IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in 15 страница

growth of only a few weeks, could bear no comparison. -- But

from the severity of that blame which was last night so

liberally bestowed, respecting each circumstance, I shall hope

to be in future secured, when the following account of my

actions and their motives has been read. -- If, in the

explanation of them which is due to myself, I am under the

necessity of relating feelings which may be offensive to

your's, I can only say that I am sorry. -- The necessity must

be obeyed -- and farther apology would be absurd. -- I had not

been long in Hertfordshire, before I saw, in common with

others, that Bingley preferred your eldest sister to any other

young woman in the country. -- But it was not till the evening

of the dance at Netherfield that I had any apprehension of his

feeling a serious attachment. -- I had often seen him in love

before. -- At that ball, while I had the honour of dancing with

you, I was first made acquainted, by Sir William Lucas's

accidental information, that Bingley's attentions to your

sister had given rise to a general expectation of their

marriage. He spoke of it as a certain event, of which the time

alone could be undecided. From that moment I observed my

friend's behaviour attentively; and I could then perceive that

his partiality for Miss Bennet was beyond what I had ever

witnessed in him. Your sister I also watched. -- Her look and

manners were open, cheerful, and engaging as ever, but without

any symptom of peculiar regard, and I remained convinced from

the evening's scrutiny, that though she received his attentions

with pleasure, she did not invite them by any participation of

sentiment. -- If _you_ have not been mistaken here, _I_ must

have been in an error. Your superior knowledge of your sister

must make the latter probable. -- If it be so, if I have been

misled by such error, to inflict pain on her, your resentment

has not been unreasonable. But I shall not scruple to assert

that the serenity of your sister's countenance and air was such

as might have given the most acute observer a conviction that,

however amiable her temper, her heart was not likely to be

easily touched. -- That I was desirous of believing her

indifferent is certain, -- but I will venture to say that my

investigations and decisions are not usually influenced by my

hopes or fears. -- I did not believe her to be indifferent

because I wished it; -- I believed it on impartial conviction,

as truly as I wished it in reason. -- My objections to the

marriage were not merely those which I last night acknowledged

to have required the utmost force of passion to put aside in my

own case; the want of connection could not be so great an evil

to my friend as to me. -- But there were other causes of

repugnance; -- causes which, though still existing, and

existing to an equal degree in both instances, I had myself

endeavoured to forget, because they were not immediately before

me. -- These causes must be stated, though briefly. -- The

situation of your mother's family, though objectionable, was

nothing in comparison of that total want of propriety so

frequently, so almost uniformly, betrayed by herself, by your

three younger sisters, and occasionally even by your father. --

Pardon me. -- It pains me to offend you. But amidst your

concern for the defects of your nearest relations, and your

displeasure at this representation of them, let it give you

consolation to consider that to have conducted yourselves so as

to avoid any share of the like censure is praise no less

generally bestowed on you and your eldest sister, than it is

honourable to the sense and disposition of both. -- I will only

say farther that, from what passed that evening, my opinion of

all parties was confirmed, and every inducement heightened,

which could have led me before to preserve my friend from what

I esteemed a most unhappy connection. -- He left Netherfield

for London, on the day following, as you, I am certain,

remember, with the design of soon returning. --

The part which I acted is now to be explained. -- His

sisters' uneasiness had been equally excited with my own;

our coincidence of feeling was soon discovered; and, alike



sensible that no time was to be lost in detaching their

brother, we shortly resolved on joining him directly in

London. -- We accordingly went -- and there I readily engaged

in the office of pointing out to my friend, the certain evils

of such a choice. -- I described, and enforced them

earnestly. -- But, however this remonstrance might have

staggered or delayed his determination, I do not suppose that

it would ultimately have prevented the marriage, had it not

been seconded by the assurance, which I hesitated not in

giving, of your sister's indifference. He had before believed

her to return his affection with sincere, if not with equal,

regard. -- But Bingley has great natural modesty, with a

stronger dependence on my judgment than on his own. -- To

convince him, therefore, that he had deceived himself, was no

very difficult point. To persuade him against returning into

Hertfordshire, when that conviction had been given, was

scarcely the work of a moment. -- I cannot blame myself for

having done thus much. There is but one part of my conduct in

the whole affair, on which I do not reflect with satisfaction;

