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|Chapter 16 (Vol. I, Chap. XVI)|
|(Vol. I, Chap. 15)
||Table of Contents
||(Vol. I, Chap. 17)|
|Chapter 16 (Vol. I, Chap. XVI)
|As no objection was made to the young people's engagement with
their aunt, and all Mr. Collins's scruples of leaving Mr. and
Mrs. Bennet for a single evening during his visit were most
steadily resisted, the coach conveyed him and his five cousins
at a suitable hour to Meryton; and the girls had the pleasure
of hearing, as they entered the drawing-room, that Mr. Wickham
had accepted their uncle's invitation, and was then in the
|When this information was given, and they had all taken their
seats, Mr. Collins was at leisure to look around him and
admire, and he was so much struck with the size and furniture
of the apartment, that he declared he might almost have
supposed himself in the small summer breakfast parlour at
Rosings; a comparison that did not at first convey much
gratification; but when Mrs. Philips understood from him what
Rosings was, and who was its proprietor, when she had listened
to the description of only one of Lady Catherine's
drawing-rooms, and found that the chimney-piece alone had cost
eight hundred pounds, she felt all the force of the compliment,
and would hardly have resented a comparison with the
|In describing to her all the grandeur of Lady Catherine and her
mansion, with occasional digressions in praise of his own
humble abode and the improvements it was receiving, he was
happily employed until the gentlemen joined them; and he found
in Mrs. Philips a very attentive listener, whose opinion of his
consequence increased with what she heard, and who was
resolving to retail it all among her neighbours as soon as she
could. To the girls, who could not listen to their cousin, and
who had nothing to do but to wish for an instrument, and
examine their own indifferent imitations of china on the
mantlepiece, the interval of waiting appeared very long. It
was over at last however. The gentlemen did approach; and when
Mr. Wickham walked into the room, Elizabeth felt that she had
neither been seeing him before, nor thinking of him since, with
the smallest degree of unreasonable admiration. The officers
of the -----shire were in general a very creditable,
gentlemanlike set, and the best of them were of the present
party; but Mr. Wickham was as far beyond them all in person,
countenance, air, and walk, as they were superior to the
broad-faced stuffy uncle Philips, breathing port wine, who
followed them into the room.
|Mr. Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every female
eye was turned, and Elizabeth was the happy woman by whom he
finally seated himself; and the agreeable manner in which he
immediately fell into conversation, though it was only on its
being a wet night, and on the probability of a rainy season,
made her feel that the commonest, dullest, most threadbare
topic might be rendered interesting by the skill of the
|With such rivals for the notice of the fair, as Mr. Wickham and
the officers, Mr. Collins seemed likely to sink into
insignificance; to the young ladies he certainly was nothing;
but he had still at intervals a kind listener in Mrs. Philips,
and was, by her watchfulness, most abundantly supplied with
coffee and muffin.
|When the card tables were placed, he had an opportunity
of obliging her in return, by sitting down to whist.
|"I know little of the game, at present," said he, "but I shall
be glad to improve myself, for in my situation of life --"
Mrs. Philips was very thankful for his compliance, but could
not wait for his reason.
|Mr. Wickham did not play at whist, and with ready delight was
he received at the other table between Elizabeth and Lydia. At
first there seemed danger of Lydia's engrossing him entirely
for she was a most determined talker; but being likewise
extremely fond of lottery tickets, she soon grew too much
interested in the game, too eager in making bets and exclaiming
after prizes, to have attention for any one in particular.
Allowing for the common demands of the game, Mr. Wickham was
therefore at leisure to talk to Elizabeth, and she was very
willing to hear him, though what she chiefly wished to hear she
could not hope to be told, the history of his acquaintance with
Mr. Darcy. She dared not even mention that gentleman. Her
curiosity however was unexpectedly relieved. Mr. Wickham began
the subject himself. He inquired how far Netherfield was from
Meryton; and, after receiving her answer, asked in an
hesitating manner how long Mr. Darcy had been staying there.
|"About a month," said Elizabeth; and then, unwilling to let
the subject drop, added, "He is a man of very large property
in Derbyshire, I understand."
|"Yes," replied Wickham; -- "his estate there is a noble one.
