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  • CHAPTER 35

  • Elizabeth awoke the next morning to the same thoughts and meditations which had at

  • length closed her eyes.

  • She could not yet recover from the surprise of what had happened; it was impossible to

  • think of anything else; and, totally indisposed for employment, she resolved,

  • soon after breakfast, to indulge herself in air and exercise.

  • She was proceeding directly to her favourite walk, when the recollection of

  • Mr. Darcy's sometimes coming there stopped her, and instead of entering the park, she

  • turned up the lane, which led farther from the turnpike-road.

  • The park paling was still the boundary on one side, and she soon passed one of the

  • gates into the ground.

  • After walking two or three times along that part of the lane, she was tempted, by the

  • pleasantness of the morning, to stop at the gates and look into the park.

  • The five weeks which she had now passed in Kent had made a great difference in the

  • country, and every day was adding to the verdure of the early trees.

  • She was on the point of continuing her walk, when she caught a glimpse of a

  • gentleman within the sort of grove which edged the park; he was moving that way;

  • and, fearful of its being Mr. Darcy, she was directly retreating.

  • But the person who advanced was now near enough to see her, and stepping forward

  • with eagerness, pronounced her name.

  • She had turned away; but on hearing herself called, though in a voice which proved it

  • to be Mr. Darcy, she moved again towards the gate.

  • He had by that time reached it also, and, holding out a letter, which she

  • instinctively took, said, with a look of haughty composure, "I have been walking in

  • the grove some time in the hope of meeting you.

  • Will you do me the honour of reading that letter?"

  • And then, with a slight bow, turned again into the plantation, and was soon out of

  • sight.

  • With no expectation of pleasure, but with the strongest curiosity, Elizabeth opened

  • the letter, and, to her still increasing wonder, perceived an envelope containing

  • two sheets of letter-paper, written quite through, in a very close hand.

  • The envelope itself was likewise full. Pursuing her way along the lane, she then

  • began it.

  • It was dated from Rosings, at eight o'clock in the morning, and was as follows:--

  • "Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its

  • containing any repetition of those sentiments or renewal of those offers which

  • were last night so disgusting to you.

  • I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on

  • wishes which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten; and the

  • effort which the formation and the perusal

  • of this letter must occasion, should have been spared, had not my character required

  • it to be written and read.

  • You must, therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention; your

  • feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your

  • justice.

  • "Two offenses of a very different nature, and by no means of equal magnitude, you

  • last night laid to my charge.

  • The first mentioned was, that, regardless of the sentiments of either, I had detached

  • Mr. Bingley from your sister, and the other, that I had, in defiance of various

  • claims, in defiance of honour and humanity,

  • ruined the immediate prosperity and blasted the prospects of Mr. Wickham.

  • Wilfully and wantonly to have thrown off the companion of my youth, the acknowledged

  • favourite of my father, a young man who had scarcely any other dependence than on our

  • patronage, and who had been brought up to

  • expect its exertion, would be a depravity, to which the separation of two young

  • persons, whose affection could be the 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 the 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 yours, I can only say that I am sorry.

  • The necessity must be obeyed, and further apology would be absurd.

  • "I had not been long in Hertfordshire, before I saw, in common with others, that

  • Bingley preferred your elder 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 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 investigation 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 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 to 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 elder 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 that 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 judgement 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 godson, 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 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 to 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 dropped.

  • 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