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Chapter 25

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 next 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. Philips, 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 very 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 on 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 not it 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 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 inconstancies 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 an 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 on to go back with us? Change of scene might be of service -- and perhaps a little relief from home, may be as useful as anything."

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 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 him."

"So much the better. I hope they will not meet at all. But does not Jane correspond with the 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 re-animated, 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 time, than as she hoped that, 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 staid a week at Longbourn; and what with the Philipses, 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 of him, 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 acquaintance in common; and, though Wickham had been little there since the death of Darcy's father, five years before, 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 something 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.

MISS Bingley's letter arrived, and put an end to doubt. The very first sentence conveyed the assurance of their being all settled in London for the winter, and concluded with her brother's regret at not having had time to pay his respects to his friends in Hertfordshire before he left the country.
Hope was over, entirely over; and when Jane could attend to the rest of the letter, she found little, except the professed affection of the writer, that could give her any comfort. Miss Darcy's praise occupied the chief of it. Her many attractions were again dwelt on, and Caroline boasted joyfully of their increasing intimacy, and ventured to predict the accomplishment of the wishes which had been unfolded in her former letter. She wrote also with great pleasure of her brother's being an inmate of Mr. Darcy's house, and mentioned with raptures some plans of the latter with regard to new furniture. Elizabeth, to whom Jane very soon communicated the chief of all this, heard it in silent indignation. Her heart was divided between concern for her sister, and resentment against all the others. To Caroline's assertion of her brother's being partial to Miss Darcy she paid no credit. That he was really fond of Jane, she doubted no more than she had ever done; and much as she had always been disposed to like him, she could not think without anger, hardly without contempt, on that easiness of temper, that want of proper resolution which now made him the slave of his designing friends, and led him to sacrifice his own happiness to the caprice of their inclinations. Had his own happiness, however, been the only sacrifice, he might have been allowed to sport with it in what ever manner he thought best; but her sister's was involved in it, as, she thought, he must be sensible himself. It was a subject, in short, on which reflection would be long indulged, and must be unavailing. She could think of nothing else, and yet whether Bingley's regard had really died away, or were suppressed by his friends' interference; whether he had been aware of Jane's attachment, or whether it had escaped his observation; whichever were the case, though her opinion of him must be materially affected by the difference, her sister's situation remained the same, her peace equally wounded.

A day or two passed before Jane had courage to speak of her feelings to Elizabeth; but at last on Mrs. Bennet's leaving them together, after a longer irritation than usual about Netherfield and its master, she could not help saying,

"Oh! that my dear mother had more command over herself; she can have no idea of the pain she gives me by her continual reflections on him. But I will not repine. It cannot last long. He will be forgot, and we shall all be as we were before."

Elizabeth looked at her sister with incredulous solicitude, but said nothing.

"You doubt me," cried Jane, slightly colouring; "indeed you have no reason. He may live in my memory as the most amiable man of my acquaintance, but that is all. I have nothing either to hope or fear, and nothing to reproach him with. Thank God! I have not that pain. A little time therefore. -- I shall certainly try to get the better."

With a stronger voice she soon added, "I have this comfort immediately, that it has not been more than an error of fancy on my side, and that it has done no harm to any one but myself."

"My dear Jane!" exclaimed Elizabeth, "you are too good. Your sweetness and disinterestedness are really angelic; I do not know what to say to you. I feel as if I had never done you justice, or loved you as you deserve."

Miss Bennet eagerly disclaimed all extraordinary merit, and threw back the praise on her sister's warm affection.

"Nay," said Elizabeth, "this is not fair. You wish to think all the world respectable, and are hurt if I speak ill of any body. I only want to think you perfect, and you set yourself against it. Do not be afraid of my running into any excess, of my encroaching on your privilege of universal good will. You need not. There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense. I have met with two instances lately; one I will not mention; the other is Charlotte's marriage. It is unaccountable! in every view it is unaccountable!"

"My dear Lizzy, do not give way to such feelings as these. They will ruin your happiness. You do not make allowance enough for difference of situation and temper. Consider Mr. Collins's respectability, and Charlotte's prudent, steady character. Remember that she is one of a large family; that as to fortune, it is a most eligible match; and be ready to believe, for every body's sake, that she may feel something like regard and esteem for our cousin."

