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But they were entirely ignorant of what had passed; and their
raptures continued, with little intermission, to the very day of
Lydia’s leaving home.
Elizabeth was now to see Mr. Wickham for the last time. Having
been frequently in company with him since her return, agitation
was pretty well over; the agitations of former partiality entirely so.
She had even learnt to detect, in the very gentleness which had first
delighted her, an affectation and a sameness to disgust and weary.
In his present behavior to herself, moreover, she had a fresh source
of displeasure, for the inclination he soon testified of renewing
those attentions which had marked the early part of their
acquaintance could only serve, after what had since passed, to
provoke her. She lost all concern for him in finding herself thus
selected as the object of such idle and frivolous gallantry; and
while she steadily repressed it, could not but feel the reproof
contained in his believing, that however long, and for whatever
cause, his attentions had been withdrawn, her vanity would be
gratified, and her preference secured at any time by their renewal.
On the very last day of the regiment’s remaining at Meryton, he
dined, with others of the officers, at Longbourn; and so little was
Elizabeth disposed to part from him in good humor, that on his
making some inquiry as to the manner in which her time had
passed at Hunsford, she mentioned Colonel Fitzwilliam’s and
Mr. Darcy’s having both spent three weeks at Rosings, and asked
him if he was acquainted with the former.
He looked surprised, displeased, alarmed; but with a moment’s
recollection and a returning smile, replied, that he had formerly
seen him often; and, after observing that he was a very
gentlemanlike man, asked her how she had liked him.
Her answer was warmly in his favor. With an air of indifference he
soon afterwards added“How long did you say that he was at
Rosings?” “Nearly three weeks.” “And you saw him frequently?”
“Yes, almost every day.” “His manners are very different from his
cousin’s.” “Yes, very different. But I think Mr. Darcy improves on
acquaintance.” “Indeed!” cried Wickham, with a look which did
not escape her. “And pray, may I ask?”- But checking himself, he
added, in a gayer tone, “Is it in address that he improves? Has he
deigned to add aught of civility to his ordinary style?for I dare not
hope,” he continued in a lower and more serious tone, “that he is
improved in essentials.” “Oh, no!” said Elizabeth. “In essentials, I
believe, he is very much what he ever was.”
While she spoke, Wickham looked as if scarcely knowing whether
to rejoice over her words, or to distrust their meaning. There was a
something in her countenance which made him listen with an