it is that I condescended to adopt the measures of art so far

as to conceal from him your sister's being in town. I knew it

myself, as it was known to Miss Bingley, but her brother is

even yet ignorant of it. -- That they might have met without

ill consequence is, perhaps, probable; -- but his regard did

not appear to me enough extinguished for him to see her without

some danger. -- Perhaps this concealment, this disguise, was

beneath me. -- It is done, however, and it was done for the

best. -- On this subject I have nothing more to say, no other

apology to offer. If I have wounded your sister's feelings, it

was unknowingly done; and though the motives which governed me

may to you very naturally appear insufficient, I have not yet

learnt to condemn them. --

With respect to that other, more weighty accusation, of having

injured Mr. Wickham, I can only refute it by laying before you

the whole of his connection with my family. Of what he has

_particularly_ accused me, I am ignorant; but of the truth of

what I shall relate, I can summon more than one witness of

undoubted veracity. Mr. Wickham is the son of a very

respectable man, who had for many years the management of all

the Pemberley estates; and whose good conduct in the discharge

of his trust naturally inclined my father to be of service to

him; and on George Wickham, who was his god-son, his kindness

was therefore liberally bestowed. My father supported him at

school, and afterwards at Cambridge; -- most important

assistance, as his own father, always poor from the

extravagance of his wife, would have been unable to give him a

gentleman's education. My father was not only fond of this

young man's society, whose manners were always engaging; he had

also the highest opinion of him, and hoping the church would be

his profession, intended to provide for him in it. As for

myself, it is many, many years since I first began to think of

him in a very different manner. The vicious propensities --

the want of principle, which he was careful to guard from the

knowledge of his best friend, could not escape the observation

of a young man of nearly the same age with himself, and who had

opportunities of seeing him in unguarded moments, which

Mr. Darcy could not have. Here again I shall give you pain --

to what degree you only can tell. But whatever may be the

sentiments which Mr. Wickham has created, a suspicion of their

nature shall not prevent me from unfolding his real character.

It adds even another motive. My excellent father died about

five years ago; and his attachment to Mr. Wickham was to the

last so steady, that in his will he particularly recommended it

to me to promote his advancement in the best manner that his

profession might allow, and, if he took orders, desired that a

valuable family living might be his as soon as it became

vacant. There was also a legacy of one thousand pounds. His

own father did not long survive mine, and within half a year

from these events Mr. Wickham wrote to inform me that, having

finally resolved against taking orders, he hoped I should not

think it unreasonable for him to expect some more immediate

pecuniary advantage, in lieu of the preferment by which he

could not be benefited. He had some intention, he added, of

studying the law, and I must be aware that the interest of one

thousand pounds would be a very insufficient support therein.

I rather wished than believed him to be sincere; but, at any

rate, was perfectly ready to accede to his proposal. I knew

that Mr. Wickham ought not to be a clergyman. The business was

therefore soon settled. He resigned all claim to assistance in

the church, were it possible that he could ever be in a

situation to receive it, and accepted in return three thousand

pounds. All connection between us seemed now dissolved. I

thought too ill of him to invite him to Pemberley, or admit his

society in town. In town, I believe, he chiefly lived, but his

studying the law was a mere pretence, and being now free from

all restraint, his life was a life of idleness and dissipation.

For about three years I heard little of him; but on the decease

of the incumbent of the living which had been designed for him,

he applied to me again by letter for the presentation. His

circumstances, he assured me, and I had no difficulty in

believing it, were exceedingly bad. He had found the law a

most unprofitable study, and was now absolutely resolved on

being ordained, if I would present him to the living in

question -- of which he trusted there could be little doubt,

as he was well assured that I had no other person to provide

for, and I could not have forgotten my revered father's

intentions. You will hardly blame me for refusing to comply

with this entreaty, or for resisting every repetition of it.

His resentment was in proportion to the distress of his

circumstances -- and he was doubtless as violent in his abuse

of me to others, as in his reproaches to myself. After this

period, every appearance of acquaintance was dropt. How he

lived I know not. But last summer he was again most painfully

obtruded on my notice. I must now mention a circumstance which

I would wish to forget myself, and which no obligation less

than the present should induce me to unfold to any human being.

