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Elizabeth's spirits soon rising to playfulness again, she wanted Mr. Darcy
to account for his having ever fallen in love with her. "How could you
begin?" said she. "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 <i>had</i> begun."
"My beauty you had early withstood, and as for my manners—my
behaviour to <i>you</i> 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 women who were always speaking, and
looking, and thinking for <i>your</i> approbation alone. I roused, and
interested you, because I was so unlike <i>them</i>. 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 <i>that</i> when they fall in love."
"Was there no good in your affectionate behaviour to Jane while she was
ill at Netherfield?"
"Dearest Jane! who could have done less for her? 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 man 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 <i>would</i>
have gone on, if you had been left to yourself. I wonder when you <i>would</i>
have spoken, if I had not asked you! My resolution of thanking you for
your kindness to Lydia had certainly great effect. <i>Too much</i>, 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. Lady
Catherine'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 aunt's intelligence had given me hope, and I
was determined at once to know every thing."
"Lady Catherine has been of infinite use, which ought to make her happy,
for she 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 <i>you</i>, 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 sister were still partial to Bingley, and
if she were, to make the confession to him which I have since made."
"Shall you ever have courage to announce to Lady Catherine what is to
"I am more likely to want more time than courage, Elizabeth. But it ought
to be done, and if you will give me a sheet of paper, it shall be done
"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 lady once did. But I have
an aunt, too, who must not be longer neglected."
From an unwillingness to confess how much her intimacy with Mr. Darcy had
been over-rated, Elizabeth had never yet answered Mrs. Gardiner's long
letter; but now, having <i>that</i> to communicate which she knew would be
most welcome, she was almost ashamed to find that her uncle and aunt had
already lost three days of happiness, and immediately wrote as follows:
"I would have thanked you before, my dear aunt, 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 <i>now</i> 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 him 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 Jane; she only
smiles, I laugh. Mr. Darcy sends you all the love in the world that he can
spare from me. You are all to come to Pemberley at Christmas. Yours, etc."
Mr. Darcy's letter to Lady Catherine was in a different style; and still
different from either was what Mr. Bennet sent to Mr. Collins, in reply to
"I must trouble you once more for congratulations. Elizabeth will soon be
the wife of Mr. Darcy. Console Lady Catherine as well as you can. But, if
I were you, I would stand by the nephew. He has more to give.
"Yours sincerely, etc."
Miss Bingley's congratulations to her brother, on his approaching
marriage, were all that was affectionate and insincere. She wrote even to
Jane on the occasion, to express her delight, and repeat all her former
professions of regard. Jane was not deceived, but she was affected; and
though feeling no reliance on her, could not help writing her a much
kinder answer than she knew was deserved.
The joy which Miss Darcy expressed on receiving similar information, was
as sincere as her brother's in sending it. Four sides of paper were
insufficient to contain all her delight, and all her earnest desire of
being loved by her sister.
Before any answer could arrive from Mr. Collins, or any congratulations to
Elizabeth from his wife, the Longbourn family heard that the Collinses
were come themselves to Lucas Lodge. The reason of this sudden removal was
soon evident. Lady Catherine had been rendered so exceedingly angry by the
contents of her nephew's letter, that Charlotte, really rejoicing in the
match, was anxious to get away till the storm was blown over. At such a
moment, the arrival of her friend was a sincere pleasure to Elizabeth,
though in the course of their meetings she must sometimes think the
pleasure dearly bought, when she saw Mr. Darcy exposed to all the parading
and obsequious civility of her husband. He bore it, however, with
admirable calmness. He could even listen to Sir William Lucas, when he
complimented him on carrying away the brightest jewel of the country, and
expressed his hopes of their all meeting frequently at St. James's, with
very decent composure. If he did shrug his shoulders, it was not till Sir
William was out of sight.
Mrs. Phillips's vulgarity was another, and perhaps a greater, tax on his
forbearance; and though Mrs. Phillips, as well as her sister, stood in too
much awe of him to speak with the familiarity which Bingley's good humour
encouraged, yet, whenever she <i>did</i> speak, she must be vulgar. Nor
was her respect for him, though it made her more quiet, at all likely to
make her more elegant. Elizabeth did all she could to shield him from the
frequent notice of either, and was ever anxious to keep him to herself,
and to those of her family with whom he 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 she 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.