B1 Intermediate US 21763 Folder Collection
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CHAPTER 41
The first week of their return was soon gone.
The second began.
It was the last of the regiment's stay in Meryton, and all the young ladies in the
neighbourhood were drooping apace. The dejection was almost universal.
The elder Miss Bennets alone were still able to eat, drink, and sleep, and pursue
the usual course of their employments.
Very frequently were they reproached for this insensibility by Kitty and Lydia,
whose own misery was extreme, and who could not comprehend such hard-heartedness in any
of the family.
"Good Heaven! what is to become of us? What are we to do?" would they often
exclaim in the bitterness of woe. "How can you be smiling so, Lizzy?"
Their affectionate mother shared all their grief; she remembered what she had herself
endured on a similar occasion, five-and- twenty years ago.
"I am sure," said she, "I cried for two days together when Colonel Miller's
regiment went away. I thought I should have broken my heart."
"I am sure I shall break mine," said Lydia.
"If one could but go to Brighton!" observed Mrs. Bennet.
"Oh, yes!--if one could but go to Brighton! But papa is so disagreeable."
"A little sea-bathing would set me up forever."
"And my aunt Phillips is sure it would do me a great deal of good," added Kitty.
Such were the kind of lamentations resounding perpetually through Longbourn
House. Elizabeth tried to be diverted by them; but
all sense of pleasure was lost in shame.
She felt anew the justice of Mr. Darcy's objections; and never had she been so much
disposed to pardon his interference in the views of his friend.
But the gloom of Lydia's prospect was shortly cleared away; for she received an
invitation from Mrs. Forster, the wife of the colonel of the regiment, to accompany
her to Brighton.
This invaluable friend was a very young woman, and very lately married.
A resemblance in good humour and good spirits had recommended her and Lydia to
each other, and out of their three months' acquaintance they had been intimate two.
The rapture of Lydia on this occasion, her adoration of Mrs. Forster, the delight of
Mrs. Bennet, and the mortification of Kitty, are scarcely to be described.
Wholly inattentive to her sister's feelings, Lydia flew about the house in
restless ecstasy, calling for everyone's congratulations, and laughing and talking
with more violence than ever; whilst the
luckless Kitty continued in the parlour repined at her fate in terms as
unreasonable as her accent was peevish.
"I cannot see why Mrs. Forster should not ask me as well as Lydia," said she, "Though
I am not her particular friend.
I have just as much right to be asked as she has, and more too, for I am two years
older." In vain did Elizabeth attempt to make her
reasonable, and Jane to make her resigned.
As for Elizabeth herself, this invitation was so far from exciting in her the same
feelings as in her mother and Lydia, that she considered it as the death warrant of
all possibility of common sense for the
latter; and detestable as such a step must make her were it known, she could not help
secretly advising her father not to let her go.
She represented to him all the improprieties of Lydia's general behaviour,
the little advantage she could derive from the friendship of such a woman as Mrs.
Forster, and the probability of her being
yet more imprudent with such a companion at Brighton, where the temptations must be
greater than at home. He heard her attentively, and then said:
"Lydia will never be easy until she has exposed herself in some public place or
other, and we can never expect her to do it with so little expense or inconvenience to
her family as under the present circumstances."
"If you were aware," said Elizabeth, "of the very great disadvantage to us all which
must arise from the public notice of Lydia's unguarded and imprudent manner--
nay, which has already arisen from it, I am
sure you would judge differently in the affair."
"Already arisen?" repeated Mr. Bennet. "What, has she frightened away some of your
lovers?
Poor little Lizzy! But do not be cast down.
Such squeamish youths as cannot bear to be connected with a little absurdity are not
worth a regret.
Come, let me see the list of pitiful fellows who have been kept aloof by Lydia's
folly." "Indeed you are mistaken.
I have no such injuries to resent.
It is not of particular, but of general evils, which I am now complaining.
Our importance, our respectability in the world must be affected by the wild
volatility, the assurance and disdain of all restraint which mark Lydia's character.
Excuse me, for I must speak plainly.
If you, my dear father, will not take the trouble of checking her exuberant spirits,
and of teaching her that her present pursuits are not to be the business of her
life, she will soon be beyond the reach of amendment.
Her character will be fixed, and she will, at sixteen, be the most determined flirt
that ever made herself or her family ridiculous; a flirt, too, in the worst and
meanest degree of flirtation; without any
attraction beyond youth and a tolerable person; and, from the ignorance and
emptiness of her mind, wholly unable to ward off any portion of that universal
contempt which her rage for admiration will excite.