Having said thus much, I feel no doubt of your secrecy. My

sister, who is more than ten years my junior, was left to the

guardianship of my mother's nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and

myself. About a year ago, she was taken from school, and an

establishment formed for her in London; and last summer she

went with the lady who presided over it, to Ramsgate; and

thither also went Mr. Wickham, undoubtedly by design; for

there proved to have been a prior acquaintance between him

and Mrs. Younge, in whose character we were most unhappily

deceived; and by her connivance and aid he so far recommended

himself to Georgiana, whose affectionate heart retained a

strong impression of his kindness to her as a child, that she

was persuaded to believe herself in love, and to consent to an

elopement. She was then but fifteen, which must be her excuse;

and after stating her imprudence, I am happy to add that I owed

the knowledge of it to herself. I joined them unexpectedly a

day or two before the intended elopement; and then Georgiana,

unable to support the idea of grieving and offending a brother

whom she almost looked up to as a father, acknowledged the

whole to me. You may imagine what I felt and how I acted.

Regard for my sister's credit and feelings prevented any public

exposure, but I wrote to Mr. Wickham, who left the place

immediately, and Mrs. Younge was of course removed from her

charge. Mr. Wickham's chief object was unquestionably my

sister's fortune, which is thirty thousand pounds; but I cannot

help supposing that the hope of revenging himself on me was a

strong inducement. His revenge would have been complete

indeed.

This, madam, is a faithful narrative of every event in which

we have been concerned together; and if you do not absolutely

reject it as false, you will, I hope, acquit me henceforth of

cruelty towards Mr. Wickham. I know not in what manner, under

what form of falsehood, he has imposed on you; but his success

is not, perhaps, to be wondered at. Ignorant as you previously

were of every thing concerning either, detection could not be

in your power, and suspicion certainly not in your inclination.

You may possibly wonder why all this was not told you last

night. But I was not then master enough of myself to know what

could or ought to be revealed. For the truth of every thing

here related, I can appeal more particularly to the testimony

of Colonel Fitzwilliam, who from our near relationship and

constant intimacy, and still more as one of the executors of my

father's will, has been unavoidably acquainted with every

particular of these transactions. If your abhorrence of _me_

should make _my_ assertions valueless, you cannot be prevented

by the same cause from confiding in my cousin; and that there

may be the possibility of consulting him, I shall endeavour to

find some opportunity of putting this letter in your hands in

the course of the morning. I will only add, God bless you.

FITZWILLIAM DARCY."

__

IF Elizabeth, when Mr. Darcy gave her the letter, did not

expect it to contain a renewal of his offers, she had formed no

expectation at all of its contents. But such as they were, it

may be well supposed how eagerly she went through them, and

what a contrariety of emotion they excited. Her feelings as

she read were scarcely to be defined. With amazement did she

first understand that he believed any apology to be in his

power; and stedfastly was she persuaded that he could have no

explanation to give, which a just sense of shame would not

conceal. With a strong prejudice against every thing he might

say, she began his account of what had happened at Netherfield.

She read, with an eagerness which hardly left her power of

comprehension, and from impatience of knowing what the next

sentence might bring, was incapable of attending to the sense

of the one before her eyes. His belief of her sister's

insensibility, she instantly resolved to be false, and his

account of the real, the worst objections to the match, made

her too angry to have any wish of doing him justice. He

expressed no regret for what he had done which satisfied her;

his style was not penitent, but haughty. It was all pride and

insolence.

But when this subject was succeeded by his account of Mr.

Wickham, when she read, with somewhat clearer attention, a

relation of events, which, if true, must overthrow every

cherished opinion of his worth, and which bore so alarming an

affinity to his own history of himself, her feelings were yet

more acutely painful and more difficult of definition.

Astonishment, apprehension, and even horror, oppressed her.

She wished to discredit it entirely, repeatedly exclaiming,

"This must be false! This cannot be! This must be the

grossest falsehood!" -- and when she had gone through the whole

letter, though scarcely knowing any thing of the last page or

two, put it hastily away, protesting that she would not regard

it, that she would never look in it again.

