no loss, Mr. Bennet, to understand the reason of my journey hither. Your own heart, your own conscience, must tell you why I come.”

Jonathan looked with unaffected astonishment.

“Indeed, you are mistaken, Sir. I have not been at all able to account for the honour of seeing you here.”

“Mr. Bennet,” replied his lordship, in an angry tone, “you ought to know, that I am not to be trifled with. But however insincere you may choose to be, you shall not find me so. My character has ever been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness, and in a cause of such moment as this, I shall certainly not depart from it. A report of a most alarming nature reached me two days ago. I was told that not only your brother was on the point of being most advantageously married, but that you, that Mr. Jonathan Bennet, would, in all likelihood, be soon afterwards united to my niece, my own niece, Miss Darcy. Though I know it must be a scandalous falsehood, though I would not injure her so much as to suppose the truth of it possible, I instantly resolved on setting off for this place, that I might make my sentiments known to you.”

“If you believed it impossible to be true,” said Jonathan, colouring with astonishment and disdain, “I wonder you took the trouble of coming so far. What could your lordship propose by it?”

“At once to insist upon having such a report universally contradicted.”

“Your coming to Longbourn, to see me and my family,” said Jonathan coolly, “will be rather a confirmation of it; if, indeed, such a report is in existence.”

“If! Do you then pretend to be ignorant of it? Has it not been industriously circulated by yourselves? Do you not know that such a report is spread abroad?”

“I never heard that it was.”

“And can you likewise declare, that there is no foundation for it?”

“I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your lordship. You may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer.”

“This is not to be borne. Mr. Bennet, I insist on being satisfied. Has she, has my niece, made you an offer of marriage?”

“Your lordship has declared it to be impossible.”

“It ought to be so; it must be so, while she retains the use of her reason. But your arts and allurements may, in a moment of infatuation, have made her forget what she owes to herself and to all her family. You may have drawn her in.”

“If I have, I shall be the last person to confess it.”

“Mr. Bennet, do you know who I am? I have not been accustomed to such language as this. I am almost the nearest relation she has in the world, and am entitled to know all her dearest concerns.”

“But you are not entitled to know mine; nor will such behaviour as this, ever induce me to be explicit.”

“Let me be rightly understood. This match, to which you have the presumption to aspire, can never take place. No, never. Miss Darcy is engaged to my son. Now what have you to say?”

“Only this; that if she is so, you can have no reason to suppose she will make an offer to me.”

Sir Edmund hesitated for a moment, and then replied:

“The engagement between them is of a peculiar kind. From their infancy, they have been intended for each other. It was the favourite wish of her father, as well as of his. While in their cradles, we planned the union: and now, at the moment when the wishes of both brothers would be accomplished in their marriage, to be prevented by a young man of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family! Do you pay no regard to the wishes of her friends? To her tacit engagement with Mr. de Bourgh? Are you lost to every feeling of propriety and delicacy? Have you not heard me say that from her earliest hours she was destined for her cousin?”

“Yes, and I had heard it before. But what is that to me? If there is no other objection to my marrying your niece, I shall certainly not be kept from it by knowing that her father and uncle wished her to marry Mr. de Bourgh. You both did as much as you could in planning the marriage. Its completion depended on others. If Miss Darcy is neither by honour nor inclination confined to her cousin, why is not she to make another choice? And if I am that choice, why may not I accept her?”

“Because honour, decorum, prudence, nay, interest, forbid it. Yes, Mr. Bennet, interest; for do not expect to be noticed by her family or friends, if you wilfully act against the inclinations of all. You will be censured, slighted, and despised, by everyone connected with her. Your alliance will be a disgrace; your name will never even be mentioned by any of us.”

“These are heavy misfortunes,” replied Jonathan. “But the husband of Miss Darcy must have such extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to his situation, that he could, upon the whole, have no cause to repine.”