In this danger Kitty also is comprehended. She will follow wherever Lydia leads.
Vain, ignorant, idle, and absolutely uncontrolled!
Oh! my dear father, can you suppose it possible that they will not be censured and
despised wherever they are known, and that their sisters will not be often involved in
the disgrace?"
Mr. Bennet saw that her whole heart was in the subject, and affectionately taking her
hand said in reply: "Do not make yourself uneasy, my love.
Wherever you and Jane are known you must be respected and valued; and you will not
appear to less advantage for having a couple of--or I may say, three--very silly
sisters.
We shall have no peace at Longbourn if Lydia does not go to Brighton.
Let her go, then.
Colonel Forster is a sensible man, and will keep her out of any real mischief; and she
is luckily too poor to be an object of prey to anybody.
At Brighton she will be of less importance even as a common flirt than she has been
here. The officers will find women better worth
their notice.
Let us hope, therefore, that her being there may teach her her own insignificance.
At any rate, she cannot grow many degrees worse, without authorising us to lock her
up for the rest of her life."
With this answer Elizabeth was forced to be content; but her own opinion continued the
same, and she left him disappointed and sorry.
It was not in her nature, however, to increase her vexations by dwelling on them.
She was confident of having performed her duty, and to fret over unavoidable evils,
or augment them by anxiety, was no part of her disposition.
Had Lydia and her mother known the substance of her conference with her
father, their indignation would hardly have found expression in their united
volubility.
In Lydia's imagination, a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly
happiness.
She saw, with the creative eye of fancy, the streets of that gay bathing-place
covered with officers.
She saw herself the object of attention, to tens and to scores of them at present
unknown.
She saw all the glories of the camp--its tents stretched forth in beauteous
uniformity of lines, crowded with the young and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet;
and, to complete the view, she saw herself
seated beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with at least six officers at once.
Had she known her sister sought to tear her from such prospects and such realities as
these, what would have been her sensations?
They could have been understood only by her mother, who might have felt nearly the
same.
Lydia's going to Brighton was all that consoled her for her melancholy conviction
of her husband's never intending to go there himself.
But they were entirely ignorant of what had passed; and their raptures continued, with
little intermission, to the very day of Lydia's leaving home.
Elizabeth was now to see Mr. Wickham for the last time.
Having been frequently in company with him since her return, agitation was pretty well
over; the agitations of formal partiality entirely so.
She had even learnt to detect, in the very gentleness which had first delighted her,
an affectation and a sameness to disgust and weary.
In his present behaviour to herself, moreover, she had a fresh source of
displeasure, for the inclination he soon testified of renewing those intentions
which had marked the early part of their
acquaintance could only serve, after what had since passed, to provoke her.
She lost all concern for him in finding herself thus selected as the object of such
idle and frivolous gallantry; and while she steadily repressed it, could not but feel
the reproof contained in his believing,
that however long, and for whatever cause, his attentions had been withdrawn, her
vanity would be gratified, and her preference secured at any time by their
renewal.
On the very last day of the regiment's remaining at Meryton, he dined, with other
of the officers, at Longbourn; and so little was Elizabeth disposed to part from
him in good humour, that on his making some
inquiry as to the manner in which her time had passed at Hunsford, she mentioned
Colonel Fitzwilliam's and Mr. Darcy's having both spent three weeks at Rosings,
and asked him, if he was acquainted with the former.
He looked surprised, displeased, alarmed; but with a moment's recollection and a
returning smile, replied, that he had formerly seen him often; and, after
observing that he was a very gentlemanlike man, asked her how she had liked him.
Her answer was warmly in his favour. With an air of indifference he soon
afterwards added:
"How long did you say he was at Rosings?" "Nearly three weeks."
"And you saw him frequently?" "Yes, almost every day."
"His manners are very different from his cousin's."
"Yes, very different. But I think Mr. Darcy improves upon
acquaintance."
"Indeed!" cried Mr. Wickham with a look which did not escape her.
"And pray, may I ask?--" But checking himself, he added, in a gayer tone, "Is it
in address that he improves?
Has he deigned to add aught of civility to his ordinary style?--for I dare not hope,"
he continued in a lower and more serious tone, "that he is improved in essentials."
"Oh, no!" said Elizabeth.