In this perturbed state of mind, with thoughts that could rest

on nothing, she walked on; but it would not do; in half a

minute the letter was unfolded again, and collecting herself as

well as she could, she again began the mortifying perusal of

all that related to Wickham, and commanded herself so far as to

examine the meaning of every sentence. The account of his

connection with the Pemberley family was exactly what he had

related himself; and the kindness of the late Mr. Darcy, though

she had not before known its extent, agreed equally well with

his own words. So far each recital confirmed the other; but

when she came to the will, the difference was great. What

Wickham had said of the living was fresh in her memory, and as

she recalled his very words, it was impossible not to feel that

there was gross duplicity on one side or the other; and, for a

few moments, she flattered herself that her wishes did not err.

But when she read, and re-read with the closest attention, the

particulars immediately following of Wickham's resigning all

pretensions to the living, of his receiving, in lieu, so

considerable a sum as three thousand pounds, again was she

forced to hesitate. She put down the letter, weighed every

circumstance with what she meant to be impartiality --

deliberated on the probability of each statement -- but with

little success. On both sides it was only assertion. Again

she read on. But every line proved more clearly that the

affair, which she had believed it impossible that any

contrivance could so represent as to render Mr. Darcy's conduct

in it less than infamous, was capable of a turn which must make

him entirely blameless throughout the whole.

The extravagance and general profligacy which he scrupled not

to lay to Mr. Wickham's charge, exceedingly shocked her; the

more so, as she could bring no proof of its injustice. She had

never heard of him before his entrance into the ----shire

Militia, in which he had engaged at the persuasion of the young

man, who, on meeting him accidentally in town, had there

renewed a slight acquaintance. Of his former way of life,

nothing had been known in Hertfordshire but what he told

himself. As to his real character, had information been in her

power, she had never felt a wish of enquiring. His

countenance, voice, and manner had established him at once in

the possession of every virtue. She tried to recollect some

instance of goodness, some distinguished trait of integrity or

benevolence, that might rescue him from the attacks of Mr.

Darcy; or at least, by the predominance of virtue, atone for

those casual errors, under which she would endeavour to class

what Mr. Darcy had described as the idleness and vice of many

years continuance. But no such recollection befriended her.

She could see him instantly before her, in every charm of air

and address; but she could remember no more substantial good

than the general approbation of the neighbourhood, and the

regard which his social powers had gained him in the mess.

After pausing on this point a considerable while, she once more

continued to read. But, alas! the story which followed, of

his designs on Miss Darcy, received some confirmation from what

had passed between Colonel Fitzwilliam and herself only the

morning before; and at last she was referred for the truth of

every particular to Colonel Fitzwilliam himself -- from whom

she had previously received the information of his near concern

in all his cousin's affairs, and whose character she had no

reason to question. At one time she had almost resolved on

applying to him, but the idea was checked by the awkwardness of

the application, and at length wholly banished by the

conviction that Mr. Darcy would never have hazarded such a

proposal if he had not been well assured of his cousin's

corroboration.

She perfectly remembered every thing that had passed in

conversation between Wickham and herself in their first evening

at Mr. Philips's. Many of his expressions were still fresh in

her memory. She was now struck with the impropriety of such

communications to a stranger, and wondered it had escaped her

before. She saw the indelicacy of putting himself forward as

he had done, and the inconsistency of his professions with his

conduct. She remembered that he had boasted of having no fear

of seeing Mr. Darcy -- that Mr. Darcy might leave the country,

but that _he_ should stand his ground; yet he had avoided the

Netherfield ball the very next week. She remembered also, that

till the Netherfield family had quitted the country, he had

told his story to no one but herself; but that after their

removal, it had been every where discussed; that he had then no

reserves, no scruples in sinking Mr. Darcy's character, though

he had assured her that respect for the father would always

prevent his exposing the son.