“Obstinate, headstrong boy! I am ashamed of you! Is this your gratitude for my attentions to you last spring? Is nothing due to me on that score? Let us sit down. You are to understand, Mr. Bennet, that I came here with the determined resolution of carrying my purpose; nor will I be dissuaded from it. I have not been used to submit to any person’s whims. I have not been in the habit of brooking disappointment.”

That will make your lordship’s situation at present more pitiable; but it will have no effect on me.”

“I will not be interrupted. Hear me in silence. My son and my niece are formed for each other. They are descended, on the paternal side, from the same noble line; and, on the mother’s, from respectable, honourable, and ancient—though untitled—families. Their fortune on both sides is splendid. They are destined for each other by the voice of every member of their respective houses; and what is to divide them? The upstart pretensions of a young man without family, connections, or fortune. Is this to be endured! But it must not, shall not be. If you were sensible of your own good, you would not wish to quit the sphere in which you have been brought up.”

“In marrying your niece, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. She is a lady; I am a lady’s son; so far we are equal.”

“True. You are a lady’s son. But who was your father? Who are your aunts and uncles? Do not imagine me ignorant of their condition.”

“Whatever my connections may be,” said Jonathan, “if your niece does not object to them, they can be nothing to you.”

“Tell me once for all, are you engaged to her?”

Though Jonathan would not, for the mere purpose of obliging Sir Edmund, have answered this question, he could not but say, after a moment’s deliberation:

“I am not.”

Sir Edmund seemed pleased.

“And will you promise me, never to enter into such an engagement?”

“I will make no promise of the kind.”

“Mr. Bennet I am shocked and astonished. I expected to find a more reasonable young man. But do not deceive yourself into a belief that I will ever recede. I shall not go away till you have given me the assurance I require.”

“And I certainly never shall give it. I am not to be intimidated into anything so wholly unreasonable. Your lordship wants Miss Darcy to marry your son; but would my giving you the wished-for promise make their marriage at all more probable? Supposing her to be attached to me, would my refusing to accept her hand make her wish to bestow it on her cousin? Allow me to say, Sir Edmund, that the arguments with which you have supported this extraordinary application have been as frivolous as the application was ill-judged. You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. How far your niece might approve of your interference in her affairs, I cannot tell; but you have certainly no right to concern yourself in mine. I must beg, therefore, to be importuned no farther on the subject.”

“Not so hasty, if you please. I have by no means done. To all the objections I have already urged, I have still another to add. I am no stranger to the particulars of your youngest brother’s infamous elopement. I know it all; that the young woman’s marrying him was a patched-up business, at the expence of your mother and aunts. And is such a boy to be my niece’s brother? Is his wife, is the daughter of her late mother’s steward, to be her sister? Heaven and earth!—of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”

“You can now have nothing further to say,” he resentfully answered. “You have insulted me in every possible method. I must beg to return to the house.”

And he rose as he spoke. Sir Edmund rose also, and they turned back. His lordship was highly incensed.

“You have no regard, then, for the honour and credit of my niece! Unfeeling, selfish boy! Do you not consider that a connection with you must disgrace her in the eyes of everybody?”

“Sir Edmund, I have nothing further to say. You know my sentiments.”

“You are then resolved to have her?”

“I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”

“It is well. You refuse, then, to oblige me. You refuse to obey the claims of duty, honour, and gratitude. You are determined to ruin her in the opinion of all her friends, and make her the contempt of the world.”

“Neither duty, nor honour, nor gratitude,” replied Jonathan, “have any possible claim on me, in the present instance. No principle of either would be violated by my marriage with Miss Darcy. And with regard to the resentment of her family, or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by her marrying me, it would not give me one moment’s concern—and the world in general would have too much sense to join in the scorn.”

“And this is your real opinion! This is your final resolve! Very well. I shall now know how to act. Do not imagine, Mr. Bennet, that your ambition will ever be gratified. I came to try you. I hoped to find you reasonable; but, depend upon it, I will carry my point.”

