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The discussion of Mr. Collins's offer was now nearly at an end, and
Elizabeth had only to suffer from the uncomfortable feelings necessarily
attending it, and occasionally from some peevish allusions of her mother.
As for the gentleman himself, <i>his</i> feelings were chiefly expressed,
not by embarrassment or dejection, or by trying to avoid her, but by
stiffness of manner and resentful silence. He scarcely ever spoke to her,
and the assiduous attentions which he had been so sensible of himself were
transferred for the rest of the day to Miss Lucas, whose civility in
listening to him was a seasonable relief to them all, and especially to
The morrow produced no abatement of Mrs. Bennet's ill-humour or ill
health. Mr. Collins was also in the same state of angry pride. Elizabeth
had hoped that his resentment might shorten his visit, but his plan did
not appear in the least affected by it. He was always to have gone on
Saturday, and to Saturday he meant to stay.
After breakfast, the girls walked to Meryton to inquire if Mr. Wickham
were returned, and to lament over his absence from the Netherfield ball.
He joined them on their entering the town, and attended them to their
aunt's where his regret and vexation, and the concern of everybody, was
well talked over. To Elizabeth, however, he voluntarily acknowledged that
the necessity of his absence <i>had</i> been self-imposed.
"I found," said he, "as the time drew near that I had better not meet Mr.
Darcy; that to be in the same room, the same party with him for so many
hours together, might be more than I could bear, and that scenes might
arise unpleasant to more than myself."
She highly approved his forbearance, and they had leisure for a full
discussion of it, and for all the commendation which they civilly bestowed
on each other, as Wickham and another officer walked back with them to
Longbourn, and during the walk he particularly attended to her. His
accompanying them was a double advantage; she felt all the compliment it
offered to herself, and it was most acceptable as an occasion of
introducing him to her father and mother.
Soon after their return, a letter was delivered to Miss Bennet; it came
from Netherfield. The envelope contained a sheet of elegant, little,
hot-pressed paper, well covered with a lady's fair, flowing hand; and
Elizabeth saw her sister's countenance change as she read it, and saw her
dwelling intently on some particular passages. Jane recollected herself
soon, and putting the letter away, tried to join with her usual
cheerfulness in the general conversation; but Elizabeth felt an anxiety on
the subject which drew off her attention even from Wickham; and no sooner
had he and his companion taken leave, than a glance from Jane invited her
to follow her up stairs. When they had gained their own room, Jane, taking
out the letter, said:
"This is from Caroline Bingley; what it contains has surprised me a good
deal. The whole party have left Netherfield by this time, and are on their
way to town—and without any intention of coming back again. You
shall hear what she says."
She then read the first sentence aloud, which comprised the information of
their having just resolved to follow their brother to town directly, and
of their meaning to dine in Grosvenor Street, where Mr. Hurst had a house.
The next was in these words: "I do not pretend to regret anything I shall
leave in Hertfordshire, except your society, my dearest friend; but we
will hope, at some future period, to enjoy many returns of that delightful
intercourse we have known, and in the meanwhile may lessen the pain of
separation by a very frequent and most unreserved correspondence. I depend
on you for that." To these highflown expressions Elizabeth listened with
all the insensibility of distrust; and though the suddenness of their
removal surprised her, she saw nothing in it really to lament; it was not
to be supposed that their absence from Netherfield would prevent Mr.
Bingley's being there; and as to the loss of their society, she was
persuaded that Jane must cease to regard it, in the enjoyment of his.
"It is unlucky," said she, after a short pause, "that you should not be
able to see your friends before they leave the country. But may we not
hope that the period of future happiness to which Miss Bingley looks
forward may arrive earlier than she is aware, and that the delightful
intercourse you have known as friends will be renewed with yet greater
satisfaction as sisters? Mr. Bingley will not be detained in London by
"Caroline decidedly says that none of the party will return into
Hertfordshire this winter. I will read it to you:"
"When my brother left us yesterday, he imagined that the business which
took him to London might be concluded in three or four days; but as we are
certain it cannot be so, and at the same time convinced that when Charles
gets to town he will be in no hurry to leave it again, we have determined
on following him thither, that he may not be obliged to spend his vacant
hours in a comfortless hotel. Many of my acquaintances are already there
for the winter; I wish that I could hear that you, my dearest friend, had
any intention of making one of the crowd—but of that I despair. I
sincerely hope your Christmas in Hertfordshire may abound in the gaieties
which that season generally brings, and that your beaux will be so
numerous as to prevent your feeling the loss of the three of whom we shall
"It is evident by this," added Jane, "that he comes back no more this
"It is only evident that Miss Bingley does not mean that he <i>should</i>."
