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CHAPTER 55

A FEW days after this visit, Mr. Bingley called again, and
alone. His friend had left him that morning for London, but
was to return home in ten days time. He sat with them above an
hour, and was in remarkably good spirits. Mrs. Bennet invited
him to dine with them; but, with many expressions of concern,
he confessed himself engaged elsewhere.

"Next time you call," said she, "I hope we shall be more
lucky."

He should be particularly happy at any time, &c. &c.; and if
she would give him leave, would take an early opportunity of
waiting on them.

"Can you come to-morrow?"

Yes, he had no engagement at all for to-morrow; and her
invitation was accepted with alacrity.

He came, and in such very good time that the ladies were none
of them dressed. In ran Mrs. Bennet to her daughter's room, in
her dressing gown, and with her hair half finished, crying out,

"My dear Jane, make haste and hurry down. He is come --
Mr. Bingley is come. -- He is, indeed. Make haste, make haste.
Here, Sarah, come to Miss Bennet this moment, and help her on
with her gown. Never mind Miss Lizzy's hair."

"We will be down as soon as we can," said Jane; "but I dare say
Kitty is forwarder than either of us, for she went up stairs
half an hour ago."

"Oh! hang Kitty! what has she to do with it? Come be quick,
be quick! Where is your sash, my dear?"

But when her mother was gone, Jane would not be prevailed on to
go down without one of her sisters.

The same anxiety to get them by themselves was visible again
in the evening. After tea, Mr. Bennet retired to the library,
as was his custom, and Mary went up stairs to her instrument.
Two obstacles of the five being thus removed, Mrs. Bennet
sat looking and winking at Elizabeth and Catherine for a
considerable time, without making any impression on them.
Elizabeth would not observe her; and when at last Kitty did,
she very innocently said, "What is the matter mamma? What do
you keep winking at me for? What am I to do?"

"Nothing child, nothing. I did not wink at you." She then sat
still five minutes longer; but unable to waste such a precious
occasion, she suddenly got up, and saying to Kitty, "Come here,
my love, I want to speak to you," took her out of the room.
Jane instantly gave a look at Elizabeth which spoke her
distress at such premeditation, and her intreaty that she
would not give in to it. In a few minutes, Mrs. Bennet
half-opened the door and called out,

"Lizzy, my dear, I want to speak with you."

Elizabeth was forced to go.

"We may as well leave them by themselves you know;" said her
mother, as soon as she was in the hall. "Kitty and I are going
up stairs to sit in my dressing room."

Elizabeth made no attempt to reason with her mother, but
remained quietly in the hall, till she and Kitty were out of
sight, then returned into the drawing room.

Mrs. Bennet's schemes for this day were ineffectual. Bingley
was every thing that was charming, except the professed lover
of her daughter. His ease and cheerfulness rendered him a
most agreeable addition to their evening party; and he bore
with the ill-judged officiousness of the mother, and heard all
her silly remarks with a forbearance and command of countenance
particularly grateful to the daughter.

He scarcely needed an invitation to stay supper; and before he
went away, an engagement was formed, chiefly through his own
and Mrs. Bennet's means, for his coming next morning to shoot
with her husband.

After this day, Jane said no more of her indifference.
Not a word passed between the sisters concerning Bingley; but
Elizabeth went to bed in the happy belief that all must
speedily be concluded, unless Mr. Darcy returned within the
stated time. Seriously, however, she felt tolerably persuaded
that all this must have taken place with that gentleman's
concurrence.

Bingley was punctual to his appointment; and he and Mr. Bennet
spent the morning together, as had been agreed on. The latter
was much more agreeable than his companion expected. There was
nothing of presumption or folly in Bingley that could provoke
his ridicule, or disgust him into silence; and he was more
communicative, and less eccentric, than the other had ever seen
him. Bingley of course returned with him to dinner; and in the
evening Mrs. Bennet's invention was again at work to get every
body away from him and her daughter. Elizabeth, who had a
letter to write, went into the breakfast room for that purpose
soon after tea; for as the others were all going to sit down to
cards, she could not be wanted to counteract her mother's
schemes.

But on returning to the drawing room, when her letter was
finished, she saw, to her infinite surprise, there was
reason to fear that her mother had been too ingenious for
her. On opening the door, she perceived her sister and
Bingley standing together over the hearth, as if engaged in
earnest conversation; and had this led to no suspicion, the
faces of both, as they hastily turned round and moved away
from each other, would have told it all. Their situation
was awkward enough; but her's she thought was still worse.
Not a syllable was uttered by either; and Elizabeth was on
the point of going away again, when Bingley, who as well as
the other had sat down, suddenly rose, and whispering a few
words to her sister, ran out of the room.

Jane could have no reserves from Elizabeth, where confidence
would give pleasure; and instantly embracing her, acknowledged,
with the liveliest emotion, that she was the happiest creature
in the world.

"'Tis too much!" she added, "by far too much. I do not
deserve it. Oh! why is not every body as happy?"

Elizabeth's congratulations were given with a sincerity, a
warmth, a delight, which words could but poorly express. Every
sentence of kindness was a fresh source of happiness to Jane.
But she would not allow herself to stay with her sister, or say
half that remained to be said for the present.

"I must go instantly to my mother;" she cried. "I would not on
any account trifle with her affectionate solicitude; or allow
her to hear it from any one but myself. He is gone to my
father already. Oh! Lizzy, to know that what I have to relate
will give such pleasure to all my dear family! how shall I
bear so much happiness!"

She then hastened away to her mother, who had purposely broken
up the card party, and was sitting up stairs with Kitty.

