Pride and Prejudice > Chapter 40
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Pride and Prejudice
- by Jane Austen
Elizabeth's impatience to acquaint Jane with what had happened
could no longer be overcome; and at length, resolving to
suppress every particular in which her sister was concerned,
and preparing her to be surprised, she related to her the next
morning the chief of the scene between Mr. Darcy and herself.
Miss Bennet's astonishment was soon lessened by the strong
sisterly partiality which made any admiration of Elizabeth appear
perfectly natural; and all surprise was shortly lost in other
feelings. She was sorry that Mr. Darcy should have delivered his
sentiments in a manner so little suited to recommend them; but
still more was she grieved for the unhappiness which her sister's
refusal must have given him.
"His being so sure of succeeding was wrong," said she, "and
certainly ought not to have appeared; but consider how much it
must increase his disappointment!"
"Indeed," replied Elizabeth, "I am heartily sorry for him; but he
has other feelings, which will probably soon drive away his
regard for me. You do not blame me, however, for refusing him?"
"Blame you! Oh, no."
"But you blame me for having spoken so warmly of Wickham?"
"No — I do not know that you were wrong in saying what you
"But you will know it, when I tell you what happened the very
She then spoke of the letter, repeating the whole of its contents
as far as they concerned George Wickham. What a stroke was
this for poor Jane! who would willingly have gone through the
world without believing that so much wickedness existed in the
whole race of mankind, as was here collected in one individual.
Nor was Darcy's vindication, though grateful to her feelings,
capable of consoling her for such discovery. Most earnestly did
she labour to prove the probability of error, and seek to clear the
one without involving the other.
"This will not do," said Elizabeth; "you never will be able to
make both of them good for anything. Take your choice, but
you must be satisfied with only one. There is but such a quantity
of merit between them; just enough to make one good sort of
man; and of late it has been shifting about pretty much. For my
part, I am inclined to believe it all Darcy's; but you shall do
as you choose."
It was some time, however, before a smile could be extorted
"I do not know when I have been more shocked," said she.
"Wickham so very bad! It is almost past belief. And poor Mr.
Darcy! Dear Lizzy, only consider what he must have suffered.
Such a disappointment! and with the knowledge of your ill
opinion, too! and having to relate such a thing of his sister!
It is really too distressing. I am sure you must feel it so."
"Oh! no, my regret and compassion are all done away by seeing
you so full of both. I know you will do him such ample justice,
that I am growing every moment more unconcerned and indifferent.
Your profusion makes me saving; and if you lament over him much
longer, my heart will be as light as a feather."
"Poor Wickham! there is such an expression of goodness in his
countenance! such an openness and gentleness in his manner!"
"There certainly was some great mismanagement in the education
of those two young men. One has got all the goodness, and the
other all the appearance of it."
"I never thought Mr. Darcy so deficient in the appearance
of it as you used to do."
"And yet I meant to be uncommonly clever in taking so decided
a dislike to him, without any reason. It is such a spur to one's
genius, such an opening for wit, to have a dislike of that kind.
One may be continually abusive without saying anything just; but
one cannot always be laughing at a man without now and then
stumbling on something witty."
"Lizzy, when you first read that letter, I am sure you could not
treat the matter as you do now."
"Indeed, I could not. I was uncomfortable enough, I may say
unhappy. And with no one to speak to about what I felt, no
Jane to comfort me and say that I had not been so very weak and
vain and nonsensical as I knew I had! Oh! how I wanted you!"
"How unfortunate that you should have used such very strong
expressions in speaking of Wickham to Mr. Darcy, for now they
do appear wholly undeserved."
"Certainly. But the misfortune of speaking with bitterness
is a most natural consequence of the prejudices I had been
encouraging. There is one point on which I want your advice.
I want to be told whether I ought, or ought not, to make our
acquaintances in general understand Wickham's character."
Miss Bennet paused a little, and then replied, "Surely there can
be no occasion for exposing him so dreadfully. What is your
"That it ought not to be attempted. Mr. Darcy has not
authorised me to make his communication public. On the
contrary, every particular relative to his sister was meant to
be kept as much as possible to myself; and if I endeavour to
undeceive people as to the rest of his conduct, who will believe
me? The general prejudice against Mr. Darcy is so violent, that
it would be the death of half the good people in Meryton to
attempt to place him in an amiable light. I am not equal to it.
Wickham will soon be gone; and therefore it will not signify to
anyone here what he really is. Some time hence it will be all
found out, and then we may laugh at their stupidity in not
knowing it before. At present I will say nothing about it."
"You are quite right. To have his errors made public might ruin
him for ever. He is now, perhaps, sorry for what he has done,
and anxious to re-establish a character. We must not make him
The tumult of Elizabeth's mind was allayed by this conversation.
She had got rid of two of the secrets which had weighed on her
for a fortnight, and was certain of a willing listener in Jane,
whenever she might wish to talk again of either. But there was
still something lurking behind, of which prudence forbade the
disclosure. She dared not relate the other half of Mr. Darcy's
letter, nor explain to her sister how sincerely she had been
valued by her friend. Here was knowledge in which no one
could partake; and she was sensible that nothing less than a
perfect understanding between the parties could justify her in
throwing off this last encumbrance of mystery. "And then," said
she, "if that very improbable event should ever take place, I
shall merely be able to tell what Bingley may tell in a much more
agreeable manner himself. The liberty of communication cannot
be mine till it has lost all its value!"
She was now, on being settled at home, at leisure to observe the
real state of her sister's spirits. Jane was not happy. She still
cherished a very tender affection for Bingley. Having never even
fancied herself in love before, her regard had all the warmth of
first attachment, and, from her age and disposition, greater
steadiness than most first attachments often boast; and so
fervently did she value his remembrance, and prefer him to every
other man, that all her good sense, and all her attention to the
feelings of her friends, were requisite to check the indulgence of
those regrets which must have been injurious to her own health
and their tranquillity.
"Well, Lizzy," said Mrs. Bennet one day, "what is your opinion
now of this sad business of Jane's? For my part, I am
determined never to speak of it again to anybody. I told my
sister Phillips so the other day. But I cannot find out that Jane
saw anything of him in London. Well, he is a very undeserving
young man — and I do not suppose there's the least chance in the
world of her ever getting him now. There is no talk of his
coming to Netherfield again in the summer; and I have inquired
of everybody, too, who is likely to know."
"I do not believe he will ever live at Netherfield any more."
"Oh well! it is just as he chooses. Nobody wants him to come.
Though I shall always say he used my daughter extremely ill; and
if I was her, I would not have put up with it. Well, my comfort
is, I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart; and then he will
be sorry for what he has done."
But as Elizabeth could not receive comfort from any such
expectation, she made no answer.
"Well, Lizzy," continued her mother, soon afterwards, "and so
the Collinses live very comfortable, do they? Well, well, I only
hope it will last. And what sort of table do they keep? Charlotte
is an excellent manager, I dare say. If she is half as sharp as
her mother, she is saving enough. There is nothing extravagant in
their housekeeping, I dare say."
"No, nothing at all."
"A great deal of good management, depend upon it. Yes, yes.
they will take care not to outrun their income. They will
never be distressed for money. Well, much good may it do
them! And so, I suppose, they often talk of having Longbourn
when your father is dead. They look upon it as quite their own,
I dare say, whenever that happens."
"It was a subject which they could not mention before me."
"No; it would have been strange if they had; but I make no
doubt they often talk of it between themselves. Well, if they
can be easy with an estate that is not lawfully their own, so
much the better. I should be ashamed of having one that was
only entailed on me."