In this manner Sir Edmund talked on, till they were at the door of the carriage, when, turning hastily round, he added, “I take no leave of you, Mr. Bennet. I send no compliments to your father. You deserve no such attention. I am most seriously displeased.”

Jonathan made no answer; and without attempting to persuade his lordship to return into the house, walked quietly into it himself. He heard the carriage drive away as he proceeded up stairs. His father impatiently met him at the door of the dressing-room, to ask why Sir Edmund would not come in again and rest himself.

“He did not choose it,” said his son, “he would go.”

“He is a very fine-looking man! and his calling here was prodigiously civil! for he only came, I suppose, to tell us the Collinses were well. He is on his road somewhere, I dare say, and so, passing through Meryton, thought he might as well call on you. I suppose he had nothing particular to say to you, Johnny?”

Jonathan was forced to give into a little falsehood here; for to acknowledge the substance of their conversation was impossible.

Chapter 55

A few days after this visit, Miss Bingley called again, and alone. Her friend had left her that morning for London, but was to return home in ten days time. She sat with them above an hour, and was in remarkably good spirits. Mr. Bennet invited her to dine with them; but, with many expressions of concern, she confessed herself engaged elsewhere.

“Next time you call,” said he, “I hope we shall be more lucky.”

She should be particularly happy at any time, etc. etc.; and if he would give her leave, would take an early opportunity of waiting on them.

“Can you come to-morrow?”

Yes, she had no engagement at all for to-morrow; and his invitation was accepted with alacrity.

She came, and in such very good time that the gentlemen were none of them dressed. In ran Mr. Bennet to his son’s room, in his dressing gown, and with his hair half finished, crying out:

“My dear Luke, make haste and hurry down. She is come—Miss Bingley is come. She is, indeed. Make haste, make haste. Here, Simon, come to Mr. Bennet this moment, and help him on with his breeches. Never mind Mr. Johnny’s hair.”

“We will be down as soon as we can,” said Luke; “but I dare say Willie is forwarder than either of us, for he went up stairs half an hour ago.”

“Oh! hang Willie! what has he to do with it? Come be quick, be quick! Where is your cravat, my dear?”

But when his father was gone, Luke would not be prevailed on to go down without one of his brothers.

The same anxiety to get them by themselves was visible again in the evening. After tea, Mrs. Bennet retired to the library, as was her custom, and Francis went up stairs to his instrument. Two obstacles of the five being thus removed, Mr. Bennet sat looking and winking at Jonathan and William for a considerable time, without making any impression on them. Jonathan would not observe him; and when at last Willie did, he very innocently said, “What is the matter papa? What do you keep winking at me for? What am I to do?”

“Nothing child, nothing. I did not wink at you.” He then sat still five minutes longer; but unable to waste such a precious occasion, he suddenly got up, and saying to Willie, “Come here, my love, I want to speak to you,” took him out of the room. Luke instantly gave a look at Jonathan which spoke his distress at such premeditation, and his entreaty that he would not give in to it. In a few minutes, Mr. Bennet half-opened the door and called out:

“Johnny, my dear, I want to speak with you.”

Jonathan was forced to go.

“We may as well leave them by themselves you know;” said his father, as soon as he was in the hall. “Willie and I are going up stairs to sit in my dressing-room.”

Jonathan made no attempt to reason with his father, but remained quietly in the hall, till he and Willie were out of sight, then returned into the drawing-room.

Mr. Bennet’s schemes for this day were ineffectual. Bingley was every thing that was charming, except the professed lover of his son. Her ease and cheerfulness rendered her a most agreeable addition to their evening party; and she bore with the ill-judged officiousness of the father, and heard all his silly remarks with a forbearance and command of countenance particularly grateful to the son.

She scarcely needed an invitation to stay supper; and before she went away, an engagement was formed, chiefly through her own and Mr. Bennet’s means, for her coming next morning to shoot with his wife.

