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CHAPTER 58

INSTEAD of receiving any such letter of excuse from his friend,
as Elizabeth half expected Mr. Bingley to do, he was able to
bring Darcy with him to Longbourn before many days had passed
after Lady Catherine's visit. The gentlemen arrived early;
and, before Mrs. Bennet had time to tell him of their having
seen his aunt, of which her daughter sat in momentary dread,
Bingley, who wanted to be alone with Jane, proposed their all
walking out. It was agreed to. Mrs. Bennet was not in the
habit of walking; Mary could never spare time; but the
remaining five set off together. Bingley and Jane, however,
soon allowed the others to outstrip them. They lagged behind,
while Elizabeth, Kitty, and Darcy were to entertain each other.
Very little was said by either; Kitty was too much afraid of
him to talk; Elizabeth was secretly forming a desperate
resolution; and perhaps he might be doing the same.

They walked towards the Lucases, because Kitty wished to call
upon Maria; and as Elizabeth saw no occasion for making it a
general concern, when Kitty left them she went boldly on with
him alone. Now was the moment for her resolution to be
executed, and, while her courage was high, she immediately
said,

"Mr. Darcy, I am a very selfish creature; and, for the sake of
giving relief to my own feelings, care not how much I may be
wounding your's. I can no longer help thanking you for your
unexampled kindness to my poor sister. Ever since I have known
it, I have been most anxious to acknowledge to you how
gratefully I feel it. Were it known to the rest of my family,
I should not have merely my own gratitude to express."

"I am sorry, exceedingly sorry," replied Darcy, in a tone of
surprise and emotion, "that you have ever been informed of what
may, in a mistaken light, have given you uneasiness. I did not
think Mrs. Gardiner was so little to be trusted."

"You must not blame my aunt. Lydia's thoughtlessness first
betrayed to me that you had been concerned in the matter; and,
of course, I could not rest till I knew the particulars. Let
me thank you again and again, in the name of all my family,
for that generous compassion which induced you to take so much
trouble, and bear so many mortifications, for the sake of
discovering them."

"If you will thank me," he replied, "let it be for yourself
alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add
force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not
attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as
I respect them, I believe I thought only of you."

Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a
short pause, her companion added, "You are too generous to
trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were
last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes
are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this
subject for ever."

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and
anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and
immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand
that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since
the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with
gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness
which this reply produced, was such as he had probably never
felt before; and he expressed himself on the occasion as
sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be
supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his
eye, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt
delight, diffused over his face, became him; but, though she
could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings,
which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his
affection every moment more valuable.

They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was
too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to
any other objects. She soon learnt that they were indebted
for their present good understanding to the efforts of his
aunt, who did call on him in her return through London,
and there relate her journey to Longbourn, its motive, and
the substance of her conversation with Elizabeth; dwelling
emphatically on every expression of the latter which, in her
ladyship's apprehension, peculiarly denoted her perverseness
and assurance; in the belief that such a relation must assist
her endeavours to obtain that promise from her nephew which
she had refused to give. But, unluckily for her ladyship,
its effect had been exactly contrariwise.

"It taught me to hope," said he, "as I had scarcely ever
allowed myself to hope before. I knew enough of your
disposition to be certain that, had you been absolutely,
irrevocably decided against me, you would have acknowledged
it to Lady Catherine, frankly and openly."

Elizabeth coloured and laughed as she replied, "Yes, you know
enough of my frankness to believe me capable of that.
After abusing you so abominably to your face, I could have no
scruple in abusing you to all your relations."

"What did you say of me, that I did not deserve? For, though
your accusations were ill-founded, formed on mistaken premises,
my behaviour to you at the time had merited the severest
reproof. It was unpardonable. I cannot think of it without
abhorrence."

"We will not quarrel for the greater share of blame annexed to
that evening," said Elizabeth. "The conduct of neither, if
strictly examined, will be irreproachable; but since then, we
have both, I hope, improved in civility."

"I cannot be so easily reconciled to myself. The recollection
of what I then said, of my conduct, my manners, my expressions
during the whole of it, is now, and has been many months,
inexpressibly painful to me. Your reproof, so well applied, I
shall never forget: ``had you behaved in a more gentleman-like
manner.'' Those were your words. You know not, you can
scarcely conceive, how they have tortured me; -- though it was
some time, I confess, before I was reasonable enough to allow
their justice."

"I was certainly very far from expecting them to make so strong
an impression. I had not the smallest idea of their being ever
felt in such a way."

"I can easily believe it. You thought me then devoid of
every proper feeling, I am sure you did. The turn of your
countenance I shall never forget, as you said that I could
not have addressed you in any possible way that would induce
you to accept me."

"Oh! do not repeat what I then said. These recollections
will not do at all. I assure you that I have long been most
heartily ashamed of it."

Darcy mentioned his letter. "Did it," said he, "did it soon
make you think better of me? Did you, on reading it, give any
credit to its contents?"

She explained what its effect on her had been, and how
gradually all her former prejudices had been removed.

