Pride and Prejudice
Part 6 out of 8
She had never perceived, while the regiment was in Hertfordshire,
that Lydia had any partiality for him; but she was convinced that
Lydia wanted only encouragement to attach herself to anybody.
Sometimes one officer, sometimes another, had been her favourite,
as their attentions raised them in her opinion. Her affections
had continually been fluctuating but never without an object.
The mischief of neglect and mistaken indulgence towards such a
girl--oh! how acutely did she now feel it!
She was wild to be at home--to hear, to see, to be upon the
spot to share with Jane in the cares that must now fall wholly
upon her, in a family so deranged, a father absent, a mother
incapable of exertion, and requiring constant attendance; and
though almost persuaded that nothing could be done for Lydia,
her uncle's interference seemed of the utmost importance, and
till he entered the room her impatience was severe. Mr. and
Mrs. Gardiner had hurried back in alarm, supposing by the
servant's account that their niece was taken suddenly ill; but
satisfying them instantly on that head, she eagerly communicated
the cause of their summons, reading the two letters aloud, and
dwelling on the postscript of the last with trembling energy,
though Lydia had never been a favourite with them, Mr. and
Mrs. Gardiner could not but be deeply afflicted. Not Lydia
only, but all were concerned in it; and after the first
exclamations of surprise and horror, Mr. Gardiner promised
every assistance in his power. Elizabeth, though expecting no
less, thanked him with tears of gratitude; and all three being
actuated by one spirit, everything relating to their journey was
speedily settled. They were to be off as soon as possible. "But
what is to be done about Pemberley?" cried Mrs. Gardiner.
"John told us Mr. Darcy was here when you sent for us; was it
"Yes; and I told him we should not be able to keep our
engagement. THAT is all settled."
"What is all settled?" repeated the other, as she ran into her
room to prepare. "And are they upon such terms as for her to
disclose the real truth? Oh, that I knew how it was!"
But wishes were vain, or at least could only serve to amuse her
in the hurry and confusion of the following hour. Had Elizabeth
been at leisure to be idle, she would have remained certain that
all employment was impossible to one so wretched as herself;
but she had her share of business as well as her aunt, and
amongst the rest there were notes to be written to all their
friends at Lambton, with false excuses for their sudden
departure. An hour, however, saw the whole completed; and
Mr. Gardiner meanwhile having settled his account at the inn,
nothing remained to be done but to go; and Elizabeth, after all
the misery of the morning, found herself, in a shorter space of
time than she could have supposed, seated in the carriage, and
on the road to Longbourn.
"I have been thinking it over again, Elizabeth," said her uncle,
as they drove from the town; "and really, upon serious
consideration, I am much more inclined than I was to judge as
your eldest sister does on the matter. It appears to me so very
unlikely that any young man should form such a design against
a girl who is by no means unprotected or friendless, and who
was actually staying in his colonel's family, that I am strongly
inclined to hope the best. Could he expect that her friends
would not step forward? Could he expect to be noticed again
by the regiment, after such an affront to Colonel Forster? His
temptation is not adequate to the risk!"
"Do you really think so?" cried Elizabeth, brightening up for a
"Upon my word," said Mrs. Gardiner, "I begin to be of your
uncle's opinion. It is really too great a violation of decency,
honour, and interest, for him to be guilty of. I cannot think
so very ill of Wickham. Can you yourself, Lizzy, so wholly give
him up, as to believe him capable of it?"
"Not, perhaps, of neglecting his own interest; but of every other
neglect I can believe him capable. If, indeed, it should be so!
But I dare not hope it. Why should they not go on to Scotland
if that had been the case?"
"In the first place," replied Mr. Gardiner, "there is no absolute
proof that they are not gone to Scotland."
"Oh! but their removing from the chaise into a hackney coach is
such a presumption! And, besides, no traces of them were to be
found on the Barnet road."
"Well, then--supposing them to be in London. They may be there,
though for the purpose of concealment, for no more exceptional
purpose. It is not likely that money should be very abundant on
either side; and it might strike them that they could be more
economically, though less expeditiously, married in London
than in Scotland."
"But why all this secrecy? Why any fear of detection? Why must
their marriage be private? Oh, no, no--this is not likely.
His most particular friend, you see by Jane's account, was
persuaded of his never intending to marry her. Wickham will
never marry a woman without some money. He cannot afford
it. And what claims has Lydia--what attraction has she beyond
youth, health, and good humour that could make him, for her
sake, forego every chance of benefiting himself by marrying
well? As to what restraint the apprehensions of disgrace in the
corps might throw on a dishonourable elopement with her, I am
not able to judge; for I know nothing of the effects that such a
step might produce. But as to your other objection, I am afraid
it will hardly hold good. Lydia has no brothers to step forward;
and he might imagine, from my father's behaviour, from his
indolence and the little attention he has ever seemed to give
to what was going forward in his family, that HE would do as
little, and think as little about it, as any father could do,
in such a matter."
"But can you think that Lydia is so lost to everything but love
of him as to consent to live with him on any terms other than
"It does seem, and it is most shocking indeed," replied Elizabeth,
with tears in her eyes, "that a sister's sense of decency and
virtue in such a point should admit of doubt. But, really,
I know not what to say. Perhaps I am not doing her justice.
But she is very young; she has never been taught to think
on serious subjects; and for the last half-year, nay, for a
twelvemonth--she has been given up to nothing but amusement
and vanity. She has been allowed to dispose of her time in the
most idle and frivolous manner, and to adopt any opinions that
came in her way. Since the ----shire were first quartered in
Meryton, nothing but love, flirtation, and officers have been
in her head. She has been doing everything in her power by
thinking and talking on the subject, to give greater--what shall
I call it? susceptibility to her feelings; which are naturally
lively enough. And we all know that Wickham has every charm of
person and address that can captivate a woman."
"But you see that Jane," said her aunt, "does not think so very
ill of Wickham as to believe him capable of the attempt."
"Of whom does Jane ever think ill? And who is there, whatever
might be their former conduct, that she would think capable of
such an attempt, till it were proved against them? But Jane
knows, as well as I do, what Wickham really is. We both know
that he has been profligate in every sense of the word; that he
has neither integrity nor honour; that he is as false and
deceitful as he is insinuating."
"And do you really know all this?" cried Mrs. Gardiner, whose
curiosity as to the mode of her intelligence was all alive.
"I do indeed," replied Elizabeth, colouring. "I told you, the
other day, of his infamous behaviour to Mr. Darcy; and you
yourself, when last at Longbourn, heard in what manner he
spoke of the man who had behaved with such forbearance and
liberality towards him. And there are other circumstances which
I am not at liberty--which it is not worth while to relate; but
his lies about the whole Pemberley family are endless. From what
he said of Miss Darcy I was thoroughly prepared to see a proud,
reserved, disagreeable girl. Yet he knew to the contrary himself.
He must know that she was as amiable and unpretending as we
have found her."
"But does Lydia know nothing of this? can she be ignorant of
what you and Jane seem so well to understand?"
"Oh, yes!--that, that is the worst of all. Till I was in Kent,
and saw so much both of Mr. Darcy and his relation Colonel
Fitzwilliam, I was ignorant of the truth myself. And when I
returned home, the ----shire was to leave Meryton in a week or
fortnight's time. As that was the case, neither Jane, to whom
I related the whole, nor I, thought it necessary to make our
knowledge public; for of what use could it apparently be to any
one, that the good opinion which all the neighbourhood had of
him should then be overthrown? And even when it was settled
that Lydia should go with Mrs. Forster, the necessity of opening
her eyes to his character never occurred to me. That SHE could
be in any danger from the deception never entered my head.
That such a consequence as THIS could ensue, you may easily
believe, was far enough from my thoughts."
"When they all removed to Brighton, therefore, you had no
reason, I suppose, to believe them fond of each other?"
"Not the slightest. I can remember no symptom of affection on
either side; and had anything of the kind been perceptible, you
must be aware that ours is not a family on which it could be
thrown away. When first he entered the corps, she was ready
enough to admire him; but so we all were. Every girl in or
near Meryton was out of her senses about him for the first
two months; but he never distinguished HER by any particular
attention; and, consequently, after a moderate period of
extravagant and wild admiration, her fancy for him gave
way, and others of the regiment, who treated her with more
distinction, again became her favourites."
* * * * *
It may be easily believed, that however little of novelty could be
added to their fears, hopes, and conjectures, on this interesting
subject, by its repeated discussion, no other could detain them
from it long, during the whole of the journey. From Elizabeth's
thoughts it was never absent. Fixed there by the keenest of all
anguish, self-reproach, she could find no interval of ease or
They travelled as expeditiously as possible, and, sleeping one
night on the road, reached Longbourn by dinner time the next
day. It was a comfort to Elizabeth to consider that Jane could
not have been wearied by long expectations.
The little Gardiners, attracted by the sight of a chaise, were
standing on the steps of the house as they entered the paddock;
and, when the carriage drove up to the door, the joyful surprise
that lighted up their faces, and displayed itself over their whole
bodies, in a variety of capers and frisks, was the first pleasing
earnest of their welcome.
Elizabeth jumped out; and, after giving each of them a hasty
kiss, hurried into the vestibule, where Jane, who came running
down from her mother's apartment, immediately met her.
Elizabeth, as she affectionately embraced her, whilst tears filled
the eyes of both, lost not a moment in asking whether anything
had been heard of the fugitives.
"Not yet," replied Jane. "But now that my dear uncle is come,
I hope everything will be well."
"Is my father in town?"
"Yes, he went on Tuesday, as I wrote you word."
"And have you heard from him often?"
"We have heard only twice. He wrote me a few lines on
Wednesday to say that he had arrived in safety, and to give me
his directions, which I particularly begged him to do. He merely
added that he should not write again till he had something of
importance to mention."