"To oblige you, I would try to believe almost any thing, but no one else could be benefited by such a belief as this; for were I persuaded that Charlotte had any regard for him, I should only think worse of her understanding, than I now do of her heart. My dear Jane, Mr. Collins is a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly man; you know he is, as well as I do; and you must feel, as well as I do, that the woman who marries him, cannot have a proper way of thinking. You shall not defend her, though it is Charlotte Lucas. You shall not, for the sake of one individual, change the meaning of principle and integrity, nor endeavour to persuade yourself or me that selfishness is prudence, and insensibility of danger, security for happiness."

"I must think your language too strong in speaking of both," replied Jane, "and I hope you will be convinced of it, by seeing them happy together. But enough of this. You alluded to something else. You mentioned two instances. I cannot misunderstand you, but I intreat you, dear Lizzy, not to pain me by thinking that person to blame, and saying your opinion of him is sunk. We must not be so ready to fancy ourselves intentionally injured. We must not expect a lively young man to be always so guarded and circumspect. It is very often nothing but our own vanity that deceives us. Women fancy admiration means more than it does."

"And men take care that they should."

"If it is designedly done, they cannot be justified; but I have no idea of there being so much design in the world as some persons imagine."

"I am far from attributing any part of Mr. Bingley's conduct to design," said Elizabeth; "but without scheming to do wrong, or to make others unhappy, there may be error, and there may be misery. Thoughtlessness, want of attention to other people's feelings, and want of resolution, will do the business,"

"And do you impute it to either of those?"

"Yes; to the last. But if I go on, I shall displease you by saying what I think of persons you esteem. Stop me whilst you can."

"You persist, then, in supposing his sisters influence him."

"Yes, in conjunction with his friend."

"I cannot believe it. Why should they try to influence him? They can only wish his happiness, and if he is attached to me, no other woman can secure it."

"Your first position is false. They may wish many things besides his happiness; they may wish his increase of wealth and consequence; they may wish him to marry a girl who has all the importance of money, great connections, and pride."

"Beyond a doubt, they do wish him to chuse Miss Darcy," replied Jane; "but this may be from better feelings than you are supposing. They have known her much longer than they have known me; no wonder if they love her better. But, whatever may be their own wishes, it is very unlikely they should have opposed their brother's. What sister would think herself at liberty to do it, unless there were something very objectionable? If they believed him attached to me, they would not try to part us; if he were so, they could not succeed. By supposing such an affection, you make every body acting unnaturally and wrong, and me most unhappy. Do not distress me by the idea. I am not ashamed of having been mistaken -- or, at least, it is slight, it is nothing in comparison of what I should feel in thinking ill of him or his sisters. Let me take it in the best light, in the light in which it may be understood."

Elizabeth could not oppose such a wish; and from this time Mr. Bingley's name was scarcely ever mentioned between them.

Mrs. Bennet still continued to wonder and repine at his returning no more, and though a day seldom passed in which Elizabeth did not account for it clearly, there seemed little chance of her ever considering it with less perplexity. Her daughter endeavoured to convince her of what she did not believe herself, that his attentions to Jane had been merely the effect of a common and transient liking, which ceased when he saw her no more; but though the probability of the statement was admitted at the time, she had the same story to repeat every day. Mrs. Bennet's best comfort was that Mr. Bingley must be down again in the summer.

Mr. Bennet treated the matter differently. "So, Lizzy," said he one day, "your sister is crossed in love I find. I congratulate her. Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love a little now and then. It is something to think of, and gives her a sort of distinction among her companions. When is your turn to come? You will hardly bear to be long outdone by Jane. Now is your time. Here are officers enough at Meryton to disappoint all the young ladies in the country. Let Wickham be your man. He is a pleasant fellow, and would jilt you creditably."

"Thank you, Sir, but a less agreeable man would satisfy me. We must not all expect Jane's good fortune."

"True," said Mr. Bennet, "but it is a comfort to think that, whatever of that kind may befall you, you have an affectionate mother who will always make the most of it."

Mr. Wickham's society was of material service in dispelling the gloom, which the late perverse occurrences had thrown on many of the Longbourn family. They saw him often, and to his other recommendations was now added that of general unreserve. The whole of what Elizabeth had already heard, his claims on Mr. Darcy, and all that he had suffered from him, was now openly acknowledged and publicly canvassed; and every body was pleased to think how much they had always disliked Mr. Darcy before they had known any thing of the matter.