"In essentials, I believe, he is very much what he ever was."
While she spoke, Wickham looked as if scarcely knowing whether to rejoice over
her words, or to distrust their meaning.
There was a something in her countenance which made him listen with an apprehensive
and anxious attention, while she added:
"When I said that he improved on acquaintance, I did not mean that his mind
or his manners were in a state of improvement, but that, from knowing him
better, his disposition was better understood."
Wickham's alarm now appeared in a heightened complexion and agitated look;
for a few minutes he was silent, till, shaking off his embarrassment, he turned to
her again, and said in the gentlest of accents:
"You, who so well know my feeling towards Mr. Darcy, will readily comprehend how
sincerely I must rejoice that he is wise enough to assume even the appearance of
what is right.
His pride, in that direction, may be of service, if not to himself, to many others,
for it must only deter him from such foul misconduct as I have suffered by.
I only fear that the sort of cautiousness to which you, I imagine, have been
alluding, is merely adopted on his visits to his aunt, of whose good opinion and
judgement he stands much in awe.
His fear of her has always operated, I know, when they were together; and a good
deal is to be imputed to his wish of forwarding the match with Miss de Bourgh,
which I am certain he has very much at heart."
Elizabeth could not repress a smile at this, but she answered only by a slight
inclination of the head.
She saw that he wanted to engage her on the old subject of his grievances, and she was
in no humour to indulge him.
The rest of the evening passed with the appearance, on his side, of usual
cheerfulness, but with no further attempt to distinguish Elizabeth; and they parted
at last with mutual civility, and possibly a mutual desire of never meeting again.
When the party broke up, Lydia returned with Mrs. Forster to Meryton, from whence
they were to set out early the next morning.
The separation between her and her family was rather noisy than pathetic.
Kitty was the only one who shed tears; but she did weep from vexation and envy.
Mrs. Bennet was diffuse in her good wishes for the felicity of her daughter, and
impressive in her injunctions that she should not miss the opportunity of enjoying
herself as much as possible--advice which
there was every reason to believe would be well attended to; and in the clamorous
happiness of Lydia herself in bidding farewell, the more gentle adieus of her
sisters were uttered without being heard.
>
CHAPTER 42
Had Elizabeth's opinion been all drawn from her own family, she could not have formed a
very pleasing opinion of conjugal felicity or domestic comfort.
Her father, captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which
youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding
and illiberal mind had very early in their
marriage put an end to all real affection for her.
Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished for ever; and all his views of
domestic happiness were overthrown.
But Mr. Bennet was not of a disposition to seek comfort for the disappointment which
his own imprudence had brought on, in any of those pleasures which too often console
the unfortunate for their folly or their vice.
He was fond of the country and of books; and from these tastes had arisen his
principal enjoyments.
To his wife he was very little otherwise indebted, than as her ignorance and folly
had contributed to his amusement.
This is not the sort of happiness which a man would in general wish to owe to his
wife; but where other powers of entertainment are wanting, the true
philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given.
Elizabeth, however, had never been blind to the impropriety of her father's behaviour
as a husband.
She had always seen it with pain; but respecting his abilities, and grateful for
his affectionate treatment of herself, she endeavoured to forget what she could not
overlook, and to banish from her thoughts
that continual breach of conjugal obligation and decorum which, in exposing
his wife to the contempt of her own children, was so highly reprehensible.
But she had never felt so strongly as now the disadvantages which must attend the
children of so unsuitable a marriage, nor ever been so fully aware of the evils
arising from so ill-judged a direction of
talents; talents, which, rightly used, might at least have preserved the
respectability of his daughters, even if incapable of enlarging the mind of his
wife.
When Elizabeth had rejoiced over Wickham's departure she found little other cause for
satisfaction in the loss of the regiment.
Their parties abroad were less varied than before, and at home she had a mother and
sister whose constant repinings at the dullness of everything around them threw a
real gloom over their domestic circle; and,
though Kitty might in time regain her natural degree of sense, since the
disturbers of her brain were removed, her other sister, from whose disposition
greater evil might be apprehended, was
likely to be hardened in all her folly and assurance by a situation of such double
danger as a watering-place and a camp.
Upon the whole, therefore, she found, what has been sometimes found before, that an
event to which she had been looking with impatient desire did not, in taking place,
bring all the satisfaction she had promised herself.