"I knew," said he, "that what I wrote must give you pain,
but it was necessary. I hope you have destroyed the letter.
There was one part especially, the opening of it, which I
should dread your having the power of reading again. I can
remember some expressions which might justly make you hate me."

"The letter shall certainly be burnt, if you believe it
essential to the preservation of my regard; but, though we have
both reason to think my opinions not entirely unalterable, they
are not, I hope, quite so easily changed as that implies."

"When I wrote that letter," replied Darcy, "I believed myself
perfectly calm and cool, but I am since convinced that it was
written in a dreadful bitterness of spirit."

"The letter, perhaps, began in bitterness, but it did not end
so. The adieu is charity itself. But think no more of the
letter. The feelings of the person who wrote, and the person
who received it, are now so widely different from what they
were then, that every unpleasant circumstance attending it
ought to be forgotten. You must learn some of my philosophy.
Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure."

"I cannot give you credit for any philosophy of the kind.
Your retrospections must be so totally void of reproach, that
the contentment arising from them is not of philosophy, but,
what is much better, of innocence. But with me, it is not
so. Painful recollections will intrude which cannot, which
ought not, to be repelled. I have been a selfish being all my
life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was
taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my
temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them
in pride and conceit. Unfortunately an only son (for many
years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though
good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was
benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me
to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own
family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to
wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth
compared with my own. Such I was, from eight to eight and
twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest,
loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a
lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you,
I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my
reception. You shewed me how insufficient were all my
pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased."

"Had you then persuaded yourself that I should?"

"Indeed I had. What will you think of my vanity? I believed
you to be wishing, expecting my addresses."

"My manners must have been in fault, but not intentionally,
I assure you. I never meant to deceive you, but my spirits
might often lead me wrong. How you must have hated me after
that evening?"

"Hate you! I was angry perhaps at first, but my anger soon
began to take a proper direction."

"I am almost afraid of asking what you thought of me, when we
met at Pemberley. You blamed me for coming?"

"No indeed; I felt nothing but surprise."

"Your surprise could not be greater than mine in being
noticed by you. My conscience told me that I deserved no
extraordinary politeness, and I confess that I did not expect
to receive more than my due."

"My object then," replied Darcy, "was to shew you, by every
civility in my power, that I was not so mean as to resent the
past; and I hoped to obtain your forgiveness, to lessen your
ill opinion, by letting you see that your reproofs had been
attended to. How soon any other wishes introduced themselves
I can hardly tell, but I believe in about half an hour after
I had seen you."

He then told her of Georgiana's delight in her acquaintance,
and of her disappointment at its sudden interruption; which
naturally leading to the cause of that interruption, she soon
learnt that his resolution of following her from Derbyshire in
quest of her sister had been formed before he quitted the inn,
and that his gravity and thoughtfulness there had arisen from
no other struggles than what such a purpose must comprehend.

She expressed her gratitude again, but it was too painful a
subject to each, to be dwelt on farther.

After walking several miles in a leisurely manner, and too busy
to know any thing about it, they found at last, on examining
their watches, that it was time to be at home.

"What could become of Mr. Bingley and Jane!" was a wonder
which introduced the discussion of their affairs. Darcy
was delighted with their engagement; his friend had given
him the earliest information of it.

"I must ask whether you were surprised?" said Elizabeth.

"Not at all. When I went away, I felt that it would soon
happen."

"That is to say, you had given your permission. I guessed as
much." And though he exclaimed at the term, she found that it
had been pretty much the case.

"On the evening before my going to London," said he, "I made a
confession to him, which I believe I ought to have made long
ago. I told him of all that had occurred to make my former
interference in his affairs absurd and impertinent. His
surprise was great. He had never had the slightest suspicion.
I told him, moreover, that I believed myself mistaken in
supposing, as I had done, that your sister was indifferent to
him; and as I could easily perceive that his attachment to her
was unabated, I felt no doubt of their happiness together."

Elizabeth could not help smiling at his easy manner of
directing his friend.

"Did you speak from your own observation," said she, "when
you told him that my sister loved him, or merely from my
information last spring?"

"From the former. I had narrowly observed her during the two
visits which I had lately made here; and I was convinced of her
affection."

"And your assurance of it, I suppose, carried immediate
conviction to him."

"It did. Bingley is most unaffectedly modest. His diffidence
had prevented his depending on his own judgment in so anxious a
case, but his reliance on mine made every thing easy. I was
obliged to confess one thing, which for a time, and not
unjustly, offended him. I could not allow myself to conceal
that your sister had been in town three months last winter,
that I had known it, and purposely kept it from him. He was
angry. But his anger, I am persuaded, lasted no longer than
he remained in any doubt of your sister's sentiments. He has
heartily forgiven me now."

Elizabeth longed to observe that Mr. Bingley had been a most
delightful friend; so easily guided that his worth was
invaluable; but she checked herself. She remembered that he
had yet to learn to be laughed at, and it was rather too early
to begin. In anticipating the happiness of Bingley, which of
course was to be inferior only to his own, he continued the
conversation till they reached the house. In the hall they
parted.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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