"And my mother--how is she? How are you all?"
"My mother is tolerably well, I trust; though her spirits are
greatly shaken. She is upstairs and will have great satisfaction
in seeing you all. She does not yet leave her dressing-room.
Mary and Kitty are, thank Heaven, are quite well."
"But you--how are you?" cried Elizabeth. "You look pale.
How much you must have gone through!"
Her sister, however, assured her of her being perfectly well;
and their conversation, which had been passing while Mr. and
Mrs. Gardiner were engaged with their children, was now put an
end to by the approach of the whole party. Jane ran to her uncle
and aunt, and welcomed and thanked them both, with alternate
smiles and tears.
When they were all in the drawing-room, the questions which
Elizabeth had already asked were of course repeated by the
others, and they soon found that Jane had no intelligence
to give. The sanguine hope of good, however, which the
benevolence of her heart suggested had not yet deserted her;
she still expected that it would all end well, and that every
morning would bring some letter, either from Lydia or her
father, to explain their proceedings, and, perhaps, announce
Mrs. Bennet, to whose apartment they all repaired, after a few
minutes' conversation together, received them exactly as might
be expected; with tears and lamentations of regret, invectives
against the villainous conduct of Wickham, and complaints of
her own sufferings and ill-usage; blaming everybody but the
person to whose ill-judging indulgence the errors of her
daughter must principally be owing.
"If I had been able," said she, "to carry my point in going to
Brighton, with all my family, THIS would not have happened;
but poor dear Lydia had nobody to take care of her. Why did
the Forsters ever let her go out of their sight? I am sure there
was some great neglect or other on their side, for she is not the
kind of girl to do such a thing if she had been well looked after.
I always thought they were very unfit to have the charge of her;
but I was overruled, as I always am. Poor dear child! And
now here's Mr. Bennet gone away, and I know he will fight
Wickham, wherever he meets him and then he will be killed, and
what is to become of us all? The Collinses will turn us out
before he is cold in his grave, and if you are not kind to us,
brother, I do not know what we shall do."
They all exclaimed against such terrific ideas; and Mr. Gardiner,
after general assurances of his affection for her and all her
family, told her that he meant to be in London the very next day,
and would assist Mr. Bennet in every endeavour for recovering
"Do not give way to useless alarm," added he; "though it is
right to be prepared for the worst, there is no occasion to look
on it as certain. It is not quite a week since they left Brighton.
In a few days more we may gain some news of them; and till we
know that they are not married, and have no design of marrying,
do not let us give the matter over as lost. As soon as I get to
town I shall go to my brother, and make him come home with
me to Gracechurch Street; and then we may consult together as
to what is to be done."
"Oh! my dear brother," replied Mrs. Bennet, "that is exactly
what I could most wish for. And now do, when you get to
town, find them out, wherever they may be; and if they are
not married already, MAKE them marry. And as for wedding
clothes, do not let them wait for that, but tell Lydia she
shall have as much money as she chooses to buy them, after they
are married. And, above all, keep Mr. Bennet from fighting.
Tell him what a dreadful state I am in, that I am frighted out
of my wits--and have such tremblings, such flutterings, all
over me--such spasms in my side and pains in my head, and
such beatings at heart, that I can get no rest by night nor by
day. And tell my dear Lydia not to give any directions about
her clothes till she has seen me, for she does not know which
are the best warehouses. Oh, brother, how kind you are! I
know you will contrive it all."
But Mr. Gardiner, though he assured her again of his earnest
endeavours in the cause, could not avoid recommending moderation
to her, as well in her hopes as her fear; and after talking with
her in this manner till dinner was on the table, they all left
her to vent all her feelings on the housekeeper, who attended
in the absence of her daughters.
Though her brother and sister were persuaded that there was no
real occasion for such a seclusion from the family, they did not
attempt to oppose it, for they knew that she had not prudence
enough to hold her tongue before the servants, while they
waited at table, and judged it better that ONE only of the
household, and the one whom they could most trust should
comprehend all her fears and solicitude on the subject.
In the dining-room they were soon joined by Mary and Kitty,
who had been too busily engaged in their separate apartments
to make their appearance before. One came from her books,
and the other from her toilette. The faces of both, however,
were tolerably calm; and no change was visible in either, except
that the loss of her favourite sister, or the anger which she had
herself incurred in this business, had given more of fretfulness
than usual to the accents of Kitty. As for Mary, she was
mistress enough of herself to whisper to Elizabeth, with a
countenance of grave reflection, soon after they were seated
"This is a most unfortunate affair, and will probably be much
talked of. But we must stem the tide of malice, and pour into
the wounded bosoms of each other the balm of sisterly consolation."
Then, perceiving in Elizabeth no inclination of replying, she
added, "Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw
from it this useful lesson: that loss of virtue in a female is
irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin;
that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and
that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the
undeserving of the other sex."
Elizabeth lifted up her eyes in amazement, but was too much
oppressed to make any reply. Mary, however, continued to
console herself with such kind of moral extractions from the
evil before them.
In the afternoon, the two elder Miss Bennets were able to be
for half-an-hour by themselves; and Elizabeth instantly availed
herself of the opportunity of making any inquiries, which Jane
was equally eager to satisfy. After joining in general
lamentations over the dreadful sequel of this event, which
Elizabeth considered as all but certain, and Miss Bennet could
not assert to be wholly impossible, the former continued the
subject, by saying, "But tell me all and everything about it
which I have not already heard. Give me further particulars.
What did Colonel Forster say? Had they no apprehension of
anything before the elopement took place? They must have seen
them together for ever."
"Colonel Forster did own that he had often suspected some
partiality, especially on Lydia's side, but nothing to give him any
alarm. I am so grieved for him! His behaviour was attentive and
kind to the utmost. He WAS coming to us, in order to assure us
of his concern, before he had any idea of their not being gone to
Scotland: when that apprehension first got abroad, it hastened
"And was Denny convinced that Wickham would not marry? Did
he know of their intending to go off? Had Colonel Forster
seen Denny himself?"
"Yes; but, when questioned by HIM, Denny denied knowing
anything of their plans, and would not give his real opinion
about it. He did not repeat his persuasion of their not
marrying--and from THAT, I am inclined to hope, he might
have been misunderstood before."
"And till Colonel Forster came himself, not one of you
entertained a doubt, I suppose, of their being really married?"
"How was it possible that such an idea should enter our brains?
I felt a little uneasy--a little fearful of my sister's happiness
with him in marriage, because I knew that his conduct had not been
always quite right. My father and mother knew nothing of that;
they only felt how imprudent a match it must be. Kitty then
owned, with a very natural triumph on knowing more than the
rest of us, that in Lydia's last letter she had prepared her for
such a step. She had known, it seems, of their being in love with
each other, many weeks."
"But not before they went to Brighton?"
"No, I believe not."
"And did Colonel Forster appear to think well of Wickham
himself? Does he know his real character?"
"I must confess that he did not speak so well of Wickham as he
formerly did. He believed him to be imprudent and extravagant.
And since this sad affair has taken place, it is said that he
left Meryton greatly in debt; but I hope this may be false."
"Oh, Jane, had we been less secret, had we told what we knew
of him, this could not have happened!"
"Perhaps it would have been better," replied her sister. "But to
expose the former faults of any person without knowing what
their present feelings were, seemed unjustifiable. We acted with
the best intentions."
"Could Colonel Forster repeat the particulars of Lydia's note to
"He brought it with him for us to see."
Jane then took it from her pocket-book, and gave it to Elizabeth.
These were the contents:
"MY DEAR HARRIET,
"You will laugh when you know where I am gone, and I cannot
help laughing myself at your surprise to-morrow morning, as
soon as I am missed. I am going to Gretna Green, and if you
cannot guess with who, I shall think you a simpleton, for there
is but one man in the world I love, and he is an angel. I should
never be happy without him, so think it no harm to be off. You
need not send them word at Longbourn of my going, if you do
not like it, for it will make the surprise the greater, when I
write to them and sign my name 'Lydia Wickham.' What a good
joke it will be! I can hardly write for laughing. Pray make
my excuses to Pratt for not keeping my engagement, and dancing
with him to-night. Tell him I hope he will excuse me when he
knows all; and tell him I will dance with him at the next ball
we meet, with great pleasure. I shall send for my clothes when
I get to Longbourn; but I wish you would tell Sally to mend a
great slit in my worked muslin gown before they are packed up.
Good-bye. Give my love to Colonel Forster. I hope you will
drink to our good journey.
"Your affectionate friend,
"Oh! thoughtless, thoughtless Lydia!" cried Elizabeth when she
had finished it. "What a letter is this, to be written at such
a moment! But at least it shows that SHE was serious on the
subject of their journey. Whatever he might afterwards
persuade her to, it was not on her side a SCHEME of infamy.
My poor father! how he must have felt it!"
"I never saw anyone so shocked. He could not speak a word
for full ten minutes. My mother was taken ill immediately,
and the whole house in such confusion!"
"Oh! Jane," cried Elizabeth, "was there a servant belonging to it
who did not know the whole story before the end of the day?"
"I do not know. I hope there was. But to be guarded at such a
time is very difficult. My mother was in hysterics, and though
I endeavoured to give her every assistance in my power, I am
afraid I did not do so much as I might have done! But the
horror of what might possibly happen almost took from me
"Your attendance upon her has been too much for you. You do
not look well. Oh that I had been with you! you have had
every care and anxiety upon yourself alone."
"Mary and Kitty have been very kind, and would have shared in
every fatigue, I am sure; but I did not think it right for either
of them. Kitty is slight and delicate; and Mary studies so much,
that her hours of repose should not be broken in on. My aunt
Phillips came to Longbourn on Tuesday, after my father went
away; and was so good as to stay till Thursday with me. She
was of great use and comfort to us all. And Lady Lucas has
been very kind; she walked here on Wednesday morning to
condole with us, and offered her services, or any of her
daughters', if they should be of use to us."