It was consequently necessary to name some other period for the commencement of actual
felicity--to have some other point on which her wishes and hopes might be fixed, and by
again enjoying the pleasure of
anticipation, console herself for the present, and prepare for another
disappointment.
Her tour to the Lakes was now the object of her happiest thoughts; it was her best
consolation for all the uncomfortable hours which the discontentedness of her mother
and Kitty made inevitable; and could she
have included Jane in the scheme, every part of it would have been perfect.
"But it is fortunate," thought she, "that I have something to wish for.
Were the whole arrangement complete, my disappointment would be certain.
But here, by carrying with me one ceaseless source of regret in my sister's absence, I
may reasonably hope to have all my expectations of pleasure realised.
A scheme of which every part promises delight can never be successful; and
general disappointment is only warded off by the defence of some little peculiar
vexation."
When Lydia went away she promised to write very often and very minutely to her mother
and Kitty; but her letters were always long expected, and always very short.
Those to her mother contained little else than that they were just returned from the
library, where such and such officers had attended them, and where she had seen such
beautiful ornaments as made her quite wild;
that she had a new gown, or a new parasol, which she would have described more fully,
but was obliged to leave off in a violent hurry, as Mrs. Forster called her, and they
were going off to the camp; and from her
correspondence with her sister, there was still less to be learnt--for her letters to
Kitty, though rather longer, were much too full of lines under the words to be made
public.
After the first fortnight or three weeks of her absence, health, good humour, and
cheerfulness began to reappear at Longbourn.
Everything wore a happier aspect.
The families who had been in town for the winter came back again, and summer finery
and summer engagements arose.
Mrs. Bennet was restored to her usual querulous serenity; and, by the middle of
June, Kitty was so much recovered as to be able to enter Meryton without tears; an
event of such happy promise as to make
Elizabeth hope that by the following Christmas she might be so tolerably
reasonable as not to mention an officer above once a day, unless, by some cruel and
malicious arrangement at the War Office,
another regiment should be quartered in Meryton.
The time fixed for the beginning of their northern tour was now fast approaching, and
a fortnight only was wanting of it, when a letter arrived from Mrs. Gardiner, which at
once delayed its commencement and curtailed its extent.
Mr. Gardiner would be prevented by business from setting out till a fortnight later in
July, and must be in London again within a month, and as that left too short a period
for them to go so far, and see so much as
they had proposed, or at least to see it with the leisure and comfort they had built
on, they were obliged to give up the Lakes, and substitute a more contracted tour, and,
according to the present plan, were to go no farther northwards than Derbyshire.
In that county there was enough to be seen to occupy the chief of their three weeks;
and to Mrs. Gardiner it had a peculiarly strong attraction.
The town where she had formerly passed some years of her life, and where they were now
to spend a few days, was probably as great an object of her curiosity as all the
celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak.
Elizabeth was excessively disappointed; she had set her heart on seeing the Lakes, and
still thought there might have been time enough.
But it was her business to be satisfied-- and certainly her temper to be happy; and
all was soon right again. With the mention of Derbyshire there were
many ideas connected.
It was impossible for her to see the word without thinking of Pemberley and its
owner.
"But surely," said she, "I may enter his county without impunity, and rob it of a
few petrified spars without his perceiving me."
The period of expectation was now doubled.
Four weeks were to pass away before her uncle and aunt's arrival.
But they did pass away, and Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, with their four children, did at
length appear at Longbourn.
The children, two girls of six and eight years old, and two younger boys, were to be
left under the particular care of their cousin Jane, who was the general favourite,
and whose steady sense and sweetness of
temper exactly adapted her for attending to them in every way--teaching them, playing
with them, and loving them.
The Gardiners stayed only one night at Longbourn, and set off the next morning
with Elizabeth in pursuit of novelty and amusement.
One enjoyment was certain--that of suitableness of companions; a suitableness
which comprehended health and temper to bear inconveniences--cheerfulness to
enhance every pleasure--and affection and
intelligence, which might supply it among themselves if there were disappointments
abroad.
It is not the object of this work to give a description of Derbyshire, nor of any of
the remarkable places through which their route thither lay; Oxford, Blenheim,
Warwick, Kenilworth, Birmingham, etc. are sufficiently known.
A small part of Derbyshire is all the present concern.
To the little town of Lambton, the scene of Mrs. Gardiner's former residence, and where
she had lately learned some acquaintance still remained, they bent their steps,
after having seen all the principal wonders
of the country; and within five miles of Lambton, Elizabeth found from her aunt that
Pemberley was situated. It was not in their direct road, nor more
than a mile or two out of it.
