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Chapter 26

MRS. Gardiner's caution to Elizabeth was punctually and kindly given on the first favourable opportunity of speaking to her alone; after honestly telling her what she thought, she thus went on:
"You are too sensible a girl, Lizzy, to fall in love merely because you are warned against it; and, therefore, I am not afraid of speaking openly. Seriously, I would have you be on your guard. Do not involve yourself, or endeavour to involve him in an affection which the want of fortune would make so very imprudent. I have nothing to say against him; he is a most interesting young man; and if he had the fortune he ought to have, I should think you could not do better. But as it is -- you must not let your fancy run away with you. You have sense, and we all expect you to use it. Your father would depend on your resolution and good conduct, I am sure. You must not disappoint your father."

"My dear aunt, this is being serious indeed."

"Yes, and I hope to engage you to be serious likewise."

"Well, then, you need not be under any alarm. I will take care of myself, and of Mr. Wickham too. He shall not be in love with me, if I can prevent it."

"Elizabeth, you are not serious now."

"I beg your pardon. I will try again. At present I am not in love with Mr. Wickham; no, I certainly am not. But he is, beyond all comparison, the most agreeable man I ever saw -- and if he becomes really attached to me -- I believe it will be better that he should not. I see the imprudence of it. -- Oh! that abominable Mr. Darcy! -- My father's opinion of me does me the greatest honor; and I should be miserable to forfeit it. My father, however, is partial to Mr. Wickham. In short, my dear aunt, I should be very sorry to be the means of making any of you unhappy; but since we see every day that where there is affection, young people are seldom withheld by immediate want of fortune from entering into engagements with each other, how can I promise to be wiser than so many of my fellow creatures if I am tempted, or how am I even to know that it would be wisdom to resist? All that I can promise you, therefore, is not to be in a hurry. I will not be in a hurry to believe myself his first object. When I am in company with him, I will not be wishing. In short, I will do my best."

"Perhaps it will be as well, if you discourage his coming here so very often. At least, you should not remind your mother of inviting him."

"As I did the other day," said Elizabeth, with a conscious smile; "very true, it will be wise in me to refrain from that. But do not imagine that he is always here so often. It is on your account that he has been so frequently invited this week. You know my mother's ideas as to the necessity of constant company for her friends. But really, and upon my honour, I will try to do what I think to be wisest; and now, I hope you are satisfied."

Her aunt assured her that she was; and Elizabeth having thanked her for the kindness of her hints, they parted; a wonderful instance of advice being given on such a point without being resented.

Mr. Collins returned into Hertfordshire soon after it had been quitted by the Gardiners and Jane; but as he took up his abode with the Lucases, his arrival was no great inconvenience to Mrs. Bennet. His marriage was now fast approaching, and she was at length so far resigned as to think it inevitable, and even repeatedly to say in an ill-natured tone that she "wished they might be happy." Thursday was to be the wedding day, and on Wednesday Miss Lucas paid her farewell visit; and when she rose to take leave, Elizabeth, ashamed of her mother's ungracious and reluctant good wishes, and sincerely affected herself, accompanied her out of the room. As they went down stairs together, Charlotte said,

"I shall depend on hearing from you very often, Eliza."

"That you certainly shall."

"And I have another favour to ask. Will you come and see me?"

"We shall often meet, I hope, in Hertfordshire."

"I am not likely to leave Kent for some time. Promise me, therefore, to come to Hunsford."

Elizabeth could not refuse, though she foresaw little pleasure in the visit.

"My father and Maria are to come to me in March," added Charlotte, "and I hope you will consent to be of the party. Indeed, Eliza, you will be as welcome to me as either of them."

The wedding took place; the bride and bridegroom set off for Kent from the church door, and every body had as much to say or to hear on the subject as usual. Elizabeth soon heard from her friend; and their correspondence was as regular and frequent as it had ever been; that it should be equally unreserved was impossible. Elizabeth could never address her without feeling that all the comfort of intimacy was over, and, though determined not to slacken as a correspondent, it was for the sake of what had been, rather than what was. Charlotte's first letters were received with a good deal of eagerness; there could not but be curiosity to know how she would speak of her new home, how she would like Lady Catherine, and how happy she would dare pronounce herself to be; though, when the letters were read, Elizabeth felt that Charlotte expressed herself on every point exactly as she might have foreseen. She wrote cheerfully, seemed surrounded with comforts, and mentioned nothing which she could not praise. The house, furniture, neighbourhood, and roads, were all to her taste, and Lady Catherine's behaviour was most friendly and obliging. It was Mr. Collins's picture of Hunsford and Rosings rationally softened; and Elizabeth perceived that she must wait for her own visit there, to know the rest.

