Read & Download Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen ebook, pdf, epub txt

Read & Download Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen ebook, pdf, epub txt

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

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
manner 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, 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 had imposed on you; but his
success is not perhaps to be wondered at. Ignorant as you
previously were of everything 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 everything 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.


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