After this day, Luke said no more of his indifference. Not a word passed between the brothers concerning Bingley; but Jonathan went to bed in the happy belief that all must speedily be concluded, unless Miss Darcy returned within the stated time. Seriously, however, he felt tolerably persuaded that all this must have taken place with that lady’s concurrence.

Bingley was punctual to her appointment; and she and Mrs. Bennet spent the morning together, as had been agreed on. The latter was much more agreeable than her companion expected. There was nothing of presumption or folly in Bingley that could provoke her ridicule, or disgust her into silence; and she was more communicative, and less eccentric, than the other had ever seen her. Bingley of course returned with her to dinner; and in the evening Mr. Bennet’s invention was again at work to get every body away from her and his son. Jonathan, who had a letter to write, went into the breakfast room for that purpose soon after tea; for as the others were all going to sit down to cards, he could not be wanted to counteract his father’s schemes.

But on returning to the drawing-room, when his letter was finished, he saw, to his infinite surprise, there was reason to fear that his father had been too ingenious for him. On opening the door, he perceived his brother and Bingley standing together over the hearth, as if engaged in earnest conversation; and had this led to no suspicion, the faces of both, as they hastily turned round and moved away from each other, would have told it all. Their situation was awkward enough; but his he thought was still worse. Not a syllable was uttered by either; and Jonathan was on the point of going away again, when Bingley, who as well as the other had sat down, suddenly rose, and whispering a few words to his brother, ran out of the room.

Luke could have no reserves from Jonathan, where confidence would give pleasure; and instantly embracing him, acknowledged, with the liveliest emotion, that he was the happiest creature in the world.

“‘Tis too much!” he added, “by far too much. I do not deserve it. Oh! why is not everybody as happy?”

Jonathan’s congratulations were given with a sincerity, a warmth, a delight, which words could but poorly express. Every sentence of kindness was a fresh source of happiness to Luke. But he would not allow himself to stay with his brother, or say half that remained to be said for the present.

“I must go instantly to my father;” he cried. “I would not on any account trifle with his affectionate solicitude; or allow him to hear it from anyone but myself. She is gone to my mother already. Oh! Johnny, to know that what I have to relate will give such pleasure to all my dear family! how shall I bear so much happiness!”

He then hastened away to his father, who had purposely broken up the card party, and was sitting up stairs with Willie.

Jonathan, who was left by himself, now smiled at the rapidity and ease with which an affair was finally settled, that had given them so many previous months of suspense and vexation.

“And this,” said he, “is the end of all his friend’s anxious circumspection! of all her brother’s falsehood and contrivance! the happiest, wisest, most reasonable end!”

In a few minutes he was joined by Bingley, whose conference with his mother had been short and to the purpose.

“Where is your brother?” said she hastily, as she opened the door.

“With my father up stairs. He will be down in a moment, I dare say.”

She then shut the door, and, coming up to him, claimed the good wishes and affection of a brother. Jonathan honestly and heartily expressed his delight in the prospect of their relationship. They shook hands with great cordiality; and then, till his brother came down, he had to listen to all she had to say of her own happiness, and of Luke’s perfections; and in spite of her being a lover, Jonathan really believed all her expectations of felicity to be rationally founded, because they had for basis the excellent understanding, and super-excellent disposition of Luke, and a general similarity of feeling and taste between him and herself.

It was an evening of no common delight to them all; the satisfaction of Mr. Luke Bennet’s mind gave a glow of such sweet animation to his face, as made him look handsomer than ever. Willie simpered and smiled, and hoped his turn was coming soon. Mr. Bennet could not give his consent or speak his approbation in terms warm enough to satisfy his feelings, though he talked to Bingley of nothing else for half an hour; and when Mrs. Bennet joined them at supper, her voice and manner plainly showed how really happy she was.