Jane had already written a few lines to her sister to announce their safe arrival in London; and when she wrote again, Elizabeth hoped it would be in her power to say something of the Bingleys.

Her impatience for this second letter was as well rewarded as impatience generally is. Jane had been a week in town, without either seeing or hearing from Caroline. She accounted for it, however, by supposing that her last letter to her friend from Longbourn had by some accident been lost.

"My aunt," she continued, "is going to-morrow into that part of the town, and I shall take the opportunity of calling in Grosvenor-street."

She wrote again when the visit was paid, and she had seen Miss Bingley. "I did not think Caroline in spirits," were her words, "but she was very glad to see me, and reproached me for giving her no notice of my coming to London. I was right, therefore; my last letter had never reached her. I enquired after their brother, of course. He was well, but so much engaged with Mr. Darcy, that they scarcely ever saw him. I found that Miss Darcy was expected to dinner. I wish I could see her. My visit was not long, as Caroline and Mrs. Hurst were going out. I dare say I shall soon see them here."

Elizabeth shook her head over this letter. It convinced her that accident only could discover to Mr. Bingley her sister's being in town.

Four weeks passed away, and Jane saw nothing of him. She endeavoured to persuade herself that she did not regret it; but she could no longer be blind to Miss Bingley's inattention. After waiting at home every morning for a fortnight, and inventing every evening a fresh excuse for her, the visitor did at last appear; but the shortness of her stay, and yet more, the alteration of her manner, would allow Jane to deceive herself no longer. The letter which she wrote on this occasion to her sister, will prove what she felt.

"My dearest Lizzy will, I am sure, be incapable of triumphing in her better judgment, at my expence, when I confess myself to have been entirely deceived in Miss Bingley's regard for me. But, my dear sister, though the event has proved you right, do not think me obstinate if I still assert that, considering what her behaviour was, my confidence was as natural as your suspicion. I do not at all comprehend her reason for wishing to be intimate with me, but if the same circumstances were to happen again, I am sure I should be deceived again. Caroline did not return my visit till yesterday; and not a note, not a line, did I receive in the mean time. When she did come, it was very evident that she had no pleasure in it; she made a slight, formal, apology for not calling before, said not a word of wishing to see me again, and was in every respect so altered a creature, that when she went away I was perfectly resolved to continue the acquaintance no longer. I pity, though I cannot help blaming her. She was very wrong in singling me out as she did; I can safely say, that every advance to intimacy began on her side. But I pity her, because she must feel that she has been acting wrong, and because I am very sure that anxiety for her brother is the cause of it, I need not explain myself farther; and though we know this anxiety to be quite needless, yet if she feels it, it will easily account for her behaviour to me; and so deservedly dear as he is to his sister, whatever anxiety she may feel on his behalf is natural and amiable. I cannot but wonder, however, at her having any such fears now, because, if he had at all cared about me, we must have met long, long ago. He knows of my being in town, I am certain, from something she said herself; and yet it should seem by her manner of talking, as if she wanted to persuade herself that he is really partial to Miss Darcy. I cannot understand it. If I were not afraid of judging harshly, I should be almost tempted to say that there is a strong appearance of duplicity in all this. But I will endeavour to banish every painful thought, and think only of what will make me happy: your affection, and the invariable kindness of my dear uncle and aunt. Let me hear from you very soon. Miss Bingley said something of his never returning to Netherfield again, of giving up the house, but not with any certainty. We had better not mention it. I am extremely glad that you have such pleasant accounts from our friends at Hunsford. Pray go to see them, with Sir William and Maria. I am sure you will be very comfortable there.

Your's, &c."

This letter gave Elizabeth some pain; but her spirits returned as she considered that Jane would no longer be duped, by the sister at least. All expectation from the brother was now absolutely over. She would not even wish for any renewal of his attentions. His character sunk on every review of it; and as a punishment for him, as well as a possible advantage to Jane, she seriously hoped he might really soon marry Mr. Darcy's sister, as, by Wickham's account, she would make him abundantly regret what he had thrown away.

