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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 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. 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 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 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 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
inconsistencies 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 a 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 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 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
that 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 his 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 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
occasion, 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 Pemberly, and known the late Mr. Darcy
by character perfectly well. Here consequently was an
inexhaustible subject of discourse. In comparing her recollection
of Pemberly 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.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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