Miss Bennet was the only creature who could suppose there might be any extenuating circumstances in the case, unknown to the society of Hertfordshire; her mild and steady candour always pleaded for allowances, and urged the possibility of mistakes -- but by everybody else Mr. Darcy was condemned as the worst of men.
 

谈情说爱,筹划好事,就这样度过了一星期,终于到了星期六,柯林斯先生不得不和心爱的夏绿蒂告别。不过,他既已作好接新娘的准备,离别的愁苦也就因此减轻了,他只等下次再来哈福郡,订出佳期,使他成为天下最幸福的男子。他象上次一样隆重其事地告别了浪搏恩的亲戚们,祝贺姐妹们健康幸福,又答应给他们的父亲再来一封谢函。

下星期一,班纳特太太的弟弟和弟妇照例到浪搏恩来过圣诞节,班纳特太太很是欣喜。嘉丁纳先生是个通情达理、颇有绅士风度的人物,无论在个性方面,在所受的教育方面,都高出他姐姐很多。他原是出身商界,见闻不出货房堆栈之外,竟会这般有教养,这般讨人喜爱,要是叫尼日斐花园的太太小姐们看见了,实在难以相信。嘉丁纳太太比班纳特太太以及腓力普太太,都要小好几岁年纪,也是个和蔼聪慧、而又很文雅的女人,浪搏恩的外甥女儿跟她特别亲切。她们常常进城去在她那儿待一阵子。

嘉丁纳太太刚到这里,第一件事就是分发礼物,讲述最时新的服装式样。这件事做过以后,她便坐在一旁,静听班纳特太太跟她说话。班纳特太太有多少牢骚要发,又有多少苦要诉。自从上年她弟妇走了以后,她家里受了人家欺负。两个女儿本来快要出嫁了,到头来只落得一场空。

“我并不怪吉英,”她接下去说,“因为吉英要是能够嫁给彬格莱先生,她早就嫁了。可是丽萃──唉,弟妇呀!要不是她自己那么拗性子,说不定她已做了柯林斯先生的夫人了。他就在这间房子里向她求婚的,她却把他拒绝了。结果倒让卢卡斯太太有个女儿比我的女儿先嫁出去,浪搏恩的财产从此就得让人家来继承。的确,卢卡斯一家手腕才高明呢,弟妇。他们都是为了要捞进这一笔财产。我本来也不忍心就这样编派他们,不过事实的确如此。我在家里既然过得这样不称心,又偏偏碰到这些只顾自己不顾别人的邻舍,真弄得我神经也坏了,人也病了。你可来得正是时候,给了我极大的安慰,我非常喜欢听你讲的那些……长袖子的事情。”

嘉丁纳太太远在跟吉英以及伊丽莎白通信的时候,大体上就已经知道了她们家里最近发生的这些事情,又为了体贴外甥女儿们起见,只稍微敷衍了班纳特太太几句,便把这个话题岔开了。

后来伊丽莎白跟她两人在一起的时候,又谈到了这件事。她说:“这倒也许是吉英的一门美满亲事,只可惜吹了。可是这种情形往往是难免!象你所说的彬格莱先生这样的青年,往往不消几个星期的工夫,就会爱上一位美丽的姑娘,等到有一件偶然的事故把他们分开了,他也就很容易把她忘了,这种见异思迁的事情多的是。”

“你这样的安慰完全是出于一片好心,”伊丽莎白说。“可惜安慰不了我们。我们吃亏并不是吃在偶然的事情上面。一个独立自主的青年,几天以前刚刚跟一位姑娘打得火热,现在遭到了他自己朋友们的干涉,就把她丢了,这事情倒不多见。”

“不过,所谓‘打得火热’这种话未免太陈腐,太笼统,太不切合实际,我简直抓不住一点儿概念。这种话通常总是用来形容男女一见钟情的场面,也用来形容一种真正的热烈感情。请问,彬格莱先生的爱情火热到什么程度?”