Mrs. Gardiner about this time reminded Elizabeth of her promise concerning that gentleman, and required information; and Elizabeth had such to send as might rather give contentment to her aunt than to herself. His apparent partiality had subsided, his attentions were over, he was the admirer of some one else. Elizabeth was watchful enough to see it all, but she could see it and write of it without material pain. Her heart had been but slightly touched, and her vanity was satisfied with believing that she would have been his only choice, had fortune permitted it. The sudden acquisition of ten thousand pounds was the most remarkable charm of the young lady to whom he was now rendering himself agreeable; but Elizabeth, less clear-sighted perhaps in his case than in Charlotte's, did not quarrel with him for his wish of independence. Nothing, on the contrary, could be more natural; and while able to suppose that it cost him a few struggles to relinquish her, she was ready to allow it a wise and desirable measure for both, and could very sincerely wish him happy.

All this was acknowledged to Mrs. Gardiner; and after relating the circumstances, she thus went on: -- "I am now convinced, my dear aunt, that I have never been much in love; for had I really experienced that pure and elevating passion, I should at present detest his very name, and wish him all manner of evil. But my feelings are not only cordial towards him; they are even impartial towards Miss King. I cannot find out that I hate her at all, or that I am in the least unwilling to think her a very good sort of girl. There can be no love in all this. My watchfulness has been effectual; and though I should certainly be a more interesting object to all my acquaintance, were I distractedly in love with him, I cannot say that I regret my comparative insignificance. Importance may sometimes be purchased too dearly. Kitty and Lydia take his defection much more to heart than I do. They are young in the ways of the world, and not yet open to the mortifying conviction that handsome young men must have something to live on, as well as the plain."
 

嘉丁纳太太一碰到有适当的机会和伊丽莎白单独谈话,总是善意地对外甥女进行忠告,把心里的话老老实实讲了出来,然后又接下去说:

“你是个非常懂事的孩子,丽萃,你不至于因为人家劝你谈恋爱要当心,你就偏偏要谈;因此我才敢向你说个明白。说正经话,你千万要小心。跟这种没有财产作为基础的人谈恋爱,实在非常莽撞,你千万别让自己堕上情网,也不要费尽心机使他堕入情网。我并不是说他的坏话──他倒是个再有趣不过的青年;要是他得到了他应当得到的那份财产,那我就会觉得你这门亲事再好也没有了。事实既是如此,你大可不必再对他想入非非。你很聪明,我们都希望你不要辜负了自己的聪明。我知道你父亲信任你品行好,又有决断,你切不可叫他失望。”

“亲爱的舅母,你真是郑重其事。”

“是呀,我希望你也能够郑重其事。”

“唔,你用不着急。我自己会当心,也会当心韦翰先生。只要我避免得了,我决不会叫他跟我恋爱。”

“伊丽莎白,你这话可就不郑重其事啦。”

“请原谅。让我重新讲讲看。目前我可并没有爱上韦翰先生;我的确没有。不过在我所看见的人当中,他的确是最可爱的一个,任谁也比不上他;如果他真会爱上我──我相信他还是不要爱上我的好。我看出了这件事很莽撞。噢!达西先生那么可恶!父亲这样器重我,真是我最大的荣幸,我要是辜负了他,一定会觉得遗憾。可是我父亲对韦翰也有成见。亲爱的舅母,总而言之,我决不愿意叫你们任何人为了我而不快活;不过,青年人一旦爱上了什么人,决不会因为暂时没有钱就肯撒手。要是我也给人家打动了心,我又怎能免俗?甚至我又怎么知道拒绝他是不是上策?因此,我只能答应你不仓忙从事就是了。我决不会一下子就认为我自己是他最中意的人。我虽然和他来往,可是决不会存这种心思。总而言之,我一定尽力而为。”

“假如你不让他来得这么勤,也许会好些;至少你不必提醒你母亲邀他来。”

伊丽莎白羞怯地笑笑说:“就象我那天做法一样,的确,最好是不要那样。可是你也不要以为他是一直来得这么勤。这个星期倒是为了你才常常请他来的。你知道妈的主意,她总以为想出最聪明的办法去应付的;我希望这一下你总该满意了吧。”

舅母告诉她说,这一下满意了;伊丽莎白谢谢她好心的指示,于是二人就分别了──在这种问题上给人家出主意而没受抱怨,这次倒可算一个稀罕的例子。嘉丁纳夫妇和吉英刚刚离开了哈德福郡,柯林斯先生就回到哈福德郡去。他住在卢卡斯府上,因此班纳特太太不但终于死了心,认为这门亲事是免不了的,甚至还几次三番恶意地说:“但愿他们会幸福吧。”星期四就是佳期,卢卡斯小姐星期三到班府上来辞行。当夏绿蒂起身告别的时候,伊丽莎白一方面由于母亲那些死样怪气的吉利话,使她听得不好意思,另一方面自己也委实有动无衷,便不由得送她走出房门。下楼梯的时候,夏绿蒂说:

“我相信你一定会常常给我写信的,伊丽莎。”

“这你放心好啦。”

“我还要你赏个脸。你愿意来看看我吗?”