"She had better have stayed at home," cried Elizabeth; "perhaps
she MEANT well, but, under such a misfortune as this, one
cannot see too little of one's neighbours. Assistance is
impossible; condolence insufferable. Let them triumph over us
at a distance, and be satisfied."
She then proceeded to inquire into the measures which her
father had intended to pursue, while in town, for the recovery
of his daughter.
"He meant I believe," replied Jane, "to go to Epsom, the place
where they last changed horses, see the postilions and try if
anything could be made out from them. His principal object
must be to discover the number of the hackney coach which
took them from Clapham. It had come with a fare from London;
and as he thought that the circumstance of a gentleman and lady's
removing from one carriage into another might be remarked he
meant to make inquiries at Clapham. If he could anyhow discover
at what house the coachman had before set down his fare, he
determined to make inquiries there, and hoped it might not be
impossible to find out the stand and number of the coach. I do
not know of any other designs that he had formed; but he was in
such a hurry to be gone, and his spirits so greatly discomposed,
that I had difficulty in finding out even so much as this."
The whole party were in hopes of a letter from Mr. Bennet the
next morning, but the post came in without bringing a single line
from him. His family knew him to be, on all common occasions,
a most negligent and dilatory correspondent; but at such a time
they had hoped for exertion. They were forced to conclude that
he had no pleasing intelligence to send; but even of THAT they
would have been glad to be certain. Mr. Gardiner had waited
only for the letters before he set off.
When he was gone, they were certain at least of receiving
constant information of what was going on, and their uncle
promised, at parting, to prevail on Mr. Bennet to return to
Longbourn, as soon as he could, to the great consolation of his
sister, who considered it as the only security for her husband's
not being killed in a duel.
Mrs. Gardiner and the children were to remain in Hertfordshire
a few days longer, as the former thought her presence might be
serviceable to her nieces. She shared in their attendance on
Mrs. Bennet, and was a great comfort to them in their hours of
freedom. Their other aunt also visited them frequently, and
always, as she said, with the design of cheering and heartening
them up--though, as she never came without reporting some
fresh instance of Wickham's extravagance or irregularity, she
seldom went away without leaving them more dispirited than
she found them.
All Meryton seemed striving to blacken the man who, but three
months before, had been almost an angel of light. He was
declared to be in debt to every tradesman in the place, and his
intrigues, all honoured with the title of seduction, had been
extended into every tradesman's family. Everybody declared
that he was the wickedest young man in the world; and everybody
began to find out that they had always distrusted the appearance
of his goodness. Elizabeth, though she did not credit above
half of what was said, believed enough to make her former
assurance of her sister's ruin more certain; and even Jane,
who believed still less of it, became almost hopeless, more
especially as the time was now come when, if they had gone to
Scotland, which she had never before entirely despaired of,
they must in all probability have gained some news of them.
Mr. Gardiner left Longbourn on Sunday; on Tuesday his wife
received a letter from him; it told them that, on his arrival,
he had immediately found out his brother, and persuaded him to
come to Gracechurch Street; that Mr. Bennet had been to
Epsom and Clapham, before his arrival, but without gaining
any satisfactory information; and that he was now determined
to inquire at all the principal hotels in town, as Mr. Bennet
thought it possible they might have gone to one of them, on
their first coming to London, before they procured lodgings.
Mr. Gardiner himself did not expect any success from this
measure, but as his brother was eager in it, he meant to assist
him in pursuing it. He added that Mr. Bennet seemed wholly
disinclined at present to leave London and promised to write
again very soon. There was also a postscript to this effect:
"I have written to Colonel Forster to desire him to find out,
if possible, from some of the young man's intimates in the
regiment, whether Wickham has any relations or connections
who would be likely to know in what part of town he has now
concealed himself. If there were anyone that one could apply
to with a probability of gaining such a clue as that, it might be
of essential consequence. At present we have nothing to guide
us. Colonel Forster will, I dare say, do everything in his power
to satisfy us on this head. But, on second thoughts, perhaps,
Lizzy could tell us what relations he has now living, better than
any other person."
Elizabeth was at no loss to understand from whence this
deference to her authority proceeded; but it was not in her
power to give any information of so satisfactory a nature as the
compliment deserved. She had never heard of his having had
any relations, except a father and mother, both of whom had
been dead many years. It was possible, however, that some of
his companions in the ----shire might be able to give more
information; and though she was not very sanguine in expecting
it, the application was a something to look forward to.
Every day at Longbourn was now a day of anxiety; but the most
anxious part of each was when the post was expected. The
arrival of letters was the grand object of every morning's
impatience. Through letters, whatever of good or bad was to
be told would be communicated, and every succeeding day was
expected to bring some news of importance.
But before they heard again from Mr. Gardiner, a letter arrived
for their father, from a different quarter, from Mr. Collins;
which, as Jane had received directions to open all that came for
him in his absence, she accordingly read; and Elizabeth, who
knew what curiosities his letters always were, looked over her,
and read it likewise. It was as follows:
"MY DEAR SIR,
"I feel myself called upon, by our relationship, and my situation
in life, to condole with you on the grievous affliction you are now
suffering under, of which we were yesterday informed by a letter
from Hertfordshire. Be assured, my dear sir, that Mrs. Collins
and myself sincerely sympathise with you and all your respectable
family, in your present distress, which must be of the bitterest
kind, because proceeding from a cause which no time can remove.
No arguments shall be wanting on my part that can alleviate so
severe a misfortune--or that may comfort you, under a circumstance
that must be of all others the most afflicting to a parent's mind.
The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in comparison
of this. And it is the more to be lamented, because there is
reason to suppose as my dear Charlotte informs me, that this
licentiousness of behaviour in your daughter has proceeded from
a faulty degree of indulgence; though, at the same time, for the
consolation of yourself and Mrs. Bennet, I am inclined to think
that her own disposition must be naturally bad, or she could not
be guilty of such an enormity, at so early an age. Howsoever that
may be, you are grievously to be pitied; in which opinion I am not
only joined by Mrs. Collins, but likewise by Lady Catherine and
her daughter, to whom I have related the affair. They agree with
me in apprehending that this false step in one daughter will be
injurious to the fortunes of all the others; for who, as Lady
Catherine herself condescendingly says, will connect themselves
with such a family? And this consideration leads me moreover
to reflect, with augmented satisfaction, on a certain event
of last November; for had it been otherwise, I must have been
involved in all your sorrow and disgrace. Let me then advise you,
dear sir, to console yourself as much as possible, to throw off
your unworthy child from your affection for ever, and leave her
to reap the fruits of her own heinous offense.
"I am, dear sir, etc., etc."
Mr. Gardiner did not write again till he had received an answer
from Colonel Forster; and then he had nothing of a pleasant
nature to send. It was not known that Wickham had a single
relationship with whom he kept up any connection, and it
was certain that he had no near one living. His former
acquaintances had been numerous; but since he had been in the
militia, it did not appear that he was on terms of particular
friendship with any of them. There was no one, therefore, who
could be pointed out as likely to give any news of him. And
in the wretched state of his own finances, there was a very
powerful motive for secrecy, in addition to his fear of discovery
by Lydia's relations, for it had just transpired that he had
left gaming debts behind him to a very considerable amount.
Colonel Forster believed that more than a thousand pounds
would be necessary to clear his expenses at Brighton. He owed
a good deal in town, but his debts of honour were still more
formidable. Mr. Gardiner did not attempt to conceal these
particulars from the Longbourn family. Jane heard them with
horror. "A gamester!" she cried. "This is wholly unexpected.
I had not an idea of it."
Mr. Gardiner added in his letter, that they might expect to see
their father at home on the following day, which was Saturday.
Rendered spiritless by the ill-success of all their endeavours, he
had yielded to his brother-in-law's entreaty that he would return
to his family, and leave it to him to do whatever occasion might
suggest to be advisable for continuing their pursuit. When Mrs.
Bennet was told of this, she did not express so much satisfaction
as her children expected, considering what her anxiety for his
life had been before.
"What, is he coming home, and without poor Lydia?" she cried.
"Sure he will not leave London before he has found them. Who
is to fight Wickham, and make him marry her, if he comes away?"
As Mrs. Gardiner began to wish to be at home, it was settled
that she and the children should go to London, at the same time
that Mr. Bennet came from it. The coach, therefore, took them
the first stage of their journey, and brought its master back
Mrs. Gardiner went away in all the perplexity about Elizabeth
and her Derbyshire friend that had attended her from that part
of the world. His name had never been voluntarily mentioned
before them by her niece; and the kind of half-expectation which
Mrs. Gardiner had formed, of their being followed by a letter
from him, had ended in nothing. Elizabeth had received none
since her return that could come from Pemberley.
The present unhappy state of the family rendered any other
excuse for the lowness of her spirits unnecessary; nothing,
therefore, could be fairly conjectured from THAT, though
Elizabeth, who was by this time tolerably well acquainted with
her own feelings, was perfectly aware that, had she known
nothing of Darcy, she could have borne the dread of Lydia's
infamy somewhat better. It would have spared her, she thought,
one sleepless night out of two.
When Mr. Bennet arrived, he had all the appearance of his usual
philosophic composure. He said as little as he had ever been in
the habit of saying; made no mention of the business that had
taken him away, and it was some time before his daughters had
courage to speak of it.
It was not till the afternoon, when he had joined them at tea,
that Elizabeth ventured to introduce the subject; and then, on
her briefly expressing her sorrow for what he must have
endured, he replied, "Say nothing of that. Who should suffer
but myself? It has been my own doing, and I ought to feel it."