"Why will you think so? It must be his own doing. He is his own master.
But you do not know <i>all</i>. I <i>will</i> read you the passage which
particularly hurts me. I will have no reserves from <i>you</i>."
"Mr. Darcy is impatient to see his sister; and, to confess the truth, <i>we</i>
are scarcely less eager to meet her again. I really do not think Georgiana
Darcy has her equal for beauty, elegance, and accomplishments; and the
affection she inspires in Louisa and myself is heightened into something
still more interesting, from the hope we dare entertain of her being
hereafter our sister. I do not know whether I ever before mentioned to you
my feelings on this subject; but I will not leave the country without
confiding them, and I trust you will not esteem them unreasonable. My
brother admires her greatly already; he will have frequent opportunity now
of seeing her on the most intimate footing; her relations all wish the
connection as much as his own; and a sister's partiality is not misleading
me, I think, when I call Charles most capable of engaging any woman's
heart. With all these circumstances to favour an attachment, and nothing
to prevent it, am I wrong, my dearest Jane, in indulging the hope of an
event which will secure the happiness of so many?"
"What do you think of <i>this</i> sentence, my dear Lizzy?" said Jane as
she finished it. "Is it not clear enough? Does it not expressly declare
that Caroline neither expects nor wishes me to be her sister; that she is
perfectly convinced of her brother's indifference; and that if she
suspects the nature of my feelings for him, she means (most kindly!) to
put me on my guard? Can there be any other opinion on the subject?"
"Yes, there can; for mine is totally different. Will you hear it?"
"You shall have it in a few words. Miss Bingley sees that her brother is
in love with you, and wants him to marry Miss Darcy. She follows him to
town in hope of keeping him there, and tries to persuade you that he does
not care about you."
Jane shook her head.
"Indeed, Jane, you ought to believe me. No one who has ever seen you
together can doubt his affection. Miss Bingley, I am sure, cannot. She is
not such a simpleton. Could she have seen half as much love in Mr. Darcy
for herself, she would have ordered her wedding clothes. But the case is
this: We are not rich enough or grand enough for them; and she is the more
anxious to get Miss Darcy for her brother, from the notion that when there
has been <i>one</i> intermarriage, she may have less trouble in achieving
a second; in which there is certainly some ingenuity, and I dare say it
would succeed, if Miss de Bourgh were out of the way. But, my dearest
Jane, you cannot seriously imagine that because Miss Bingley tells you her
brother greatly admires Miss Darcy, he is in the smallest degree less
sensible of <i>your</i> merit than when he took leave of you on Tuesday,
or that it will be in her power to persuade him that, instead of being in
love with you, he is very much in love with her friend."
"If we thought alike of Miss Bingley," replied Jane, "your representation
of all this might make me quite easy. But I know the foundation is unjust.
Caroline is incapable of wilfully deceiving anyone; and all that I can
hope in this case is that she is deceiving herself."
"That is right. You could not have started a more happy idea, since you
will not take comfort in mine. Believe her to be deceived, by all means.
You have now done your duty by her, and must fret no longer."
"But, my dear sister, can I be happy, even supposing the best, in
accepting a man whose sisters and friends are all wishing him to marry
"You must decide for yourself," said Elizabeth; "and if, upon mature
deliberation, you find that the misery of disobliging his two sisters is
more than equivalent to the happiness of being his wife, I advise you by
all means to refuse him."
"How can you talk so?" said Jane, faintly smiling. "You must know that
though I should be exceedingly grieved at their disapprobation, I could
"I did not think you would; and that being the case, I cannot consider
your situation with much compassion."
"But if he returns no more this winter, my choice will never be required.
A thousand things may arise in six months!"
The idea of his returning no more Elizabeth treated with the utmost
contempt. It appeared to her merely the suggestion of Caroline's
interested wishes, and she could not for a moment suppose that those
wishes, however openly or artfully spoken, could influence a young man so
totally independent of everyone.
She represented to her sister as forcibly as possible what she felt on the
subject, and had soon the pleasure of seeing its happy effect. Jane's
temper was not desponding, and she was gradually led to hope, though the
diffidence of affection sometimes overcame the hope, that Bingley would
return to Netherfield and answer every wish of her heart.
They agreed that Mrs. Bennet should only hear of the departure of the
family, without being alarmed on the score of the gentleman's conduct; but
even this partial communication gave her a great deal of concern, and she
bewailed it as exceedingly unlucky that the ladies should happen to go
away just as they were all getting so intimate together. After lamenting
it, however, at some length, she had the consolation that Mr. Bingley
would be soon down again and soon dining at Longbourn, and the conclusion
of all was the comfortable declaration, that though he had been invited
only to a family dinner, she would take care to have two full courses.