“我希望我们能够常常在哈福德郡见面。”

“我可能暂时不会离开肯特郡。还是答应我上汉斯福来吧。”

伊丽莎白虽然预料到这种拜望不会有什么乐趣,可又没法推辞。

夏绿蒂又说:“我的父母三月里要到我那儿去,我希望你跟他们一块儿来。真的,伊丽莎,我一定象欢迎他们一样地欢迎你。”

结好了婚,新郎新娘从教堂门口直接动身往肯特郡去,大家总是照例你一句我一句的要说上多少话。伊丽莎白不久就收到了她朋友的来信,从此她们俩的通信便极其正常,极其频繁!不过,要象从前一样地畅所欲言,毫无顾忌,那可办不到了。伊丽莎白每逢写信给她,都免不了感觉到过去那种推心置腹的快慰已经成为陈迹;虽说她也下定决心,不要把通信疏懒下来,不过,那与其说是为了目前的友谊,倒不如说是为了过去的交情。她对于夏绿蒂开头的几封信都盼望得很迫切,那完全是出于一种好奇心,想要知道夏绿蒂所说的话,处处都和她自己所预料的完全一样。她的信写得充满了愉快的情调,讲到一件事总要赞美一句,好象她真有说不尽的快慰。凡是住宅、家具、邻居、道路,样样都叫她称心,咖苔琳夫人待人接物又是那么友善,那么亲切。她只不过把柯林斯先生所夸耀的汉斯福和罗新斯的面貌,稍许说得委婉一些罢了;伊丽莎白觉得,一定要等到亲自去那儿拜访,才能了解底蕴。

吉英早已来了一封短简给伊丽莎白,信上说,她已经平安抵达伦敦;伊丽莎白希望她下次来信能够讲一些有关彬格莱家的事。

第二封信真等得她焦急,可是总算没有白等。信上说,她已经进城一个星期,既没有看见珈罗琳,也没有收到珈罗琳的信。她只得认为她上次从浪搏恩给珈罗琳的那封信,一定是在路上失落了。

她接下去写:“明天舅母要上那个地区去,我想趁这个机会到格鲁斯汶纳街去登门拜访一下。”

吉英拜访过彬格莱小姐并且和她见过面以后,又写了一封信来。她写道:“我觉得珈罗琳精神不大好,可是她见到我却很高兴,而且怪我这次到伦敦来为什么事先不通知她一下。我果然没有猜错,我上次给她那封信,她真的没有收到。我当然问起她们的兄弟。据说他近况很好,不过同达西先生过从太密,以致姐妹兄弟很少机会见面。我这一次拜望的时间并不太久,因为珈罗琳和赫斯脱太太都要出去。也许她们马上就会上我这儿来看我。”

伊丽莎白读着这封信,不由得摇头。她相信除非有什么偶然的机会,彬格莱先生决不会知道吉英来到了伦敦。

四个星期过去了,吉英还没有见到彬格莱先生的影子。她竭力宽慰自己说,她并没有因此而觉得难受;可是彬格莱小姐的冷淡无情,她到底看明白了。她每天上午都在家里等彬格莱小姐,一直白等了两个星期,每天晚上都替彬格莱小姐编造一个借口,最后那位贵客才算上门来了,可是只待了片刻工夫便告辞而去,而且她的态度也前后判若两人,吉英觉得再不能自己骗自己了。她把这一次的情形写了封信告诉她妹妹,从这封信里可以看出她当时的心情:──