In talking over their route the evening before, Mrs. Gardiner expressed an
inclination to see the place again.
Mr. Gardiner declared his willingness, and Elizabeth was applied to for her
approbation.
"My love, should not you like to see a place of which you have heard so much?"
said her aunt; "a place, too, with which so many of your acquaintances are connected.
Wickham passed all his youth there, you know."
Elizabeth was distressed.
She felt that she had no business at Pemberley, and was obliged to assume a
disinclination for seeing it.
She must own that she was tired of seeing great houses; after going over so many, she
really had no pleasure in fine carpets or satin curtains.
Mrs. Gardiner abused her stupidity.
"If it were merely a fine house richly furnished," said she, "I should not care
about it myself; but the grounds are delightful.
They have some of the finest woods in the country."
Elizabeth said no more--but her mind could not acquiesce.
The possibility of meeting Mr. Darcy, while viewing the place, instantly occurred.
It would be dreadful!
She blushed at the very idea, and thought it would be better to speak openly to her
aunt than to run such a risk.
But against this there were objections; and she finally resolved that it could be the
last resource, if her private inquiries to the absence of the family were unfavourably
answered.
Accordingly, when she retired at night, she asked the chambermaid whether Pemberley
were not a very fine place? what was the name of its proprietor? and, with no little
alarm, whether the family were down for the summer?
A most welcome negative followed the last question--and her alarms now being removed,
she was at leisure to feel a great deal of curiosity to see the house herself; and
when the subject was revived the next
morning, and she was again applied to, could readily answer, and with a proper air
of indifference, that she had not really any dislike to the scheme.
To Pemberley, therefore, they were to go.
>
CHAPTER 43
Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods
with some perturbation; and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits
were in a high flutter.
The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground.
They entered it in one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a
beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent.
Elizabeth's mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every
remarkable spot and point of view.
They gradually ascended for half-a-mile, and then found themselves at the top of a
considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by
Pemberley House, situated on the opposite
side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound.
It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed
by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance
was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance.
Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned.
Elizabeth was delighted.
She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had
been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.
They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt
that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!
They descended the hill, crossed the bridge, and drove to the door; and, while
examining the nearer aspect of the house, all her apprehension of meeting its owner
returned.
She dreaded lest the chambermaid had been mistaken.
On applying to see the place, they were admitted into the hall; and Elizabeth, as
they waited for the housekeeper, had leisure to wonder at her being where she
was.
The housekeeper came; a respectable-looking elderly woman, much less fine, and more
civil, than she had any notion of finding her.
They followed her into the dining-parlour.
It was a large, well proportioned room, handsomely fitted up.
Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect.
The hill, crowned with wood, which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness
from the distance, was a beautiful object.
Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene, the
river, the trees scattered on its banks and the winding of the valley, as far as she
could trace it, with delight.
As they passed into other rooms these objects were taking different positions;
but from every window there were beauties to be seen.
The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furniture suitable to the fortune of
its proprietor; but Elizabeth saw, with admiration of his taste, that it was
neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less
of splendour, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings.
"And of this place," thought she, "I might have been mistress!
With these rooms I might now have been familiarly acquainted!
Instead of viewing them as a stranger, I might have rejoiced in them as my own, and
welcomed to them as visitors my uncle and aunt.
But no,"--recollecting herself--"that could never be; my uncle and aunt would have been
lost to me; I should not have been allowed to invite them."
This was a lucky recollection--it saved her from something very like regret.
She longed to inquire of the housekeeper whether her master was really absent, but
had not the courage for it.
At length however, the question was asked by her uncle; and she turned away with
alarm, while Mrs. Reynolds replied that he was, adding, "But we expect him to-morrow,
with a large party of friends."
How rejoiced was Elizabeth that their own journey had not by any circumstance been
delayed a day! Her aunt now called her to look at a
picture.
She approached and saw the likeness of Mr. Wickham, suspended, amongst several other
miniatures, over the mantelpiece. Her aunt asked her, smilingly, how she
liked it.
The housekeeper came forward, and told them it was a picture of a young gentleman, the
son of her late master's steward, who had been brought up by him at his own expense.
"He is now gone into the army," she added; "but I am afraid he has turned out very
wild." Mrs. Gardiner looked at her niece with a
smile, but Elizabeth could not return it.