"You must not be too severe upon yourself," replied Elizabeth.
"You may well warn me against such an evil. Human nature is
so prone to fall into it! No, Lizzy, let me once in my life
feel how much I have been to blame. I am not afraid of being
overpowered by the impression. It will pass away soon enough."
"Do you suppose them to be in London?"
"Yes; where else can they be so well concealed?"
"And Lydia used to want to go to London," added Kitty.
"She is happy then," said her father drily; "and her residence
there will probably be of some duration."
Then after a short silence he continued:
"Lizzy, I bear you no ill-will for being justified in your advice
to me last May, which, considering the event, shows some
greatness of mind."
They were interrupted by Miss Bennet, who came to fetch her
"This is a parade," he cried, "which does one good; it gives such
an elegance to misfortune! Another day I will do the same; I
will sit in my library, in my nightcap and powdering gown, and
give as much trouble as I can; or, perhaps, I may defer it till
Kitty runs away."
"I am not going to run away, papa," said Kitty fretfully. "If I
should ever go to Brighton, I would behave better than Lydia."
"YOU go to Brighton. I would not trust you so near it as
Eastbourne for fifty pounds! No, Kitty, I have at last learnt to
be cautious, and you will feel the effects of it. No officer is ever
to enter into my house again, nor even to pass through the
village. Balls will be absolutely prohibited, unless you stand up
with one of your sisters. And you are never to stir out of doors
till you can prove that you have spent ten minutes of every day
in a rational manner."
Kitty, who took all these threats in a serious light, began to cry.
"Well, well," said he, "do not make yourself unhappy. If you
are a good girl for the next ten years, I will take you to a review
at the end of them."
Two days after Mr. Bennet's return, as Jane and Elizabeth were
walking together in the shrubbery behind the house, they saw
the housekeeper coming towards them, and, concluding that she
came to call them to their mother, went forward to meet her;
but, instead of the expected summons, when they approached
her, she said to Miss Bennet, "I beg your pardon, madam, for
interrupting you, but I was in hopes you might have got some
good news from town, so I took the liberty of coming to ask."
"What do you mean, Hill? We have heard nothing from town."
"Dear madam," cried Mrs. Hill, in great astonishment, "don't
you know there is an express come for master from Mr. Gardiner?
He has been here this half-hour, and master has had a letter."
Away ran the girls, too eager to get in to have time for speech.
They ran through the vestibule into the breakfast-room; from
thence to the library; their father was in neither; and they
were on the point of seeking him upstairs with their mother,
when they were met by the butler, who said:
"If you are looking for my master, ma'am, he is walking
towards the little copse."
Upon this information, they instantly passed through the hall
once more, and ran across the lawn after their father, who was
deliberately pursuing his way towards a small wood on one side
of the paddock.
Jane, who was not so light nor so much in the habit of running
as Elizabeth, soon lagged behind, while her sister, panting for
breath, came up with him, and eagerly cried out:
"Oh, papa, what news--what news? Have you heard from my
"Yes I have had a letter from him by express."
"Well, and what news does it bring--good or bad?"
"What is there of good to be expected?" said he, taking the
letter from his pocket. "But perhaps you would like to read it."
Elizabeth impatiently caught it from his hand. Jane now came up.
"Read it aloud," said their father, "for I hardly know myself what
it is about."
"Gracechurch Street, Monday,
"MY DEAR BROTHER,
"At last I am able to send you some tidings of my niece, and
such as, upon the whole, I hope it will give you satisfaction.
Soon after you left me on Saturday, I was fortunate enough to
find out in what part of London they were. The particulars I
reserve till we meet; it is enough to know they are discovered.
I have seen them both--"
"Then it is as I always hoped," cried Jane; "they are married!"
Elizabeth read on:
"I have seen them both. They are not married, nor can I find
there was any intention of being so; but if you are willing to
perform the engagements which I have ventured to make on your
side, I hope it will not be long before they are. All that is
required of you is, to assure to your daughter, by settlement,
her equal share of the five thousand pounds secured among your
children after the decease of yourself and my sister; and,
moreover, to enter into an engagement of allowing her, during
your life, one hundred pounds per annum. These are conditions
which, considering everything, I had no hesitation in complying
with, as far as I thought myself privileged, for you. I shall
send this by express, that no time may be lost in bringing me
your answer. You will easily comprehend, from these particulars,
that Mr. Wickham's circumstances are not so hopeless as they
are generally believed to be. The world has been deceived in
that respect; and I am happy to say there will be some little
money, even when all his debts are discharged, to settle on my
niece, in addition to her own fortune. If, as I conclude will
be the case, you send me full powers to act in your name
throughout the whole of this business, I will immediately give
directions to Haggerston for preparing a proper settlement.
There will not be the smallest occasion for your coming to town
again; therefore stay quiet at Longbourn, and depend on my
diligence and care. Send back your answer as fast as you can,
and be careful to write explicitly. We have judged it best that
my niece should be married from this house, of which I hope
you will approve. She comes to us to-day. I shall write again
as soon as anything more is determined on. Yours, etc.,
"Is it possible?" cried Elizabeth, when she had finished. "Can it
be possible that he will marry her?"
"Wickham is not so undeserving, then, as we thought him," said
her sister. "My dear father, I congratulate you."
"And have you answered the letter?" cried Elizabeth.
"No; but it must be done soon."
Most earnestly did she then entreaty him to lose no more time
before he wrote.
"Oh! my dear father," she cried, "come back and write immediately.
Consider how important every moment is in such a case."
"Let me write for you," said Jane, "if you dislike the trouble
"I dislike it very much," he replied; "but it must be done."
And so saying, he turned back with them, and walked towards
"And may I ask--" said Elizabeth; "but the terms, I suppose,
must be complied with."
"Complied with! I am only ashamed of his asking so little."
"And they MUST marry! Yet he is SUCH a man!"
"Yes, yes, they must marry. There is nothing else to be done.
But there are two things that I want very much to know; one is,
how much money your uncle has laid down to bring it about;
and the other, how am I ever to pay him."
"Money! My uncle!" cried Jane, "what do you mean, sir?"
"I mean, that no man in his senses would marry Lydia on so
slight a temptation as one hundred a year during my life, and
fifty after I am gone."
"That is very true," said Elizabeth; "though it had not occurred
to me before. His debts to be discharged, and something still
to remain! Oh! it must be my uncle's doings! Generous, good
man, I am afraid he has distressed himself. A small sum could
not do all this."
"No," said her father; "Wickham's a fool if he takes her with a
farthing less than ten thousand pounds. I should be sorry to
think so ill of him, in the very beginning of our relationship."
"Ten thousand pounds! Heaven forbid! How is half such a
sum to be repaid?"
Mr. Bennet made no answer, and each of them, deep in thought,
continued silent till they reached the house. Their father then
went on to the library to write, and the girls walked into the
"And they are really to be married!" cried Elizabeth, as soon
as they were by themselves. "How strange this is! And for
THIS we are to be thankful. That they should marry, small as
is their chance of happiness, and wretched as is his character,
we are forced to rejoice. Oh, Lydia!"
"I comfort myself with thinking," replied Jane, "that he certainly
would not marry Lydia if he had not a real regard for her.
Though our kind uncle has done something towards clearing
him, I cannot believe that ten thousand pounds, or anything like
it, has been advanced. He has children of his own, and may
have more. How could he spare half ten thousand pounds?"
"If he were ever able to learn what Wickham's debts have been,"
said Elizabeth, "and how much is settled on his side on our
sister, we shall exactly know what Mr. Gardiner has done for
them, because Wickham has not sixpence of his own. The
kindness of my uncle and aunt can never be requited. Their
taking her home, and affording her their personal protection
and countenance, is such a sacrifice to her advantage as years
of gratitude cannot enough acknowledge. By this time she
is actually with them! If such goodness does not make her
miserable now, she will never deserve to be happy! What a
meeting for her, when she first sees my aunt!"
"We must endeavour to forget all that has passed on either side,"
said Jane: "I hope and trust they will yet be happy. His
consenting to marry her is a proof, I will believe, that he is
come to a right way of thinking. Their mutual affection will
steady them; and I flatter myself they will settle so quietly,
and live in so rational a manner, as may in time make their
past imprudence forgotten."
"Their conduct has been such," replied Elizabeth, "as neither
you, nor I, nor anybody can ever forget. It is useless to talk
It now occurred to the girls that their mother was in all
likelihood perfectly ignorant of what had happened. They went
to the library, therefore, and asked their father whether he
would not wish them to make it known to her. He was writing
and, without raising his head, coolly replied:
"Just as you please."
"May we take my uncle's letter to read to her?"
"Take whatever you like, and get away."
Elizabeth took the letter from his writing-table, and they went
upstairs together. Mary and Kitty were both with Mrs. Bennet:
one communication would, therefore, do for all. After a slight
preparation for good news, the letter was read aloud. Mrs.
Bennet could hardly contain herself. As soon as Jane had read
Mr. Gardiner's hope of Lydia's being soon married, her joy
burst forth, and every following sentence added to its
exuberance. She was now in an irritation as violent from
delight, as she had ever been fidgety from alarm and vexation.
To know that her daughter would be married was enough. She
was disturbed by no fear for her felicity, nor humbled by any
remembrance of her misconduct.
"My dear, dear Lydia!" she cried. "This is delightful indeed!
She will be married! I shall see her again! She will be married
at sixteen! My good, kind brother! I knew how it would be. I
knew he would manage everything! How I long to see her! and
to see dear Wickham too! But the clothes, the wedding clothes!
I will write to my sister Gardiner about them directly. Lizzy,
my dear, run down to your father, and ask him how much he will
give her. Stay, stay, I will go myself. Ring the bell, Kitty, for
Hill. I will put on my things in a moment. My dear, dear Lydia!
