After a week spent in professions
of love and schemes of felicity, Mr. Collins was called
from his amiable Charlotte by the arrival of Saturday.
The pain of separation, however, might be alleviated
on his side, by preparations for the reception of
his bride; as he had reason to hope, that shortly
after his return into Hertfordshire, the day would
be fixed that was to make him the happiest of men.
He took leave of his relations at Longbourn with as
much solemnity as before; wished his fair cousins
health and happiness again, and promised their father
another letter of thanks.
On the following Monday, Mrs. Bennet
had the pleasure of receiving her brother and his
wife, who came as usual to spend the Christmas at
Longbourn. Mr. Gardiner was a sensible, gentlemanlike
man, greatly superior to his sister, as well by nature
as education. The Netherfield ladies would have
had difficulty in believing that a man who lived by
trade, and within view of his own warehouses, could
have been so well-bred and agreeable. Mrs. Gardiner,
who was several years younger than Mrs. Bennet and
Mrs. Phillips, was an amiable, intelligent, elegant
woman, and a great favourite with all her Longbourn
nieces. Between the two eldest and herself especially,
there subsisted a particular regard. They had
frequently been staying with her in town.
The first part of Mrs. Gardiner’s
business on her arrival was to distribute her presents
and describe the newest fashions. When this was
done she had a less active part to play. It became
her turn to listen. Mrs. Bennet had many grievances
to relate, and much to complain of. They had
all been very ill-used since she last saw her sister.
Two of her girls had been upon the point of marriage,
and after all there was nothing in it.
“I do not blame Jane,”
she continued, “for Jane would have got Mr.
Bingley if she could. But Lizzy! Oh, sister!
It is very hard to think that she might have been
Mr. Collins’s wife by this time, had it not
been for her own perverseness. He made her an
offer in this very room, and she refused him.
The consequence of it is, that Lady Lucas will have
a daughter married before I have, and that the Longbourn
estate is just as much entailed as ever. The
Lucases are very artful people indeed, sister.
They are all for what they can get. I am sorry
to say it of them, but so it is. It makes me
very nervous and poorly, to be thwarted so in my own
family, and to have neighbours who think of themselves
before anybody else. However, your coming just
at this time is the greatest of comforts, and I am
very glad to hear what you tell us, of long sleeves.”
Mrs. Gardiner, to whom the chief of
this news had been given before, in the course of
Jane and Elizabeth’s correspondence with her,
made her sister a slight answer, and, in compassion
to her nieces, turned the conversation.
When alone with Elizabeth afterwards,
she spoke more on the subject. “It seems
likely to have been a desirable match for Jane,”
said she. “I am sorry it went off.
But these things happen so often! A young man,
such as you describe Mr. Bingley, so easily falls
in love with a pretty girl for a few weeks, and when
accident separates them, so easily forgets her, that
these sort of inconsistencies are very frequent.”
“An excellent consolation in
its way,” said Elizabeth, “but it will
not do for us. We do not suffer by accident.
It does not often happen that the interference of
friends will persuade a young man of independent fortune
to think no more of a girl whom he was violently in
love with only a few days before.”
“But that expression of ‘violently
in love’ is so hackneyed, so doubtful, so indefinite,
that it gives me very little idea. It is as often
applied to feelings which arise from a half-hour’s
acquaintance, as to a real, strong attachment.
Pray, how violent was Mr. Bingley’s love?”
“I never saw a more promising
inclination; he was growing quite inattentive to other
people, and wholly engrossed by her. Every time
they met, it was more decided and remarkable.
At his own ball he offended two or three young ladies,
by not asking them to dance; and I spoke to him twice
myself, without receiving an answer. Could there
be finer symptoms? Is not general incivility
the very essence of love?”
“Oh, yes! of that
kind of love which I suppose him to have felt.
Poor Jane! I am sorry for her, because, with
her disposition, she may not get over it immediately.
It had better have happened to you, Lizzy; you
would have laughed yourself out of it sooner.
But do you think she would be prevailed upon to go
back with us? Change of scene might be of service and
perhaps a little relief from home may be as useful
Elizabeth was exceedingly pleased
with this proposal, and felt persuaded of her sister’s
“I hope,” added Mrs. Gardiner,
“that no consideration with regard to this young
man will influence her. We live in so different
a part of town, all our connections are so different,
and, as you well know, we go out so little, that it
is very improbable that they should meet at all, unless
he really comes to see her.”
“And that is quite impossible;
for he is now in the custody of his friend, and Mr.
Darcy would no more suffer him to call on Jane in such
a part of London! My dear aunt, how could you
think of it? Mr. Darcy may perhaps have heard
of such a place as Gracechurch Street, but he would
hardly think a month’s ablution enough to cleanse
him from its impurities, were he once to enter it;
and depend upon it, Mr. Bingley never stirs without
“So much the better. I
hope they will not meet at all. But does not Jane
correspond with his sister? She will not be
able to help calling.”
“She will drop the acquaintance entirely.”
But in spite of the certainty in which
Elizabeth affected to place this point, as well as
the still more interesting one of Bingley’s being
withheld from seeing Jane, she felt a solicitude on
the subject which convinced her, on examination, that
she did not consider it entirely hopeless. It
was possible, and sometimes she thought it probable,
that his affection might be reanimated, and the influence
of his friends successfully combated by the more natural
influence of Jane’s attractions.
Miss Bennet accepted her aunt’s
invitation with pleasure; and the Bingleys were no
otherwise in her thoughts at the same time, than as
she hoped by Caroline’s not living in the same
house with her brother, she might occasionally spend
a morning with her, without any danger of seeing him.
The Gardiners stayed a week at Longbourn;
and what with the Phillipses, the Lucases, and the
officers, there was not a day without its engagement.
Mrs. Bennet had so carefully provided for the entertainment
of her brother and sister, that they did not once sit
down to a family dinner. When the engagement
was for home, some of the officers always made part
of it of which officers Mr. Wickham was
sure to be one; and on these occasions, Mrs. Gardiner,
rendered suspicious by Elizabeth’s warm commendation,
narrowly observed them both. Without supposing
them, from what she saw, to be very seriously in love,
their preference of each other was plain enough to
make her a little uneasy; and she resolved to speak
to Elizabeth on the subject before she left Hertfordshire,
and represent to her the imprudence of encouraging
such an attachment.
To Mrs. Gardiner, Wickham had one
means of affording pleasure, unconnected with his
general powers. About ten or a dozen years ago,
before her marriage, she had spent a considerable time
in that very part of Derbyshire to which he belonged.
They had, therefore, many acquaintances in common;
and though Wickham had been little there since the
death of Darcy’s father, it was yet in his power
to give her fresher intelligence of her former friends
than she had been in the way of procuring.
Mrs. Gardiner had seen Pemberley,
and known the late Mr. Darcy by character perfectly
well. Here consequently was an inexhaustible subject
of discourse. In comparing her recollection of
Pemberley with the minute description which Wickham
could give, and in bestowing her tribute of praise
on the character of its late possessor, she was delighting
both him and herself. On being made acquainted
with the present Mr. Darcy’s treatment of him,
she tried to remember some of that gentleman’s
reputed disposition when quite a lad which might agree
with it, and was confident at last that she recollected
having heard Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy formerly spoken
of as a very proud, ill-natured boy.