"And that," said Mrs. Reynolds, pointing to another of the miniatures, "is my master--
and very like him. It was drawn at the same time as the other-
-about eight years ago."
"I have heard much of your master's fine person," said Mrs. Gardiner, looking at the
picture; "it is a handsome face. But, Lizzy, you can tell us whether it is
like or not."
Mrs. Reynolds respect for Elizabeth seemed to increase on this intimation of her
knowing her master. "Does that young lady know Mr. Darcy?"
Elizabeth coloured, and said: "A little."
"And do not you think him a very handsome gentleman, ma'am?"
"Yes, very handsome."
"I am sure I know none so handsome; but in the gallery upstairs you will see a finer,
larger picture of him than this.
This room was my late master's favourite room, and these miniatures are just as they
used to be then. He was very fond of them."
This accounted to Elizabeth for Mr. Wickham's being among them.
Mrs. Reynolds then directed their attention to one of Miss Darcy, drawn when she was
only eight years old.
"And is Miss Darcy as handsome as her brother?" said Mrs. Gardiner.
"Oh! yes--the handsomest young lady that ever was seen; and so accomplished!--She
plays and sings all day long.
In the next room is a new instrument just come down for her--a present from my
master; she comes here to-morrow with him."
Mr. Gardiner, whose manners were very easy and pleasant, encouraged her
communicativeness by his questions and remarks; Mrs. Reynolds, either by pride or
attachment, had evidently great pleasure in talking of her master and his sister.
"Is your master much at Pemberley in the course of the year?"
"Not so much as I could wish, sir; but I dare say he may spend half his time here;
and Miss Darcy is always down for the summer months."
"Except," thought Elizabeth, "when she goes to Ramsgate."
"If your master would marry, you might see more of him."
"Yes, sir; but I do not know when that will be.
I do not know who is good enough for him." Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner smiled.
Elizabeth could not help saying, "It is very much to his credit, I am sure, that
you should think so."
"I say no more than the truth, and everybody will say that knows him," replied
the other.
Elizabeth thought this was going pretty far; and she listened with increasing
astonishment as the housekeeper added, "I have never known a cross word from him in
my life, and I have known him ever since he was four years old."
This was praise, of all others most extraordinary, most opposite to her ideas.
That he was not a good-tempered man had been her firmest opinion.
Her keenest attention was awakened; she longed to hear more, and was grateful to
her uncle for saying:
"There are very few people of whom so much can be said.
You are lucky in having such a master." "Yes, sir, I know I am.
If I were to go through the world, I could not meet with a better.
But I have always observed, that they who are good-natured when children, are good-
natured when they grow up; and he was always the sweetest-tempered, most
generous-hearted boy in the world."
Elizabeth almost stared at her. "Can this be Mr. Darcy?" thought she.
"His father was an excellent man," said Mrs. Gardiner.
"Yes, ma'am, that he was indeed; and his son will be just like him--just as affable
to the poor." Elizabeth listened, wondered, doubted, and
was impatient for more.
Mrs. Reynolds could interest her on no other point.
She related the subjects of the pictures, the dimensions of the rooms, and the price
of the furniture, in vain.
Mr. Gardiner, highly amused by the kind of family prejudice to which he attributed her
excessive commendation of her master, soon led again to the subject; and she dwelt
with energy on his many merits as they proceeded together up the great staircase.
"He is the best landlord, and the best master," said she, "that ever lived; not
like the wild young men nowadays, who think of nothing but themselves.
There is not one of his tenants or servants but will give him a good name.
Some people call him proud; but I am sure I never saw anything of it.
To my fancy, it is only because he does not rattle away like other young men."
"In what an amiable light does this place him!" thought Elizabeth.
"This fine account of him," whispered her aunt as they walked, "is not quite
consistent with his behaviour to our poor friend."
"Perhaps we might be deceived."
"That is not very likely; our authority was too good."
On reaching the spacious lobby above they were shown into a very pretty sitting-room,
lately fitted up with greater elegance and lightness than the apartments below; and
were informed that it was but just done to
give pleasure to Miss Darcy, who had taken a liking to the room when last at
Pemberley.
"He is certainly a good brother," said Elizabeth, as she walked towards one of the
windows. Mrs. Reynolds anticipated Miss Darcy's
delight, when she should enter the room.
"And this is always the way with him," she added.