How merry we shall be together when we meet!"
Her eldest daughter endeavoured to give some relief to the
violence of these transports, by leading her thoughts to the
obligations which Mr. Gardiner's behaviour laid them all under.
"For we must attribute this happy conclusion," she added, "in a
great measure to his kindness. We are persuaded that he has
pledged himself to assist Mr. Wickham with money."
"Well," cried her mother, "it is all very right; who should do it
but her own uncle? If he had not had a family of his own, I and
my children must have had all his money, you know; and it is the
first time we have ever had anything from him, except a few
presents. Well! I am so happy! In a short time I shall have
a daughter married. Mrs. Wickham! How well it sounds! And
she was only sixteen last June. My dear Jane, I am in such a
flutter, that I am sure I can't write; so I will dictate, and you
write for me. We will settle with your father about the money
afterwards; but the things should be ordered immediately."
She was then proceeding to all the particulars of calico,
muslin, and cambric, and would shortly have dictated some very
plentiful orders, had not Jane, though with some difficulty,
persuaded her to wait till her father was at leisure to be
consulted. One day's delay, she observed, would be of small
importance; and her mother was too happy to be quite so
obstinate as usual. Other schemes, too, came into her head.
"I will go to Meryton," said she, "as soon as I am dressed, and
tell the good, good news to my sister Philips. And as I come
back, I can call on Lady Lucas and Mrs. Long. Kitty, run down
and order the carriage. An airing would do me a great deal of
good, I am sure. Girls, can I do anything for you in Meryton?
Oh! Here comes Hill! My dear Hill, have you heard the good
news? Miss Lydia is going to be married; and you shall all have
a bowl of punch to make merry at her wedding."
Mrs. Hill began instantly to express her joy. Elizabeth received
her congratulations amongst the rest, and then, sick of this folly,
took refuge in her own room, that she might think with freedom.
Poor Lydia's situation must, at best, be bad enough; but that
it was no worse, she had need to be thankful. She felt it so;
and though, in looking forward, neither rational happiness nor
worldly prosperity could be justly expected for her sister, in
looking back to what they had feared, only two hours ago, she
felt all the advantages of what they had gained.
Mr. Bennet had very often wished before this period of his life
that, instead of spending his whole income, he had laid by an
annual sum for the better provision of his children, and of his
wife, if she survived him. He now wished it more than ever.
Had he done his duty in that respect, Lydia need not have been
indebted to her uncle for whatever of honour or credit could
now be purchased for her. The satisfaction of prevailing on
one of the most worthless young men in Great Britain to be her
husband might then have rested in its proper place.
He was seriously concerned that a cause of so little advantage
to anyone should be forwarded at the sole expense of his
brother-in-law, and he was determined, if possible, to find out
the extent of his assistance, and to discharge the obligation
as soon as he could.
When first Mr. Bennet had married, economy was held to be
perfectly useless, for, of course, they were to have a son. The
son was to join in cutting off the entail, as soon as he should
be of age, and the widow and younger children would by that
means be provided for. Five daughters successively entered the
world, but yet the son was to come; and Mrs. Bennet, for many
years after Lydia's birth, had been certain that he would. This
event had at last been despaired of, but it was then too late to
be saving. Mrs. Bennet had no turn for economy, and her
husband's love of independence had alone prevented their
exceeding their income.
Five thousand pounds was settled by marriage articles on Mrs.
Bennet and the children. But in what proportions it should be
divided amongst the latter depended on the will of the parents.
This was one point, with regard to Lydia, at least, which was
now to be settled, and Mr. Bennet could have no hesitation in
acceding to the proposal before him. In terms of grateful
acknowledgment for the kindness of his brother, though
expressed most concisely, he then delivered on paper his perfect
approbation of all that was done, and his willingness to fulfil
the engagements that had been made for him. He had never before
supposed that, could Wickham be prevailed on to marry his
daughter, it would be done with so little inconvenience to
himself as by the present arrangement. He would scarcely be
ten pounds a year the loser by the hundred that was to be paid
them; for, what with her board and pocket allowance, and the
continual presents in money which passed to her through her
mother's hands, Lydia's expenses had been very little within
That it would be done with such trifling exertion on his side,
too, was another very welcome surprise; for his wish at present
was to have as little trouble in the business as possible. When
the first transports of rage which had produced his activity in
seeking her were over, he naturally returned to all his former
indolence. His letter was soon dispatched; for, though dilatory
in undertaking business, he was quick in its execution. He
begged to know further particulars of what he was indebted to
his brother, but was too angry with Lydia to send any message
The good news spread quickly through the house, and with
proportionate speed through the neighbourhood. It was borne
in the latter with decent philosophy. To be sure, it would
have been more for the advantage of conversation had Miss Lydia
Bennet come upon the town; or, as the happiest alternative,
been secluded from the world, in some distant farmhouse.
But there was much to be talked of in marrying her; and the
good-natured wishes for her well-doing which had proceeded
before from all the spiteful old ladies in Meryton lost but a
little of their spirit in this change of circumstances, because
with such an husband her misery was considered certain.
It was a fortnight since Mrs. Bennet had been downstairs; but on
this happy day she again took her seat at the head of her table,
and in spirits oppressively high. No sentiment of shame gave
a damp to her triumph. The marriage of a daughter, which had
been the first object of her wishes since Jane was sixteen, was
now on the point of accomplishment, and her thoughts and her
words ran wholly on those attendants of elegant nuptials, fine
muslins, new carriages, and servants. She was busily searching
through the neighbourhood for a proper situation for her
daughter, and, without knowing or considering what their
income might be, rejected many as deficient in size and
"Haye Park might do," said she, "if the Gouldings could quit it--or
the great house at Stoke, if the drawing-room were larger; but
Ashworth is too far off! I could not bear to have her ten miles
from me; and as for Pulvis Lodge, the attics are dreadful."
Her husband allowed her to talk on without interruption while
the servants remained. But when they had withdrawn, he said
to her: "Mrs. Bennet, before you take any or all of these houses
for your son and daughter, let us come to a right understanding.
Into ONE house in this neighbourhood they shall never have
admittance. I will not encourage the impudence of either,
by receiving them at Longbourn."
A long dispute followed this declaration; but Mr. Bennet was
firm. It soon led to another; and Mrs. Bennet found, with
amazement and horror, that her husband would not advance a
guinea to buy clothes for his daughter. He protested that she
should receive from him no mark of affection whatever on the
occasion. Mrs. Bennet could hardly comprehend it. That his
anger could be carried to such a point of inconceivable
resentment as to refuse his daughter a privilege without which
her marriage would scarcely seem valid, exceeded all she could
believe possible. She was more alive to the disgrace which her
want of new clothes must reflect on her daughter's nuptials, than
to any sense of shame at her eloping and living with Wickham a
fortnight before they took place.
Elizabeth was now most heartily sorry that she had, from the
distress of the moment, been led to make Mr. Darcy acquainted
with their fears for her sister; for since her marriage would
so shortly give the proper termination to the elopement, they
might hope to conceal its unfavourable beginning from all those
who were not immediately on the spot.
She had no fear of its spreading farther through his means.
There were few people on whose secrecy she would have more
confidently depended; but, at the same time, there was no one
whose knowledge of a sister's frailty would have mortified her
so much--not, however, from any fear of disadvantage from it
individually to herself, for, at any rate, there seemed a gulf
impassable between them. Had Lydia's marriage been concluded
on the most honourable terms, it was not to be supposed that
Mr. Darcy would connect himself with a family where, to every
other objection, would now be added an alliance and relationship
of the nearest kind with a man whom he so justly scorned.
From such a connection she could not wonder that he would shrink.
The wish of procuring her regard, which she had assured herself
of his feeling in Derbyshire, could not in rational expectation
survive such a blow as this. She was humbled, she was grieved;
she repented, though she hardly knew of what. She became jealous
of his esteem, when she could no longer hope to be benefited by it.
She wanted to hear of him, when there seemed the least chance of
gaining intelligence. She was convinced that she could have been
happy with him, when it was no longer likely they should meet.
What a triumph for him, as she often thought, could he know
that the proposals which she had proudly spurned only four
months ago, would now have been most gladly and gratefully
received! He was as generous, she doubted not, as the most
generous of his sex; but while he was mortal, there must be a
She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man
who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His
understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have
answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been
to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind
might have been softened, his manners improved; and from his
judgement, information, and knowledge of the world, she must
have received benefit of greater importance.
But no such happy marriage could now teach the admiring
multitude what connubial felicity really was. An union of a
different tendency, and precluding the possibility of the
other, was soon to be formed in their family.
How Wickham and Lydia were to be supported in tolerable
independence, she could not imagine. But how little of
permanent happiness could belong to a couple who were only
brought together because their passions were stronger than
their virtue, she could easily conjecture.
* * * * *
Mr. Gardiner soon wrote again to his brother. To Mr. Bennet's
acknowledgments he briefly replied, with assurance of his
eagerness to promote the welfare of any of his family; and
concluded with entreaties that the subject might never be
mentioned to him again. The principal purport of his letter was
to inform them that Mr. Wickham had resolved on quitting the
"It was greatly my wish that he should do so," he added, "as
soon as his marriage was fixed on. And I think you will agree
with me, in considering the removal from that corps as highly
advisable, both on his account and my niece's. It is Mr. Wickham's
intention to go into the regulars; and among his former friends,
there are still some who are able and willing to assist him in
the army. He has the promise of an ensigncy in General ----'s
regiment, now quartered in the North. It is an advantage to have
it so far from this part of the kingdom. He promises fairly; and
I hope among different people, where they may each have a character
to preserve, they will both be more prudent. I have written to
Colonel Forster, to inform him of our present arrangements, and to
request that he will satisfy the various creditors of Mr. Wickham
in and near Brighton, with assurances of speedy payment, for which
I have pledged myself. And will you give yourself the trouble of
carrying similar assurances to his creditors in Meryton, of whom
I shall subjoin a list according to his information? He has
given in all his debts; I hope at least he has not deceived us.