A clear ten thousand per annum. You could not have met with
a person more capable of giving you certain information on
that head than myself -- for I have been connected with his
family in a particular manner from my infancy."
|Elizabeth could not but look surprised.
|"You may well be surprised, Miss Bennet, at such an assertion,
after seeing, as you probably might, the very cold manner of
our meeting yesterday. -- Are you much acquainted with
|"As much as I ever wish to be," cried Elizabeth warmly, --
"I have spent four days in the same house with him, and I
think him very disagreeable."
|"I have no right to give my opinion," said Wickham, "as to
his being agreeable or otherwise. I am not qualified to form
one. I have known him too long and to well to be a fair judge.
It is impossible for me to be impartial. But I believe your
opinion of him would in general astonish -- and perhaps you
would not express it quite so strongly anywhere else. -- Here
you are in your own family."
|"Upon my word I say no more here than I might say in any
house in the neighbourhood, except Netherfield. He is not at
all liked in Hertfordshire. Every body is disgusted with his
pride. You will not find him more favourably spoken of by any
|"I cannot pretend to be sorry," said Wickham, after a short
interruption, "that he or that any man should not be estimated
beyond their deserts; but with him I believe it does not
often happen. The world is blinded by his fortune and
consequence, or frightened by his high and imposing manners,
and sees him only as he chooses to be seen."
|"I should take him, even on my slight acquaintance, to be an
ill-tempered man." Wickham only shook his head.
|"I wonder," said he, at the next opportunity of speaking,
"whether he is likely to be in this country much longer."
|"I do not at all know; but I heard nothing of his going away
when I was at Netherfield. I hope your plans in favour of the
----shire will not be affected by his being in the
|"Oh! no -- it is not for me to be driven away by Mr. Darcy.
If he wishes to avoid seeing me, he must go. We are not
on friendly terms, and it always gives me pain to meet him, but
I have no reason for avoiding him but what I might proclaim
to all the world; a sense of very great ill-usage, and most
painful regrets at his being what he is. His father, Miss
Bennet, the late Mr. Darcy, was one of the best men that ever
breathed, and the truest friend I ever had; and I can never
be in company with this Mr. Darcy without being grieved to
the soul by a thousand tender recollections. His behaviour
to myself has been scandalous; but I verily believe I could
forgive him any thing and every thing, rather than his
disappointing the hopes and disgracing the memory of his
|Elizabeth found the interest of the subject increase, and
listened with all her heart; but the delicacy of it prevented
|Mr. Wickham began to speak on more general topics, Meryton, the
neighbourhood, the society, appearing highly pleased with all
that he had yet seen, and speaking of the latter especially,
with gentle but very intelligible gallantry.
|"It was the prospect of constant society, and good society," he
added, "which was my chief inducement to enter the ----shire.
I knew it to be a most respectable, agreeable corps, and my
friend Denny tempted me farther by his account of their
present quarters, and the very great attentions and excellent
acquaintance Meryton had procured them. Society, I own, is
necessary to me. I have been a disappointed man, and my
spirits will not bear solitude. I must have employment and
society. A military life is not what I was intended for, but
circumstances have now made it eligible. The church ought
to have been my profession -- I was brought up for the church,
and I should at this time have been in possession of a most
valuable living, had it pleased the gentleman we were speaking
of just now."
|"Yes -- the late Mr. Darcy bequeathed me the next presentation
of the best living in his gift. He was my godfather, and
excessively attached to me. I cannot do justice to his
kindness. He meant to provide for me amply, and thought he had
done it; but when the living fell, it was given elsewhere."
|"Good heavens!" cried Elizabeth; "but how could that be? --
How could his will be disregarded? -- Why did not you seek
|"There was just such an informality in the terms of the bequest
as to give me no hope from law. A man of honour could not have
doubted the intention, but Mr. Darcy chose to doubt it -- or to
treat it as a merely conditional recommendation, and to assert
that I had forfeited all claim to it by extravagance,
imprudence, in short any thing or nothing. Certain it is, that
the living became vacant two years ago, exactly as I was of an
age to hold it, and that it was given to another man; and no
less certain is it, that I cannot accuse myself of having
really done any thing to deserve to lose it. I have a warm,
unguarded temper, and I may perhaps have sometimes spoken my
opinion of him, and to him, too freely. I can recall
nothing worse. But the fact is, that we are very different
sort of men, and that he hates me."
|"This is quite shocking! -- He deserves to be publicly
|"Some time or other he will be -- but it shall not be by
me. Till I can forget his father, I can never defy or expose
|Elizabeth honoured him for such feelings, and thought him
handsomer than ever as he expressed them.
|"But what," said she after a pause, "can have been his motive?