"Whatever can give his sister any pleasure is sure to be done in a moment.
There is nothing he would not do for her."
The picture-gallery, and two or three of the principal bedrooms, were all that
remained to be shown.
In the former were many good paintings; but Elizabeth knew nothing of the art; and from
such as had been already visible below, she had willingly turned to look at some
drawings of Miss Darcy's, in crayons, whose
subjects were usually more interesting, and also more intelligible.
In the gallery there were many family portraits, but they could have little to
fix the attention of a stranger.
Elizabeth walked in quest of the only face whose features would be known to her.
At last it arrested her--and she beheld a striking resemblance to Mr. Darcy, with
such a smile over the face as she remembered to have sometimes seen when he
looked at her.
She stood several minutes before the picture, in earnest contemplation, and
returned to it again before they quitted the gallery.
Mrs. Reynolds informed them that it had been taken in his father's lifetime.
There was certainly at this moment, in Elizabeth's mind, a more gentle sensation
towards the original than she had ever felt at the height of their acquaintance.
The commendation bestowed on him by Mrs. Reynolds was of no trifling nature.
What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant?
As a brother, a landlord, a master, she considered how many people's happiness were
in his guardianship!--how much of pleasure or pain was it in his power to bestow!--how
much of good or evil must be done by him!
Every idea that had been brought forward by the housekeeper was favourable to his
character, and as she stood before the canvas on which he was represented, and
fixed his eyes upon herself, she thought of
his regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before;
she remembered its warmth, and softened its impropriety of expression.
When all of the house that was open to general inspection had been seen, they
returned downstairs, and, taking leave of the housekeeper, were consigned over to the
gardener, who met them at the hall-door.
As they walked across the hall towards the river, Elizabeth turned back to look again;
her uncle and aunt stopped also, and while the former was conjecturing as to the date
of the building, the owner of it himself
suddenly came forward from the road, which led behind it to the stables.
They were within twenty yards of each other, and so abrupt was his appearance,
that it was impossible to avoid his sight.
Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of both were overspread with the deepest
blush.
He absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immovable from surprise; but shortly
recovering himself, advanced towards the party, and spoke to Elizabeth, if not in
terms of perfect composure, at least of perfect civility.
She had instinctively turned away; but stopping on his approach, received his
compliments with an embarrassment impossible to be overcome.
Had his first appearance, or his resemblance to the picture they had just
been examining, been insufficient to assure the other two that they now saw Mr. Darcy,
the gardener's expression of surprise, on
beholding his master, must immediately have told it.
They stood a little aloof while he was talking to their niece, who, astonished and
confused, scarcely dared lift her eyes to his face, and knew not what answer she
returned to his civil inquiries after her family.
Amazed at the alteration of his manner since they last parted, every sentence that
he uttered was increasing her embarrassment; and every idea of the
impropriety of her being found there
recurring to her mind, the few minutes in which they continued were some of the most
uncomfortable in her life.
Nor did he seem much more at ease; when he spoke, his accent had none of its usual
sedateness; and he repeated his inquiries as to the time of her having left
Longbourn, and of her having stayed in
Derbyshire, so often, and in so hurried a way, as plainly spoke the distraction of
his thoughts.
At length every idea seemed to fail him; and, after standing a few moments without
saying a word, he suddenly recollected himself, and took leave.
The others then joined her, and expressed admiration of his figure; but Elizabeth
heard not a word, and wholly engrossed by her own feelings, followed them in silence.
She was overpowered by shame and vexation.
Her coming there was the most unfortunate, the most ill-judged thing in the world!
How strange it must appear to him! In what a disgraceful light might it not
strike so vain a man!
It might seem as if she had purposely thrown herself in his way again!
Oh! why did she come? Or, why did he thus come a day before he
was expected?
Had they been only ten minutes sooner, they should have been beyond the reach of his
discrimination; for it was plain that he was that moment arrived--that moment
alighted from his horse or his carriage.
She blushed again and again over the perverseness of the meeting.
And his behaviour, so strikingly altered-- what could it mean?
That he should even speak to her was amazing!--but to speak with such civility,
to inquire after her family!
Never in her life had she seen his manners so little dignified, never had he spoken
with such gentleness as on this unexpected meeting.
What a contrast did it offer to his last address in Rosings Park, when he put his
letter into her hand! She knew not what to think, or how to
account for it.