Haggerston has our directions, and all will be completed in a week.
They will then join his regiment, unless they are first invited to
Longbourn; and I understand from Mrs. Gardiner, that my niece is
very desirous of seeing you all before she leaves the South. She
is well, and begs to be dutifully remembered to you and your
Mr. Bennet and his daughters saw all the advantages of Wickham's
removal from the ----shire as clearly as Mr. Gardiner could do.
But Mrs. Bennet was not so well pleased with it. Lydia's being
settled in the North, just when she had expected most pleasure and
pride in her company, for she had by no means given up her plan
of their residing in Hertfordshire, was a severe disappointment;
and, besides, it was such a pity that Lydia should be taken from
a regiment where she was acquainted with everybody, and had so
"She is so fond of Mrs. Forster," said she, "it will be quite
shocking to send her away! And there are several of the young
men, too, that she likes very much. The officers may not be so
pleasant in General----'s regiment."
His daughter's request, for such it might be considered, of being
admitted into her family again before she set off for the North,
received at first an absolute negative. But Jane and Elizabeth,
who agreed in wishing, for the sake of their sister's feelings and
consequence, that she should be noticed on her marriage by her
parents, urged him so earnestly yet so rationally and so mildly,
to receive her and her husband at Longbourn, as soon as they
were married, that he was prevailed on to think as they thought,
and act as they wished. And their mother had the satisfaction
of knowing that she would be able to show her married daughter
in the neighbourhood before she was banished to the North. When
Mr. Bennet wrote again to his brother, therefore, he sent his
permission for them to come; and it was settled, that as soon
as the ceremony was over, they should proceed to Longbourn.
Elizabeth was surprised, however, that Wickham should consent
to such a scheme, and had she consulted only her own inclination,
any meeting with him would have been the last object of her wishes.
Their sister's wedding day arrived; and Jane and Elizabeth felt
for her probably more than she felt for herself. The carriage
was sent to meet them at ----, and they were to return in it
by dinner-time. Their arrival was dreaded by the elder Miss
Bennets, and Jane more especially, who gave Lydia the feelings
which would have attended herself, had she been the culprit,
and was wretched in the thought of what her sister must endure.
They came. The family were assembled in the breakfast room to
receive them. Smiles decked the face of Mrs. Bennet as the
carriage drove up to the door; her husband looked impenetrably
grave; her daughters, alarmed, anxious, uneasy.
Lydia's voice was heard in the vestibule; the door was thrown
open, and she ran into the room. Her mother stepped forwards,
embraced her, and welcomed her with rapture; gave her hand,
with an affectionate smile, to Wickham, who followed his lady;
and wished them both joy with an alacrity which shewed no doubt
of their happiness.
Their reception from Mr. Bennet, to whom they then turned, was
not quite so cordial. His countenance rather gained in austerity;
and he scarcely opened his lips. The easy assurance of the
young couple, indeed, was enough to provoke him. Elizabeth was
disgusted, and even Miss Bennet was shocked. Lydia was Lydia
still; untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless. She turned
from sister to sister, demanding their congratulations; and when
at length they all sat down, looked eagerly round the room, took
notice of some little alteration in it, and observed, with a
laugh, that it was a great while since she had been there.
Wickham was not at all more distressed than herself, but his
manners were always so pleasing, that had his character and his
marriage been exactly what they ought, his smiles and his easy
address, while he claimed their relationship, would have
delighted them all. Elizabeth had not before believed him
quite equal to such assurance; but she sat down, resolving
within herself to draw no limits in future to the impudence of
an impudent man. She blushed, and Jane blushed; but the
cheeks of the two who caused their confusion suffered no
variation of colour.
There was no want of discourse. The bride and her mother could
neither of them talk fast enough; and Wickham, who happened to
sit near Elizabeth, began inquiring after his acquaintance in
that neighbourhood, with a good humoured ease which she felt
very unable to equal in her replies. They seemed each of them
to have the happiest memories in the world. Nothing of the
past was recollected with pain; and Lydia led voluntarily to
subjects which her sisters would not have alluded to for the
"Only think of its being three months," she cried, "since I
went away; it seems but a fortnight I declare; and yet there
have been things enough happened in the time. Good gracious!
when I went away, I am sure I had no more idea of being married
till I came back again! though I thought it would be very good
fun if I was."
Her father lifted up his eyes. Jane was distressed. Elizabeth
looked expressively at Lydia; but she, who never heard nor saw
anything of which she chose to be insensible, gaily continued,
"Oh! mamma, do the people hereabouts know I am married
to-day? I was afraid they might not; and we overtook William
Goulding in his curricle, so I was determined he should know
it, and so I let down the side-glass next to him, and took off
my glove, and let my hand just rest upon the window frame, so
that he might see the ring, and then I bowed and smiled like
Elizabeth could bear it no longer. She got up, and ran out of
the room; and returned no more, till she heard them passing
through the hall to the dining parlour. She then joined them
soon enough to see Lydia, with anxious parade, walk up to her
mother's right hand, and hear her say to her eldest sister,
"Ah! Jane, I take your place now, and you must go lower,
because I am a married woman."
It was not to be supposed that time would give Lydia that
embarrassment from which she had been so wholly free at first.
Her ease and good spirits increased. She longed to see Mrs.
Phillips, the Lucases, and all their other neighbours, and to
hear herself called "Mrs. Wickham" by each of them; and in the
mean time, she went after dinner to show her ring, and boast
of being married, to Mrs. Hill and the two housemaids.
"Well, mamma," said she, when they were all returned to the
breakfast room, "and what do you think of my husband? Is not
he a charming man? I am sure my sisters must all envy me. I
only hope they may have half my good luck. They must all go to
Brighton. That is the place to get husbands. What a pity it
is, mamma, we did not all go."
"Very true; and if I had my will, we should. But my dear
Lydia, I don't at all like your going such a way off. Must
it be so?"
"Oh, lord! yes;--there is nothing in that. I shall like it
of all things. You and papa, and my sisters, must come down
and see us. We shall be at Newcastle all the winter, and I
dare say there will be some balls, and I will take care to get
good partners for them all."
"I should like it beyond anything!" said her mother.
"And then when you go away, you may leave one or two of my
sisters behind you; and I dare say I shall get husbands for
them before the winter is over."
"I thank you for my share of the favour," said Elizabeth;
"but I do not particularly like your way of getting husbands."
Their visitors were not to remain above ten days with them.
Mr. Wickham had received his commission before he left London,
and he was to join his regiment at the end of a fortnight.
No one but Mrs. Bennet regretted that their stay would be so
short; and she made the most of the time by visiting about with
her daughter, and having very frequent parties at home. These
parties were acceptable to all; to avoid a family circle was
even more desirable to such as did think, than such as did not.
Wickham's affection for Lydia was just what Elizabeth had
expected to find it; not equal to Lydia's for him. She had
scarcely needed her present observation to be satisfied, from
the reason of things, that their elopement had been brought on
by the strength of her love, rather than by his; and she would
have wondered why, without violently caring for her, he chose
to elope with her at all, had she not felt certain that his
flight was rendered necessary by distress of circumstances;
and if that were the case, he was not the young man to resist
an opportunity of having a companion.
Lydia was exceedingly fond of him. He was her dear Wickham on
every occasion; no one was to be put in competition with him.
He did every thing best in the world; and she was sure he would
kill more birds on the first of September, than any body else
in the country.
One morning, soon after their arrival, as she was sitting with
her two elder sisters, she said to Elizabeth:
"Lizzy, I never gave YOU an account of my wedding, I believe.
You were not by, when I told mamma and the others all about it.
Are not you curious to hear how it was managed?"
"No really," replied Elizabeth; "I think there cannot be too
little said on the subject."
"La! You are so strange! But I must tell you how it went off.
We were married, you know, at St. Clement's, because Wickham's
lodgings were in that parish. And it was settled that we
should all be there by eleven o'clock. My uncle and aunt and
I were to go together; and the others were to meet us at the
church. Well, Monday morning came, and I was in such a fuss!
I was so afraid, you know, that something would happen to put
it off, and then I should have gone quite distracted. And
there was my aunt, all the time I was dressing, preaching and
talking away just as if she was reading a sermon. However, I
did not hear above one word in ten, for I was thinking, you may
suppose, of my dear Wickham. I longed to know whether he would
be married in his blue coat."
"Well, and so we breakfasted at ten as usual; I thought it
would never be over; for, by the bye, you are to understand,
that my uncle and aunt were horrid unpleasant all the time I
was with them. If you'll believe me, I did not once put my
foot out of doors, though I was there a fortnight. Not one
party, or scheme, or anything. To be sure London was rather
thin, but, however, the Little Theatre was open. Well, and so
just as the carriage came to the door, my uncle was called away
upon business to that horrid man Mr. Stone. And then, you
know, when once they get together, there is no end of it.
Well, I was so frightened I did not know what to do, for my
uncle was to give me away; and if we were beyond the hour, we
could not be married all day. But, luckily, he came back again
in ten minutes' time, and then we all set out. However, I
recollected afterwards that if he had been prevented going,
the wedding need not be put off, for Mr. Darcy might have done
"Mr. Darcy!" repeated Elizabeth, in utter amazement.
"Oh, yes!--he was to come there with Wickham, you know. But
gracious me! I quite forgot! I ought not to have said a word
about it. I promised them so faithfully! What will Wickham
say? It was to be such a secret!"
"If it was to be secret," said Jane, "say not another word on
the subject. You may depend upon my seeking no further."