-- what can have induced him to behave so cruelly?"
|"A thorough, determined dislike of me -- a dislike which I
cannot but attribute in some measure to jealousy. Had the late
Mr. Darcy liked me less, his son might have borne with me
better; but his father's uncommon attachment to me, irritated
him I believe very early in life. He had not a temper to bear
the sort of competition in which we stood -- the sort of
preference which was often given me."
|"I had not thought Mr. Darcy so bad as this -- though I
have never liked him, I had not thought so very ill of him --
I had supposed him to be despising his fellow-creatures in
general, but did not suspect him of descending to such
malicious revenge, such injustice, such inhumanity as this!"
|After a few minutes reflection, however, she continued, "I do
remember his boasting one day, at Netherfield, of the
implacability of his resentments, of his having an unforgiving
temper. His disposition must be dreadful."
|"I will not trust myself on the subject," replied Wickham,
"I can hardly be just to him."
|Elizabeth was again deep in thought, and after a time
exclaimed, "To treat in such a manner, the godson, the friend,
the favourite of his father!" -- She could have added, "A young
man too, like you, whose very countenance may vouch for your
being amiable" -- but she contented herself with "And one, too,
who had probably been his own companion from childhood,
connected together, as I think you said, in the closest
|"We were born in the same parish, within the same park, the
greatest part of our youth was passed together; inmates of the
same house, sharing the same amusements, objects of the same
parental care. My father began life in the profession which
your uncle, Mr. Philips, appears to do so much credit to -- but
he gave up every thing to be of use to the late Mr. Darcy, and
devoted all his time to the care of the Pemberley property. He
was most highly esteemed by Mr. Darcy, a most intimate,
confidential friend. Mr. Darcy often acknowledged. himself to
be under the greatest obligations to my father's active
superintendance, and when immediately before my father's death,
Mr. Darcy gave him a voluntary promise of providing for me, I
am convinced that he felt it to be as much a debt of gratitude
to him, as of affection to myself."
|"How strange!" cried Elizabeth. "How abominable! -- I wonder
that the very pride of this Mr. Darcy has not made him just to
you! -- If from no better motive, that he should not have been
too proud to be dishonest, -- for dishonesty I must call it."
|"It is wonderful," -- replied Wickham, -- "for almost all his
actions may be traced to pride; -- and pride has often been his
best friend. It has connected him nearer with virtue than any
other feeling. But we are none of us consistent; and in his
behaviour to me, there were stronger impulses even than pride."
|"Can such abominable pride as his, have ever done him good?"
|"Yes. It has often led him to be liberal and generous, -- to
give his money freely, to display hospitality, to assist his
tenants, and relieve the poor. Family pride, and filial
pride, for he is very proud of what his father was, have done
this. Not to appear to disgrace his family, to degenerate from
the popular qualities, or lose the influence of the Pemberley
House, is a powerful motive. He has also brotherly pride,
which with some brotherly affection, makes him a very kind
and careful guardian of his sister; and you will hear him
generally cried up as the most attentive and best of brothers."
|"What sort of a girl is Miss Darcy?"
|He shook his head. -- "I wish I could call her amiable. It
gives me pain to speak ill of a Darcy. But she is too much
like her brother, -- very, very proud. -- As a child, she was
affectionate and pleasing, and extremely fond of me; and I have
devoted hours and hours to her amusement. But she is nothing
to me now. She is a handsome girl, about fifteen or sixteen,
and, I understand, highly accomplished. Since her father's
death, her home has been London, where a lady lives with her,
and superintends her education."
