Chapter 40

Jane Austen2016年08月15日'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Elizabeth’s impatience to acquaint
Jane with what had happened could no longer be overcome;
and at length, resolving to suppress every particular
in which her sister was concerned, and preparing her
to be surprised, she related to her the next morning
the chief of the scene between Mr. Darcy and herself.

Miss Bennet’s astonishment was
soon lessened by the strong sisterly partiality which
made any admiration of Elizabeth appear perfectly
natural; and all surprise was shortly lost in other
feelings.  She was sorry that Mr. Darcy should
have delivered his sentiments in a manner so little
suited to recommend them; but still more was she grieved
for the unhappiness which her sister’s refusal
must have given him.

“His being so sure of succeeding
was wrong,” said she, “and certainly ought
not to have appeared; but consider how much it must
increase his disappointment!”

“Indeed,” replied Elizabeth,
“I am heartily sorry for him; but he has other
feelings, which will probably soon drive away his regard
for me.  You do not blame me, however, for refusing

“Blame you!  Oh, no.”

“But you blame me for having spoken so warmly
of Wickham?”

“No ­I do not know that you were wrong
in saying what you did.”

“But you will know it,
when I tell you what happened the very next day.”

She then spoke of the letter, repeating
the whole of its contents as far as they concerned
George Wickham.  What a stroke was this for poor
Jane! who would willingly have gone through the world
without believing that so much wickedness existed
in the whole race of mankind, as was here collected
in one individual.  Nor was Darcy’s vindication,
though grateful to her feelings, capable of consoling
her for such discovery.  Most earnestly did she
labour to prove the probability of error, and seek
to clear the one without involving the other.

“This will not do,” said
Elizabeth; “you never will be able to make both
of them good for anything.  Take your choice, but
you must be satisfied with only one.  There is
but such a quantity of merit between them; just enough
to make one good sort of man; and of late it has been
shifting about pretty much.  For my part, I am
inclined to believe it all Darcy’s; but you
shall do as you choose.”

It was some time, however, before
a smile could be extorted from Jane.

“I do not know when I have been
more shocked,” said she.  “Wickham
so very bad!  It is almost past belief.  And
poor Mr. Darcy!  Dear Lizzy, only consider what
he must have suffered.  Such a disappointment!
and with the knowledge of your ill opinion, too! and
having to relate such a thing of his sister! 
It is really too distressing.  I am sure you must
feel it so.”

“Oh! no, my regret and compassion
are all done away by seeing you so full of both. 
I know you will do him such ample justice, that I am
growing every moment more unconcerned and indifferent. 
Your profusion makes me saving; and if you lament
over him much longer, my heart will be as light as
a feather.”

“Poor Wickham! there is such
an expression of goodness in his countenance! such
an openness and gentleness in his manner!”

“There certainly was some great
mismanagement in the education of those two young
men.  One has got all the goodness, and the other
all the appearance of it.”

“I never thought Mr. Darcy so
deficient in the appearance of it as you used
to do.”

“And yet I meant to be uncommonly
clever in taking so decided a dislike to him, without
any reason.  It is such a spur to one’s genius,
such an opening for wit, to have a dislike of that
kind.  One may be continually abusive without
saying anything just; but one cannot always be laughing
at a man without now and then stumbling on something

“Lizzy, when you first read
that letter, I am sure you could not treat the matter
as you do now.”

“Indeed, I could not.  I
was uncomfortable enough, I may say unhappy.  And
with no one to speak to about what I felt, no Jane
to comfort me and say that I had not been so very
weak and vain and nonsensical as I knew I had! 
Oh! how I wanted you!”

“How unfortunate that you should
have used such very strong expressions in speaking
of Wickham to Mr. Darcy, for now they do appear
wholly undeserved.”

“Certainly.  But the misfortune
of speaking with bitterness is a most natural consequence
of the prejudices I had been encouraging.  There
is one point on which I want your advice.  I want
to be told whether I ought, or ought not, to make
our acquaintances in general understand Wickham’s

Miss Bennet paused a little, and then
replied, “Surely there can be no occasion for
exposing him so dreadfully.  What is your opinion?”