Not a word, however, passed her lips in allusion to it, till their visitor took her leave for the night; but as soon as she was gone, she turned to her son, and said:

“Luke, I congratulate you. You will be a very happy man.”

Luke went to her instantly, kissed her, and thanked her for her goodness.

“You are a good boy;” she replied, “and I have great pleasure in thinking you will be so happily settled. I have not a doubt of your doing very well together. Your tempers are by no means unlike. You are each of you so complying, that nothing will ever be resolved on; so easy, that every servant will cheat you; and so generous, that you will always exceed your income.”

“I hope not so. Imprudence or thoughtlessness in money matters would be unpardonable in me.”

“Exceed their income! My dear Mrs. Bennet,” cried her husband, “what are you talking of? Why, she has four or five thousand a year, and very likely more.” Then addressing his son, “Oh! my dear, dear Luke, I am so happy! I am sure I shan’t get a wink of sleep all night. I knew how it would be. I always said it must be so, at last. I was sure you could not be so beautiful for nothing! I remember, as soon as ever I saw her, when she first came into Hertfordshire last year, I thought how likely it was that you should come together. Oh! she is the most beautiful young woman that ever was seen!”

Wickham, Nicholas, were all forgotten. Luke was beyond competition his favourite child. At that moment, he cared for no other. His younger brothers soon began to make interest with him for objects of happiness which he might in future be able to dispense.

Francis petitioned for the use of the library at Netherfield; and Willie begged very hard for a few balls there every winter.

Bingley, from this time, was of course a daily visitor at Longbourn; coming frequently before breakfast, and always remaining till after supper; unless when some barbarous neighbour, who could not be enough detested, had given her an invitation to dinner which she thought herself obliged to accept.

Jonathan had now but little time for conversation with his brother; for while she was present, Luke had no attention to bestow on anyone else; but he found himself considerably useful to both of them in those hours of separation that must sometimes occur. In the absence of Luke, she always attached herself to Jonathan, for the pleasure of talking of him; and when Bingley was gone, Luke constantly sought the same means of relief.

“She has made me so happy,” said he, one evening, “by telling me that she was totally ignorant of my being in town last spring! I had not believed it possible.”

“I suspected as much,” replied Jonathan. “But how did she account for it?”

“It must have been her brother’s doing. They were certainly no friends to her acquaintance with me, which I cannot wonder at, since she might have chosen so much more advantageously in many respects. But when they see, as I trust they will, that their sister is happy with me, they will learn to be contented, and we shall be on good terms again; though we can never be what we once were to each other.”

“That is the most unforgiving speech,” said Jonathan, “that I ever heard you utter. Good boy! It would vex me, indeed, to see you again the dupe of Mr. Bingley’s pretended regard.”

“Would you believe it, Johnny, that when she went to town last November, she really loved me, and nothing but a persuasion of my being indifferent would have prevented her coming down again!”

“She made a little mistake to be sure; but it is to the credit of her modesty.”

This naturally introduced a panegyric from Luke on her diffidence, and the little value she put on her own good qualities. Jonathan was pleased to find that she had not betrayed the interference of her friend; for, though Luke had the most generous and forgiving heart in the world, he knew it was a circumstance which must prejudice him against her.

“I am certainly the most fortunate creature that ever existed!” cried Luke. “Oh! Johnny, why am I thus singled from my family, and blessed above them all! If I could but see you as happy! If there were but such another woman for you!”

“If you were to give me forty such women, I never could be so happy as you. Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness. No, no, let me shift for myself; and, perhaps, if I have very good luck, I may meet with another Mrs. Collins in time.”

The situation of affairs in the Longbourn family could not be long a secret. Mr. Bennet was privileged to whisper it to Mr. Phillips, and he ventured, without any permission, to do the same by all his neighbours in Meryton.

The Bennets were speedily pronounced to be the luckiest family in the world, though only a few weeks before, when Nicholas had first run away, they had been generally proved to be marked out for misfortune.