How differently did every thing now appear in which he was

concerned! His attentions to Miss King were now the

consequence of views solely and hatefully mercenary; and the

mediocrity of her fortune proved no longer the moderation of

his wishes, but his eagerness to grasp at any thing. His

behaviour to herself could now have had no tolerable motive; he

had either been deceived with regard to her fortune, or had

been gratifying his vanity by encouraging the preference which

she believed she had most incautiously shewn. Every lingering

struggle in his favour grew fainter and fainter; and in farther

justification of Mr. Darcy, she could not but allow that

Mr. Bingley, when questioned by Jane, had long ago asserted his

blamelessness in the affair; that, proud and repulsive as were

his manners, she had never, in the whole course of their

acquaintance -- an acquaintance which had latterly brought them

much together, and given her a sort of intimacy with his ways

-- seen any thing that betrayed him to be unprincipled or

unjust -- any thing that spoke him of irreligious or immoral

habits. That among his own connections he was esteemed and

valued -- that even Wickham had allowed him merit as a brother,

and that she had often heard him speak so affectionately of his

sister as to prove him capable of _some_ amiable feeling. That

had his actions been what Wickham represented them, so gross a

violation of every thing right could hardly have been concealed

from the world; and that friendship between a person capable of

it, and such an amiable man as Mr. Bingley, was

incomprehensible.

She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. -- Of neither Darcy nor

Wickham could she think, without feeling that she had been

blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd.

"How despicably have I acted!" she cried. -- "I, who have

prided myself on my discernment! -- I, who have valued myself

on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour

of my sister, and gratified my vanity, in useless or blameable

distrust. -- How humiliating is this discovery! -- Yet, how

just a humiliation! -- Had I been in love, I could not have

been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my

folly. -- Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by

the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our

acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and

driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this

moment, I never knew myself."

From herself to Jane -- from Jane to Bingley, her thoughts

were in a line which soon brought to her recollection that

Mr. Darcy's explanation _there_ had appeared very insufficient;

and she read it again. Widely different was the effect of a

second perusal. -- How could she deny that credit to his

assertions, in one instance, which she had been obliged to

give in the other? -- He declared himself to have been totally

unsuspicious of her sister's attachment; -- and she could not

help remembering what Charlotte's opinion had always been.

-- Neither could she deny the justice of his description of

Jane. -- She felt that Jane's feelings, though fervent, were

little displayed, and that there was a constant complacency in

her air and manner not often united with great sensibility.

When she came to that part of the letter in which her family

were mentioned, in terms of such mortifying yet merited

reproach, her sense of shame was severe. The justice of the

charge struck her too forcibly for denial, and the

circumstances to which he particularly alluded, as having

passed at the Netherfield ball, and as confirming all his first

disapprobation, could not have made a stronger impression on

his mind than on hers. The compliment to herself and her

sister was not unfelt. It soothed, but it could not console

her for the contempt which had been thus self-attracted by the

rest of her family; -- and as she considered that Jane's

disappointment had in fact been the work of her nearest

relations, and reflected how materially the credit of both must

be hurt by such impropriety of conduct, she felt depressed

beyond any thing she had ever known before.

After wandering along the lane for two hours, giving way to

every variety of thought; re-considering events, determining

probabilities, and reconciling herself, as well as she could,

to a change so sudden and so important, fatigue, and a

recollection of her long absence made her at length return

home; and she entered the house with the wish of appearing

cheerful as usual, and the resolution of repressing such

reflections as must make her unfit for conversation.

She was immediately told, that the two gentlemen from Rosings

had each called during her absence; Mr. Darcy, only for a few

minutes to take leave, but that Colonel Fitzwilliam had been

sitting with them at least an hour, hoping for her return, and

almost resolving to walk after her till she could be found. --

Elizabeth could but just _affect_ concern in missing him; she

really rejoiced at it. Colonel Fitzwilliam was no longer an

object. She could think only of her letter.

__

THE two gentlemen left Rosings the next morning; and Mr.

Collins having been in waiting near the lodges, to make them

his parting obeisance, was able to bring home the pleasing

intelligence of their appearing in very good health, and in as

tolerable spirits as could be expected, after the melancholy

scene so lately gone through at Rosings. To Rosings he then

hastened to console Lady Catherine and her daughter; and on his

return brought back, with great satisfaction, a message from

her ladyship, importing that she felt herself so dull as to

make her very desirous of having them all to dine with her.

Elizabeth could not see Lady Catherine without recollecting

that, had she chosen it, she might by this time have been

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