我最最亲爱的丽萃妹妹:现在我不得不承认,彬格莱小姐对我的关注完全是骗我的。我相信你的见解比我高明,而且你看到我伤心,还会引为得意。亲爱的妹妹,虽然如今事实已经证明你的看法是对的,可是,我如果从她过去的态度来看,我依旧认为,我对她的信任以及你对她的怀疑,同样都是合情合理,请你不要以为我固执。我到现在还不明白她从前为什么要跟我要好;如果再有同样的情况发生,我相信我还会受到欺骗。珈罗琳一直到昨天才来看我,她未来以前不曾给我片纸只字的讯息,既来之后又显出十分不乐意的样子。她只是照例敷衍了我一句,说是没有早日来看我,很是抱歉,此外根本就没有提起她想要再见见我的话。她在种种方面都前后判若两人,因此,当她临走的时候,我就下定决心和她断绝来往,虽说我禁不住要怪她,可是我又可怜她。只怪她当初不该对我另眼看待;我可以问心无愧地说,我和她交情都是由她主动一步一步进展起来的。可是我可怜她,因为她一定会感觉到自己做错了,我断定她所以采取这种态度,完全是由于为她哥哥担心的缘故。我用不着为自己再解释下去了。虽然我们知道这种担心完全不必要,不过,倘若她当真这样担心,那就足以说明她为什么要这样对待我了。既然他确实值得他妹妹珍惜,那么,不管她替他担的是什么忧,那也是合情合理,亲切可喜。不过,我简直不懂她现在还要有什么顾虑,要是他当真有心于我,我们早就会见面了。听她口气,我肯定他是知道我在伦敦的;然而从她谈话的态度看来,就好象她拿稳他是真的倾心于达西小姐似的。这真使我弄不明白。要是我大胆地下一句刻薄的断语,我真忍不住要说,其中一定大有蹊跷。可是我一定会竭力打消一切苦痛的念头,只去想一些能使我高兴的事───譬如想想你的亲切以及亲爱的舅父母对我始终如一的关切。希望很快就收到你的信。彬格莱小姐说起他再也不会回到尼日斐花园来,说他打算放弃那幢房子,可是说得并不怎么肯定。我们最好不必再提起这件事。你从汉斯福我们那些朋友那儿听到了许多令人愉快的事,这使我很高兴。请你跟威廉爵士和玛丽亚一块儿去看看他们吧。我相信你在那里一定会过得很舒适的。──你的……

这封信使伊丽莎白感到有些难受;不过,一想到吉英从此不会再受到他们的欺蒙,至少不会再受到那个妹妹的欺蒙,她又高兴起来了。她现在已经放弃了对那位兄弟的一切期望。她甚至根本不希望他再来重修旧好。她越想越看不起他;她倒真的希望他早日跟达西先生的妹妹结婚,因为照韦翰说来,那位小姐往后一定会叫他后悔,悔当初不该把本来的意中人丢了,这一方面算是给他一种惩罚,另方面也可能有利于吉英。

大约就在这时候,嘉丁纳太太把上次伊丽莎白答应过怎样对待韦翰的事,又向伊丽莎白提醒了一下,并且问起最近的情况如何;伊丽莎白回信上所说的话,虽然自己颇不满意,可是舅母听了却很满意。原来他对她显著的好感已经消失,他对她的殷勤也已经过去──他爱上了别人了。伊丽莎白很留心地看出了这一切,可是她虽然看出了这一切,在信上也写到这一切,却并没有感到什么痛苦,她只不过稍许有些感触。她想,如果她有些财产,早就成为他唯一的意中人了──想到这里,她的虚荣心也就得到了满足。拿他现在所倾倒的那位姑娘来说,她的最显著的魅力就是使他可以获得一万金镑的意外巨款;可是伊丽莎白对自己这件事,也许不如上次对夏绿蒂的事那么看得清楚,因此并没有因为他追求物质享受而怨怪他。她反而以为这是再自然不过的事;她也想象到他遗弃她一定颇费踌躇,可又觉得这对于双方都是一种既聪明而又理想的办法,并且诚心诚意地祝他幸福。她把这一切都对嘉丁纳太太说了。叙述了这些事以后,她接下去这样写道:“亲爱的舅母,我现在深深相信,我根本没有怎样爱他,假如我当真有了这种纯洁而崇高的感情,那我现在一听到他的名字都会觉得讨厌,而且巴不得他倒尽了霉。可是我情绪上不仅对他没有一些芥蒂,甚至对金小姐也毫无成见。我根本不觉得恨她,并且极其愿意把她看作一个很好的姑娘。这桩事完全算不上恋爱。我的小心提防并不是枉然的;要是我狂恋着他,亲友们就一定会把我看作一个更有趣的话柄了,我决不因为人家不十分器重我而竟会感到遗憾。太受人器重有时候需要付出很大的代价。吉蒂和丽迪雅对他的缺点计较得比我厉害。她们在人情世故方面还幼稚得很,还不懂得这样一个有失体统的信条:美少年和凡夫俗子一样,也得不饭吃,有衣穿。”



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