"Oh! certainly," said Elizabeth, though burning with curiosity;
"we will ask you no questions."
"Thank you," said Lydia, "for if you did, I should certainly
tell you all, and then Wickham would be angry."
On such encouragement to ask, Elizabeth was forced to put it
out of her power, by running away.
But to live in ignorance on such a point was impossible; or at
least it was impossible not to try for information. Mr. Darcy
had been at her sister's wedding. It was exactly a scene, and
exactly among people, where he had apparently least to do, and
least temptation to go. Conjectures as to the meaning of it,
rapid and wild, hurried into her brain; but she was satisfied
with none. Those that best pleased her, as placing his conduct
in the noblest light, seemed most improbable. She could not
bear such suspense; and hastily seizing a sheet of paper, wrote
a short letter to her aunt, to request an explanation of what
Lydia had dropt, if it were compatible with the secrecy which
had been intended.
"You may readily comprehend," she added, "what my curiosity
must be to know how a person unconnected with any of us, and
(comparatively speaking) a stranger to our family, should have
been amongst you at such a time. Pray write instantly, and
let me understand it--unless it is, for very cogent reasons,
to remain in the secrecy which Lydia seems to think necessary;
and then I must endeavour to be satisfied with ignorance."
"Not that I SHALL, though," she added to herself, as she
finished the letter; "and my dear aunt, if you do not tell me
in an honourable manner, I shall certainly be reduced to tricks
and stratagems to find it out."
Jane's delicate sense of honour would not allow her to speak to
Elizabeth privately of what Lydia had let fall; Elizabeth was
glad of it;--till it appeared whether her inquiries would
receive any satisfaction, she had rather be without a confidante.
Elizabeth had the satisfaction of receiving an answer to her
letter as soon as she possibly could. She was no sooner in
possession of it than, hurrying into the little copse, where
she was least likely to be interrupted, she sat down on one of
the benches and prepared to be happy; for the length of the
letter convinced her that it did not contain a denial.
"Gracechurch street, Sept. 6.
"MY DEAR NIECE,
"I have just received your letter, and shall devote this whole
morning to answering it, as I foresee that a LITTLE writing
will not comprise what I have to tell you. I must confess
myself surprised by your application; I did not expect it from
YOU. Don't think me angry, however, for I only mean to let
you know that I had not imagined such inquiries to be necessary
on YOUR side. If you do not choose to understand me, forgive
my impertinence. Your uncle is as much surprised as I am--and
nothing but the belief of your being a party concerned would
have allowed him to act as he has done. But if you are really
innocent and ignorant, I must be more explicit.
"On the very day of my coming home from Longbourn, your uncle had a
most unexpected visitor. Mr. Darcy called, and was shut up with him
several hours. It was all over before I arrived; so my curiosity was
not so dreadfully racked as YOUR'S seems to have been. He came to
tell Mr. Gardiner that he had found out where your sister and
Mr. Wickham were, and that he had seen and talked with them both;
Wickham repeatedly, Lydia once. From what I can collect, he left
Derbyshire only one day after ourselves, and came to town with the
resolution of hunting for them. The motive professed was his
conviction of its being owing to himself that Wickham's worthlessness
had not been so well known as to make it impossible for any young
woman of character to love or confide in him. He generously imputed
the whole to his mistaken pride, and confessed that he had before
thought it beneath him to lay his private actions open to the world.
His character was to speak for itself. He called it, therefore, his
duty to step forward, and endeavour to remedy an evil which had been
brought on by himself. If he HAD ANOTHER motive, I am sure it would
never disgrace him. He had been some days in town, before he was able
to discover them; but he had something to direct his search, which was
more than WE had; and the consciousness of this was another reason for
his resolving to follow us.
"There is a lady, it seems, a Mrs. Younge, who was some time ago
governess to Miss Darcy, and was dismissed from her charge on some
cause of disapprobation, though he did not say what. She then took a
large house in Edward-street, and has since maintained herself by
letting lodgings. This Mrs. Younge was, he knew, intimately
acquainted with Wickham; and he went to her for intelligence of him as
soon as he got to town. But it was two or three days before he could
get from her what he wanted. She would not betray her trust, I
suppose, without bribery and corruption, for she really did know where
her friend was to be found. Wickham indeed had gone to her on their
first arrival in London, and had she been able to receive them into
her house, they would have taken up their abode with her. At length,
however, our kind friend procured the wished-for direction. They were
in ---- street. He saw Wickham, and afterwards insisted on seeing
Lydia. His first object with her, he acknowledged, had been to
persuade her to quit her present disgraceful situation, and return to
her friends as soon as they could be prevailed on to receive her,
offering his assistance, as far as it would go. But he found Lydia
absolutely resolved on remaining where she was. She cared for none of
her friends; she wanted no help of his; she would not hear of leaving
Wickham. She was sure they should be married some time or other, and
it did not much signify when. Since such were her feelings, it only
remained, he thought, to secure and expedite a marriage, which, in his
very first conversation with Wickham, he easily learnt had never been
HIS design. He confessed himself obliged to leave the regiment, on
account of some debts of honour, which were very pressing; and
scrupled not to lay all the ill-consequences of Lydia's flight on her
own folly alone. He meant to resign his commission immediately; and
as to his future situation, he could conjecture very little about it.
He must go somewhere, but he did not know where, and he knew he should
have nothing to live on.
"Mr. Darcy asked him why he had not married your sister at once.
Though Mr. Bennet was not imagined to be very rich, he would have been
able to do something for him, and his situation must have been
benefited by marriage. But he found, in reply to this question, that
Wickham still cherished the hope of more effectually making his
fortune by marriage in some other country. Under such circumstances,
however, he was not likely to be proof against the temptation of
"They met several times, for there was much to be discussed.
Wickham of course wanted more than he could get; but at length
was reduced to be reasonable.
"Every thing being settled between THEM, Mr. Darcy's next step was to
make your uncle acquainted with it, and he first called in Gracechurch
street the evening before I came home. But Mr. Gardiner could not be
seen, and Mr. Darcy found, on further inquiry, that your father was
still with him, but would quit town the next morning. He did not
judge your father to be a person whom he could so properly consult as
your uncle, and therefore readily postponed seeing him till after the
departure of the former. He did not leave his name, and till the next
day it was only known that a gentleman had called on business.
"On Saturday he came again. Your father was gone, your uncle at home,
and, as I said before, they had a great deal of talk together.
"They met again on Sunday, and then _I_ saw him too. It was not all
settled before Monday: as soon as it was, the express was sent off to
Longbourn. But our visitor was very obstinate. I fancy, Lizzy, that
obstinacy is the real defect of his character, after all. He has been
accused of many faults at different times, but THIS is the true one.
Nothing was to be done that he did not do himself; though I am sure
(and I do not speak it to be thanked, therefore say nothing about it),
your uncle would most readily have settled the whole.
"They battled it together for a long time, which was more than either
the gentleman or lady concerned in it deserved. But at last your
uncle was forced to yield, and instead of being allowed to be of use
to his niece, was forced to put up with only having the probable
credit of it, which went sorely against the grain; and I really
believe your letter this morning gave him great pleasure, because it
required an explanation that would rob him of his borrowed feathers,
and give the praise where it was due. But, Lizzy, this must go no
farther than yourself, or Jane at most.
"You know pretty well, I suppose, what has been done for the young
people. His debts are to be paid, amounting, I believe, to
considerably more than a thousand pounds, another thousand in addition
to her own settled upon HER, and his commission purchased. The reason
why all this was to be done by him alone, was such as I have given
above. It was owing to him, to his reserve and want of proper
consideration, that Wickham's character had been so misunderstood, and
consequently that he had been received and noticed as he was. Perhaps
there was some truth in THIS; though I doubt whether HIS reserve, or
ANYBODY'S reserve, can be answerable for the event. But in spite of
all this fine talking, my dear Lizzy, you may rest perfectly assured
that your uncle would never have yielded, if we had not given him
credit for ANOTHER INTEREST in the affair.
"When all this was resolved on, he returned again to his friends, who
were still staying at Pemberley; but it was agreed that he should be
in London once more when the wedding took place, and all money matters
were then to receive the last finish.
"I believe I have now told you every thing. It is a relation which you
tell me is to give you great surprise; I hope at least it will not
afford you any displeasure. Lydia came to us; and Wickham had
constant admission to the house. HE was exactly what he had been,
when I knew him in Hertfordshire; but I would not tell you how little
I was satisfied with her behaviour while she staid with us, if I had
not perceived, by Jane's letter last Wednesday, that her conduct on
coming home was exactly of a piece with it, and therefore what I now
tell you can give you no fresh pain. I talked to her repeatedly in
the most serious manner, representing to her all the wickedness of
what she had done, and all the unhappiness she had brought on her
family. If she heard me, it was by good luck, for I am sure she did
not listen. I was sometimes quite provoked, but then I recollected my
dear Elizabeth and Jane, and for their sakes had patience with her.
"Mr. Darcy was punctual in his return, and as Lydia informed you,
attended the wedding. He dined with us the next day, and was to leave
town again on Wednesday or Thursday. Will you be very angry with me,
my dear Lizzy, if I take this opportunity of saying (what I was never
bold enough to say before) how much I like him. His behaviour to us
has, in every respect, been as pleasing as when we were in Derbyshire.
His understanding and opinions all please me; he wants nothing but a
little more liveliness, and THAT, if he marry PRUDENTLY, his wife may
teach him. I thought him very sly;--he hardly ever mentioned your
name. But slyness seems the fashion.
"Pray forgive me if I have been very presuming, or at least do not
punish me so far as to exclude me from P. I shall never be quite
happy till I have been all round the park. A low phaeton, with a nice
little pair of ponies, would be the very thing.