|After many pauses and many trials of other subjects, Elizabeth
could not help reverting once more to the first, and saying,
|"I am astonished at his intimacy with Mr. Bingley! How can
Mr. Bingley, who seems good humour itself, and is, I really
believe, truly amiable, be in friendship with such a man? How
can they suit each other? -- Do you know Mr. Bingley?"
|"Not at all."
|"He is a sweet tempered, amiable, charming man. He cannot know
what Mr. Darcy is."
|"Probably not; -- but Mr. Darcy can please where he chooses. He
does not want abilities. He can be a conversible companion if
he thinks it worth his while. Among those who are at all his
equals in consequence, he is a very different man from what he
is to the less prosperous. His pride never deserts him; but
with the rich, he is liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational,
honourable, and perhaps agreeable, -- allowing something for
fortune and figure."
|The whist party soon afterwards breaking up, the players
gathered round the other table, and Mr. Collins took his
station between his cousin Elizabeth and Mrs. Philips. -- The
usual inquiries as to his success were made by the latter. It
had not been very great; he had lost every point; but when
Mrs. Philips began to express her concern thereupon, he assured
her with much earnest gravity that it was not of the least
importance, that he considered the money as a mere trifle, and
begged she would not make herself uneasy.
|"I know very well, madam," said he, "that when persons sit
down to a card table, they must take their chance of these
things, -- and happily I am not in such circumstances as to
make five shillings any object. There are undoubtedly many
who could not say the same, but thanks to Lady Catherine de
Bourgh, I am removed far beyond the necessity of regarding
|Mr. Wickham's attention was caught; and after observing
Mr. Collins for a few moments, he asked Elizabeth in a low
voice whether her relation were very intimately acquainted with
the family of de Bourgh.
|"Lady Catherine de Bourgh," she replied, "has very lately
given him a living. I hardly know how Mr. Collins was first
introduced to her notice, but he certainly has not known
|"You know of course that Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady
Anne Darcy were sisters; consequently that she is aunt to
the present Mr. Darcy."
|"No, indeed, I did not. -- I knew nothing at all of Lady
Catherine's connections. I never heard of her existence till
the day before yesterday."
|"Her daughter, Miss de Bourgh, will have a very large fortune,
and it is believed that she and her cousin will unite the two
|This information made Elizabeth smile, as she thought of poor
Miss Bingley. Vain indeed must be all her attentions, vain and
useless her affection for his sister and her praise of himself,
if he were already self-destined to another.
|"Mr. Collins," said she, "speaks highly both of Lady Catherine
and her daughter; but from some particulars that he has related
of her ladyship, I suspect his gratitude misleads him, and that
in spite of her being his patroness, she is an arrogant,
|"I believe her to be both in a great degree," replied Wickham;
"I have not seen her for many years, but I very well remember
that I never liked her, and that her manners were dictatorial
and insolent. She has the reputation of being remarkably
sensible and clever; but I rather believe she derives part of
her abilities from her rank and fortune, part from her
authoritative manner, and the rest from the pride of her
nephew, who chooses that every one connected with him should
have an understanding of the first class."
|Elizabeth allowed that he had given a very rational account of
it, and they continued talking together with mutual
satisfaction till supper put an end to cards; and gave the rest
of the ladies their share of Mr. Wickham's attentions. There
could be no conversation in the noise of Mrs. Philips's supper
party, but his manners recommended him to every body. Whatever
he said, was said well; and whatever he did, done gracefully.
Elizabeth went away with her head full of him. She could think
of nothing but of Mr. Wickham, and of what he had told her, all
the way home; but there was not time for her even to mention
his name as they went, for neither Lydia nor Mr. Collins were
once silent. Lydia talked incessantly of lottery tickets, of
the fish she had lost and the fish she had won, and Mr.
Collins, in describing the civility of Mr. and Mrs. Philips,
protesting that he did not in the least regard his losses at
whist, enumerating all the dishes at supper, and repeatedly
fearing that he crowded his cousins, had more to say than he
could well manage before the carriage stopped at Longbourn
|(Vol. I, Chap. 15)
||Table of Contents
||(Vol. I, Chap. 17)|
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in English and Chinese