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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
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
"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
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 <i>us</i>. We do not suffer by <i>accident</i>. 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 <i>violent was</i> 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 <i>you</i>, 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 as
Elizabeth was exceedingly pleased with this proposal, and felt persuaded
of her sister's ready acquiescence.
"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 <i>that</i> 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 <i>heard</i> 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 him."
"So much the better. I hope they will not meet at all. But does not Jane
correspond with his sister? <i>She</i> 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.