"But I must write no more. The children have been wanting me this half
"Yours, very sincerely,
The contents of this letter threw Elizabeth into a flutter
of spirits, in which it was difficult to determine whether
pleasure or pain bore the greatest share. The vague and
unsettled suspicions which uncertainty had produced of what
Mr. Darcy might have been doing to forward her sister's match,
which she had feared to encourage as an exertion of goodness
too great to be probable, and at the same time dreaded to be
just, from the pain of obligation, were proved beyond their
greatest extent to be true! He had followed them purposely to
town, he had taken on himself all the trouble and mortification
attendant on such a research; in which supplication had been
necessary to a woman whom he must abominate and despise, and
where he was reduced to meet, frequently meet, reason with,
persuade, and finally bribe, the man whom he always most wished
to avoid, and whose very name it was punishment to him to
pronounce. He had done all this for a girl whom he could
neither regard nor esteem. Her heart did whisper that he had
done it for her. But it was a hope shortly checked by other
considerations, and she soon felt that even her vanity was
insufficient, when required to depend on his affection for her
--for a woman who had already refused him--as able to overcome
a sentiment so natural as abhorrence against relationship with
Wickham. Brother-in-law of Wickham! Every kind of pride must
revolt from the connection. He had, to be sure, done much.
She was ashamed to think how much. But he had given a reason
for his interference, which asked no extraordinary stretch of
belief. It was reasonable that he should feel he had been wrong;
he had liberality, and he had the means of exercising it; and
though she would not place herself as his principal inducement,
she could, perhaps, believe that remaining partiality for her
might assist his endeavours in a cause where her peace of mind
must be materially concerned. It was painful, exceedingly
painful, to know that they were under obligations to a person
who could never receive a return. They owed the restoration of
Lydia, her character, every thing, to him. Oh! how heartily
did she grieve over every ungracious sensation she had ever
encouraged, every saucy speech she had ever directed towards him.
For herself she was humbled; but she was proud of him. Proud
that in a cause of compassion and honour, he had been able to get
the better of himself. She read over her aunt's commendation
of him again and again. It was hardly enough; but it pleased
her. She was even sensible of some pleasure, though mixed with
regret, on finding how steadfastly both she and her uncle had
been persuaded that affection and confidence subsisted between
Mr. Darcy and herself.
She was roused from her seat, and her reflections, by some
one's approach; and before she could strike into another path,
she was overtaken by Wickham.
"I am afraid I interrupt your solitary ramble, my dear sister?"
said he, as he joined her.
"You certainly do," she replied with a smile; "but it does not
follow that the interruption must be unwelcome."
"I should be sorry indeed, if it were. We were always good
friends; and now we are better."
"True. Are the others coming out?"
"I do not know. Mrs. Bennet and Lydia are going in the
carriage to Meryton. And so, my dear sister, I find, from
our uncle and aunt, that you have actually seen Pemberley."
She replied in the affirmative.
"I almost envy you the pleasure, and yet I believe it would
be too much for me, or else I could take it in my way to
Newcastle. And you saw the old housekeeper, I suppose? Poor
Reynolds, she was always very fond of me. But of course she
did not mention my name to you."
"Yes, she did."
"And what did she say?"
"That you were gone into the army, and she was afraid had
--not turned out well. At such a distance as THAT, you
know, things are strangely misrepresented."
"Certainly," he replied, biting his lips. Elizabeth hoped she
had silenced him; but he soon afterwards said:
"I was surprised to see Darcy in town last month. We passed
each other several times. I wonder what he can be doing
"Perhaps preparing for his marriage with Miss de Bourgh," said
Elizabeth. "It must be something particular, to take him there
at this time of year."
"Undoubtedly. Did you see him while you were at Lambton?
I thought I understood from the Gardiners that you had."
"Yes; he introduced us to his sister."
"And do you like her?"
"I have heard, indeed, that she is uncommonly improved within
this year or two. When I last saw her, she was not very
promising. I am very glad you liked her. I hope she will turn
"I dare say she will; she has got over the most trying age."
"Did you go by the village of Kympton?"
"I do not recollect that we did."
"I mention it, because it is the living which I ought to have
had. A most delightful place!--Excellent Parsonage House!
It would have suited me in every respect."
"How should you have liked making sermons?"
"Exceedingly well. I should have considered it as part of my
duty, and the exertion would soon have been nothing. One ought
not to repine;--but, to be sure, it would have been such a
thing for me! The quiet, the retirement of such a life would
have answered all my ideas of happiness! But it was not to be.
Did you ever hear Darcy mention the circumstance, when you were
"I have heard from authority, which I thought AS GOOD,
that it was left you conditionally only, and at the will of the
"You have. Yes, there was something in THAT; I told you so
from the first, you may remember."
"I DID hear, too, that there was a time, when sermon-making
was not so palatable to you as it seems to be at present; that
you actually declared your resolution of never taking orders,
and that the business had been compromised accordingly."
"You did! and it was not wholly without foundation. You may
remember what I told you on that point, when first we talked
They were now almost at the door of the house, for she
had walked fast to get rid of him; and unwilling, for her
sister's sake, to provoke him, she only said in reply, with
a good-humoured smile:
"Come, Mr. Wickham, we are brother and sister, you know.
Do not let us quarrel about the past. In future, I hope we
shall be always of one mind."
She held out her hand; he kissed it with affectionate gallantry,
though he hardly knew how to look, and they entered the house.
Mr. Wickham was so perfectly satisfied with this conversation
that he never again distressed himself, or provoked his dear
sister Elizabeth, by introducing the subject of it; and she was
pleased to find that she had said enough to keep him quiet.
The day of his and Lydia's departure soon came, and Mrs. Bennet
was forced to submit to a separation, which, as her husband by
no means entered into her scheme of their all going to
Newcastle, was likely to continue at least a twelvemonth.
"Oh! my dear Lydia," she cried, "when shall we meet again?"
"Oh, lord! I don't know. Not these two or three years,
"Write to me very often, my dear."
"As often as I can. But you know married women have never much
time for writing. My sisters may write to ME. They will
have nothing else to do."
Mr. Wickham's adieus were much more affectionate than his
wife's. He smiled, looked handsome, and said many pretty
"He is as fine a fellow," said Mr. Bennet, as soon as they were
out of the house, "as ever I saw. He simpers, and smirks, and
makes love to us all. I am prodigiously proud of him. I defy
even Sir William Lucas himself to produce a more valuable
The loss of her daughter made Mrs. Bennet very dull for
"I often think," said she, "that there is nothing so bad as
parting with one's friends. One seems so forlorn without
"This is the consequence, you see, Madam, of marrying a daughter,"
said Elizabeth. "It must make you better satisfied that your
other four are single."
"It is no such thing. Lydia does not leave me because she is
married, but only because her husband's regiment happens to be
so far off. If that had been nearer, she would not have gone
But the spiritless condition which this event threw her into
was shortly relieved, and her mind opened again to the
agitation of hope, by an article of news which then began to be
in circulation. The housekeeper at Netherfield had received
orders to prepare for the arrival of her master, who was coming
down in a day or two, to shoot there for several weeks.
Mrs. Bennet was quite in the fidgets. She looked at Jane, and
smiled and shook her head by turns.
"Well, well, and so Mr. Bingley is coming down, sister,"
(for Mrs. Phillips first brought her the news). "Well, so
much the better. Not that I care about it, though. He is
nothing to us, you know, and I am sure _I_ never want to
see him again. But, however, he is very welcome to come
to Netherfield, if he likes it. And who knows what MAY
happen? But that is nothing to us. You know, sister, we
agreed long ago never to mention a word about it. And so,
is it quite certain he is coming?"
"You may depend on it," replied the other, "for Mrs. Nicholls
was in Meryton last night; I saw her passing by, and went out
myself on purpose to know the truth of it; and she told me that
it was certain true. He comes down on Thursday at the latest,
very likely on Wednesday. She was going to the butcher's, she
told me, on purpose to order in some meat on Wednesday, and she
has got three couple of ducks just fit to be killed."
Miss Bennet had not been able to hear of his coming without
changing colour. It was many months since she had mentioned
his name to Elizabeth; but now, as soon as they were alone
together, she said:
"I saw you look at me to-day, Lizzy, when my aunt told us of
the present report; and I know I appeared distressed. But
don't imagine it was from any silly cause. I was only confused
for the moment, because I felt that I SHOULD be looked at.
I do assure you that the news does not affect me either with
pleasure or pain. I am glad of one thing, that he comes alone;
because we shall see the less of him. Not that I am afraid of
MYSELF, but I dread other people's remarks."
Elizabeth did not know what to make of it. Had she not seen
him in Derbyshire, she might have supposed him capable of
coming there with no other view than what was acknowledged; but
she still thought him partial to Jane, and she wavered as to
the greater probability of his coming there WITH his friend's
permission, or being bold enough to come without it.
"Yet it is hard," she sometimes thought, "that this poor man
cannot come to a house which he has legally hired, without
raising all this speculation! I WILL leave him to himself."
In spite of what her sister declared, and really believed to be
her feelings in the expectation of his arrival, Elizabeth could
easily perceive that her spirits were affected by it. They
were more disturbed, more unequal, than she had often seen them.
The subject which had been so warmly canvassed between their
parents, about a twelvemonth ago, was now brought forward
"As soon as ever Mr. Bingley comes, my dear," said Mrs. Bennet,
"you will wait on him of course."
"No, no. You forced me into visiting him last year, and
promised, if I went to see him, he should marry one of my
daughters. But it ended in nothing, and I will not be sent on
a fool's errand again."
His wife represented to him how absolutely necessary such an
attention would be from all the neighbouring gentlemen, on his
returning to Netherfield.
"'Tis an etiquette I despise," said he. "If he wants our
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