MRS. Gardiner's caution to Elizabeth was punctually and kindly given on the first favourable opportunity of speaking to her alone; after honestly telling her what she thought, she thus went on:
"You are too sensible a girl, Lizzy, to fall in love merely because you are warned against it; and, therefore, I am not afraid of speaking openly. Seriously, I would have you be on your guard. Do not involve yourself, or endeavour to involve him in an affection which the want of fortune would make so very imprudent
. I have nothing to say against him; he is a most interesting young man; and if he had the fortune he ought to have, I should think you could not do better. But as it is -- you must not let your fancy run away with you. You have sense, and we all expect you to use it. Your father would depend on your resolution
and good conduct, I am sure. You must not disappoint your father."
"My dear aunt, this is being serious indeed."
"Yes, and I hope to engage you to be serious likewise."
"Well, then, you need not be under any alarm. I will take care of myself, and of Mr. Wickham too. He shall not be in love with me, if I can prevent it."
"Elizabeth, you are not serious now."
"I beg your pardon. I will try again. At present I am not in love with Mr. Wickham; no, I certainly am not. But he is, beyond all comparison, the most agreeable man I ever saw -- and if he becomes really attached to me -- I believe it will be better that he should not. I see the imprudence of it. -- Oh! that abominable
Mr. Darcy! -- My father's opinion of me does me the greatest honor; and I should be miserable to forfeit
it. My father, however, is partial to Mr. Wickham. In short, my dear aunt, I should be very sorry to be the means of making any of you unhappy; but since we see every day that where there is affection, young people are seldom withheld by immediate want of fortune from entering into engagements with each other, how can I promise to be wiser than so many of my fellow creatures if I am tempted, or how am I even to know that it would be wisdom to resist? All that I can promise you, therefore, is not to be in a hurry. I will not be in a hurry to believe myself his first object. When I am in company with him, I will not be wishing. In short, I will do my best."
"Perhaps it will be as well, if you discourage his coming here so very often. At least, you should not remind your mother of inviting him."
"As I did the other day," said Elizabeth, with a conscious
smile; "very true, it will be wise in me to refrain
from that. But do not imagine that he is always here so often. It is on your account that he has been so frequently invited this week. You know my mother's ideas as to the necessity of constant company for her friends. But really, and upon my honour, I will try to do what I think to be wisest; and now, I hope you are satisfied."
Her aunt assured her that she was; and Elizabeth having thanked her for the kindness of her hints, they parted; a wonderful instance of advice being given on such a point without being resented.