Elizabeth, who was left by herself, now smiled at the rapidity
and ease with which an affair was finally settled, that had
given them so many previous months of suspense and vexation.

"And this," said she, "is the end of all his friend's anxious
circumspection! of all his sister's falsehood and contrivance!
the happiest, wisest, most reasonable end!"

In a few minutes she was joined by Bingley, whose conference
with her father had been short and to the purpose.

"Where is your sister?" said he hastily, as he opened the door.

"With my mother up stairs. She will be down in a moment,
I dare say."

He then shut the door, and, coming up to her, claimed the good
wishes and affection of a sister. Elizabeth honestly and
heartily expressed her delight in the prospect of their
relationship. They shook hands with great cordiality; and
then, till her sister came down, she had to listen to all he
had to say of his own happiness, and of Jane's perfections;
and in spite of his being a lover, Elizabeth really believed
all his expectations of felicity to be rationally founded,
because they had for basis the excellent understanding, and
super-excellent disposition of Jane, and a general similarity
of feeling and taste between her and himself.

It was an evening of no common delight to them all; the
satisfaction of Miss Bennet's mind gave a glow of such sweet
animation to her face, as made her look handsomer than ever.
Kitty simpered and smiled, and hoped her turn was coming soon.
Mrs. Bennet could not give her consent or speak her approbation
in terms warm enough to satisfy her feelings, though she talked
to Bingley of nothing else for half an hour; and when Mr.
Bennet joined them at supper, his voice and manner plainly
shewed how really happy he was.

Not a word, however, passed his lips in allusion to it, till
their visitor took his leave for the night; but as soon as he
was gone, he turned to his daughter, and said,

"Jane, I congratulate you. You will be a very happy woman."

Jane went to him instantly, kissed him, and thanked him for his
goodness.

"You are a good girl;" he replied, "and I have great pleasure
in thinking you will be so happily settled. I have not a doubt
of your doing very well together. Your tempers are by no means
unlike. You are each of you so complying, that nothing will
ever be resolved on; so easy, that every servant will cheat
you; and so generous, that you will always exceed your income."

"I hope not so. Imprudence or thoughtlessness in money matters
would be unpardonable in me."

"Exceed their income! My dear Mr. Bennet," cried his wife,
"what are you talking of? Why, he has four or five thousand a
year, and very likely more." Then addressing her daughter,
"Oh! my dear, dear Jane, I am so happy! I am sure I shan't
get a wink of sleep all night. I knew how it would be. I
always said it must be so, at last. I was sure you could not
be so beautiful for nothing! I remember, as soon as ever I saw
him, when he first came into Hertfordshire last year, I thought
how likely it was that you should come together. Oh! he is
the handsomest young man that ever was seen!"

Wickham, Lydia, were all forgotten. Jane was beyond
competition her favourite child. At that moment, she cared
for no other. Her younger sisters soon began to make interest
with her for objects of happiness which she might in future be
able to dispense.

Mary petitioned for the use of the library at Netherfield; and
Kitty begged very hard for a few balls there every winter.

Bingley, from this time, was of course a daily visitor at
Longbourn; coming frequently before breakfast, and always
remaining till after supper; unless when some barbarous
neighbour, who could not be enough detested, had given him
an invitation to dinner which he thought himself obliged to
accept.

Elizabeth had now but little time for conversation with her
sister; for while he was present, Jane had no attention to
bestow on any one else; but she found herself considerably
useful to both of them in those hours of separation that must
sometimes occur. In the absence of Jane, he always attached
himself to Elizabeth, for the pleasure of talking of her; and
when Bingley was gone, Jane constantly sought the same means
of relief.

"He has made me so happy," said she, one evening, "by telling
me that he was totally ignorant of my being in town last
spring! I had not believed it possible."

"I suspected as much," replied Elizabeth. "But how did he
account for it?"

"It must have been his sister's doing. They were certainly no
friends to his acquaintance with me, which I cannot wonder at,
since he might have chosen so much more advantageously in many
respects. But when they see, as I trust they will, that their
brother is happy with me, they will learn to be contented, and
we shall be on good terms again; though we can never be what we
once were to each other."

"That is the most unforgiving speech," said Elizabeth, "that
I ever heard you utter. Good girl! It would vex me, indeed,
to see you again the dupe of Miss Bingley's pretended regard."

"Would you believe it, Lizzy, that when he went to town last
November, he really loved me, and nothing but a persuasion of
my being indifferent would have prevented his coming down
again!"

"He made a little mistake to be sure; but it is to the credit
of his modesty."

This naturally introduced a panegyric from Jane on his
diffidence, and the little value he put on his own good
qualities. Elizabeth was pleased to find that he had not
betrayed the interference of his friend; for, though Jane had
the most generous and forgiving heart in the world, she knew
it was a circumstance which must prejudice her against him.

"I am certainly the most fortunate creature that ever existed!"
cried Jane. "Oh! Lizzy, why am I thus singled from my family,
and blessed above them all! If I could but see you as happy!
If there were but such another man for you!"

"If you were to give me forty such men, I never could be so
happy as you. Till I have your disposition, your goodness,
I never can have your happiness. No, no, let me shift for
myself; and, perhaps, if I have very good luck, I may meet
with another Mr. Collins in time."

The situation of affairs in the Longbourn family could not be
long a secret. Mrs. Bennet was privileged to whisper it to
Mrs. Philips, and she ventured, without any permission, to do
the same by all her neighbours in Meryton.

The Bennets were speedily pronounced to be the luckiest family
in the world, though only a few weeks before, when Lydia had
first run away, they had been generally proved to be marked out
for misfortune.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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