“That it ought not to be attempted. 
Mr. Darcy has not authorised me to make his communication
public.  On the contrary, every particular relative
to his sister was meant to be kept as much as possible
to myself; and if I endeavour to undeceive people
as to the rest of his conduct, who will believe me? 
The general prejudice against Mr. Darcy is so violent,
that it would be the death of half the good people
in Meryton to attempt to place him in an amiable light. 
I am not equal to it.  Wickham will soon be gone;
and therefore it will not signify to anyone here what
he really is.  Some time hence it will be all found
out, and then we may laugh at their stupidity in not
knowing it before.  At present I will say nothing
about it.”

“You are quite right.  To
have his errors made public might ruin him for ever. 
He is now, perhaps, sorry for what he has done, and
anxious to re-establish a character.  We must
not make him desperate.”

The tumult of Elizabeth’s mind
was allayed by this conversation.  She had got
rid of two of the secrets which had weighed on her
for a fortnight, and was certain of a willing listener
in Jane, whenever she might wish to talk again of
either.  But there was still something lurking
behind, of which prudence forbade the disclosure. 
She dared not relate the other half of Mr. Darcy’s
letter, nor explain to her sister how sincerely she
had been valued by her friend.  Here was knowledge
in which no one could partake; and she was sensible
that nothing less than a perfect understanding between
the parties could justify her in throwing off this
last encumbrance of mystery.  “And then,”
said she, “if that very improbable event should
ever take place, I shall merely be able to tell what
Bingley may tell in a much more agreeable manner himself. 
The liberty of communication cannot be mine till it
has lost all its value!”

She was now, on being settled at home,
at leisure to observe the real state of her sister’s
spirits.  Jane was not happy.  She still cherished
a very tender affection for Bingley.  Having never
even fancied herself in love before, her regard had
all the warmth of first attachment, and, from her
age and disposition, greater steadiness than most first
attachments often boast; and so fervently did she value
his remembrance, and prefer him to every other man,
that all her good sense, and all her attention to
the feelings of her friends, were requisite to check
the indulgence of those regrets which must have been
injurious to her own health and their tranquillity.

“Well, Lizzy,” said Mrs.
Bennet one day, “what is your opinion now
of this sad business of Jane’s?  For my
part, I am determined never to speak of it again to
anybody.  I told my sister Phillips so the other
day.  But I cannot find out that Jane saw anything
of him in London.  Well, he is a very undeserving
young man ­and I do not suppose there’s
the least chance in the world of her ever getting
him now.  There is no talk of his coming to Netherfield
again in the summer; and I have inquired of everybody,
too, who is likely to know.”

“I do not believe he will ever
live at Netherfield any more.”

“Oh well! it is just as he chooses. 
Nobody wants him to come.  Though I shall always
say he used my daughter extremely ill; and if I was
her, I would not have put up with it.  Well, my
comfort is, I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart;
and then he will be sorry for what he has done.”

But as Elizabeth could not receive
comfort from any such expectation, she made no answer.

“Well, Lizzy,” continued
her mother, soon afterwards, “and so the Collinses
live very comfortable, do they?  Well, well, I
only hope it will last.  And what sort of table
do they keep?  Charlotte is an excellent manager,
I dare say.  If she is half as sharp as her mother,
she is saving enough.  There is nothing extravagant
in their housekeeping, I dare say.”

“No, nothing at all.”

“A great deal of good management,
depend upon it.  Yes, yes. they will take
care not to outrun their income. They will never
be distressed for money.  Well, much good may
it do them!  And so, I suppose, they often talk
of having Longbourn when your father is dead. 
They look upon it as quite their own, I dare say,
whenever that happens.”

“It was a subject which they
could not mention before me.”

“No; it would have been strange
if they had; but I make no doubt they often talk of
it between themselves.  Well, if they can be easy
with an estate that is not lawfully their own, so
much the better.  I should be ashamed of having
one that was only entailed on me.”


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