“我从来没有看见过象他那样的一往情深;他越来越不去理会别人,把整个的心都放在她身上。他们俩每见一次面,事情就愈显得明朗,愈显得露骨。在他自己所开的一次跳舞会上,他得罪了两三位年轻的小姐,没有邀请她们跳舞;我找他说过两次话,他也没有理我。这还不能算是尽心尽意吗?宁可为了一个人而得罪大家,这难道不是恋爱场上最可贵的地方?”

“噢,原来如此!这样看来,他的确对她情深意切。可怜的吉英!我真替她难受,照她的性子看来,决不会一下子就把这件事情淡忘。丽萃,要是换了你,倒要好些,你自会一笑置之,要不了多少时候就会淡忘。不过,你看我们能不能劝她到我们那里去稍往一阵?换换环境也许会有好处;再说,离开了家,松口气,也许比什么都好。”

伊丽莎白非常赞成这个建议,而且相信姐姐也会赞成。

嘉丁纳太太又说:“我希望她不要因为怕见到这位青年小伙子而拿不定主意。我们虽然和彬格莱先生同住在一个城里,可不住在同一个地区,来往的亲友也不一样,而且,你知道得很清楚,我们很少外出,因此,除非他上门来看她,他们俩就不大可能见到面。”

“那是绝对不可能的,因为他现在被朋友们软禁着,达西先生也不能容忍他到伦敦的这样一个地区去看吉英!亲爱的舅母,你怎么会想到这上面去了?达西先生也许听到过天恩寺街这样一个地方,可是,如果他当真到那儿去一次,他会觉得花上一个月的工夫也洗不净他身上所染来的污垢;请你放心好了,他绝不会让彬格莱先生单独行动。”

“那就更好。我希望他们俩再也不要见面。可是吉英不还在跟他妹妹通信吗?彬格莱小姐也许难免要来拜望呢。”

“她绝不会跟她再来往了。”

伊丽莎白虽然嘴上说得这么果断,认为彬格莱先生一定被他的姐妹朋友挟住了,不会让他见到吉英,这事情实在可笑,可是她心里想来想去,还是觉得事情未必已经完全绝望。她有时候甚至认为彬格莱先生非常可能对吉英旧情重燃,他朋友们的影响也许敌不过吉英的感情所加给他身上的天然影响。

班纳特小姐乐意地接受了舅母的邀请,她心里并没有怎么想到彬格莱一家人,只希望珈罗琳不和他哥哥同住一宅,那么她就可以偶而到珈罗琳那儿去玩上一个上午,而不至于撞见他哥哥。

嘉丁纳夫妇在浪搏恩待了一个星期,没有哪一天不赴宴会,有时候在腓力普府上,有时候在卢卡斯府上,有时候又在军官那儿。班纳特太太小心周到地为她的弟弟和弟妇安排得十分热闹,以致他们夫妇不曾在她家里吃过一顿便饭。家里有宴会的日子,必定就有几位军官到场,每次总是少不了韦翰。在这种场合下,伊丽莎白总是热烈地赞扬韦翰先生,使利嘉丁纳太太起了疑心,仔细注意起他们两人来,从她亲眼看到的情形来说,她并不以为他们俩真正地爱上了,不过相互之间显然已经发生了好感,这叫她很是不安,她决定在离开哈福郡以前,要把这件事和伊丽莎白谈个明白,并且要解释给她听,让这样的关系发展下去,实在太莽撞。

可是韦翰讨好起嘉丁纳太太来,另有一套办法,这和他吸引别人的本领完全不同。远在十多年以前嘉丁纳太太还没有结婚的时候,曾在德比郡他所出生的那个地区住过好些时候,因此她跟他有许多共同的朋友,虽说自从五年前达西先生的父亲去世以后,韦翰就不大到那地方去,可是他却能报道给嘉丁纳太太一些有关她从前的朋友们的消息,比她自己打听得来的还要新鲜。

嘉丁纳太太曾经亲眼看到过彭伯里,对于老达西先生也是久闻大名,光是这件事,就是个谈不完的话题。她把韦翰先生所详尽描写的彭伯里和她自己记忆中的彭伯里比较了一下,又把彭伯里主人的德行称赞了一番,谈的人和听的人都各得其乐。她听到他谈起现在这位达西先生对他的亏待,便竭力去回想那位先生小时候的个性如何,是否和现在相符,她终于有自信地记起了从前确实听人说过,费茨威廉·达西先生是个脾气很坏又很高傲的孩子。



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