They had now entered a beautiful walk by the side of the water, and every step was
bringing forward a nobler fall of ground, or a finer reach of the woods to which they
were approaching; but it was some time
before Elizabeth was sensible of any of it; and, though she answered mechanically to
the repeated appeals of her uncle and aunt, and seemed to direct her eyes to such
objects as they pointed out, she distinguished no part of the scene.
Her thoughts were all fixed on that one spot of Pemberley House, whichever it might
be, where Mr. Darcy then was.
She longed to know what at the moment was passing in his mind--in what manner he
thought of her, and whether, in defiance of everything, she was still dear to him.
Perhaps he had been civil only because he felt himself at ease; yet there had been
that in his voice which was not like ease.
Whether he had felt more of pain or of pleasure in seeing her she could not tell,
but he certainly had not seen her with composure.
At length, however, the remarks of her companions on her absence of mind aroused
her, and she felt the necessity of appearing more like herself.
They entered the woods, and bidding adieu to the river for a while, ascended some of
the higher grounds; when, in spots where the opening of the trees gave the eye power
to wander, were many charming views of the
valley, the opposite hills, with the long range of woods overspreading many, and
occasionally part of the stream.
Mr. Gardiner expressed a wish of going round the whole park, but feared it might
be beyond a walk. With a triumphant smile they were told that
it was ten miles round.
It settled the matter; and they pursued the accustomed circuit; which brought them
again, after some time, in a descent among hanging woods, to the edge of the water,
and one of its narrowest parts.
They crossed it by a simple bridge, in character with the general air of the
scene; it was a spot less adorned than any they had yet visited; and the valley, here
contracted into a glen, allowed room only
for the stream, and a narrow walk amidst the rough coppice-wood which bordered it.
Elizabeth longed to explore its windings; but when they had crossed the bridge, and
perceived their distance from the house, Mrs. Gardiner, who was not a great walker,
could go no farther, and thought only of
returning to the carriage as quickly as possible.
Her niece was, therefore, obliged to submit, and they took their way towards the
house on the opposite side of the river, in the nearest direction; but their progress
was slow, for Mr. Gardiner, though seldom
able to indulge the taste, was very fond of fishing, and was so much engaged in
watching the occasional appearance of some trout in the water, and talking to the man
about them, that he advanced but little.
Whilst wandering on in this slow manner, they were again surprised, and Elizabeth's
astonishment was quite equal to what it had been at first, by the sight of Mr. Darcy
approaching them, and at no great distance.
The walk being here less sheltered than on the other side, allowed them to see him
before they met.
Elizabeth, however astonished, was at least more prepared for an interview than before,
and resolved to appear and to speak with calmness, if he really intended to meet
them.
For a few moments, indeed, she felt that he would probably strike into some other path.
The idea lasted while a turning in the walk concealed him from their view; the turning
past, he was immediately before them.
With a glance, she saw that he had lost none of his recent civility; and, to
imitate his politeness, she began, as they met, to admire the beauty of the place; but
she had not got beyond the words
"delightful," and "charming," when some unlucky recollections obtruded, and she
fancied that praise of Pemberley from her might be mischievously construed.
Her colour changed, and she said no more.
Mrs. Gardiner was standing a little behind; and on her pausing, he asked her if she
would do him the honour of introducing him to her friends.
This was a stroke of civility for which she was quite unprepared; and she could hardly
suppress a smile at his being now seeking the acquaintance of some of those very
people against whom his pride had revolted in his offer to herself.
"What will be his surprise," thought she, "when he knows who they are?
He takes them now for people of fashion."
The introduction, however, was immediately made; and as she named their relationship
to herself, she stole a sly look at him, to see how he bore it, and was not without the
expectation of his decamping as fast as he
could from such disgraceful companions.
That he was surprised by the connection was evident; he sustained it, however, with
fortitude, and so far from going away, turned his back with them, and entered into
conversation with Mr. Gardiner.
Elizabeth could not but be pleased, could not but triumph.
It was consoling that he should know she had some relations for whom there was no
need to blush.
She listened most attentively to all that passed between them, and gloried in every
expression, every sentence of her uncle, which marked his intelligence, his taste,
or his good manners.
The conversation soon turned upon fishing; and she heard Mr. Darcy invite him, with
the greatest civility, to fish there as often as he chose while he continued in the
neighbourhood, offering at the same time to
supply him with fishing tackle, and pointing out those parts of the stream
where there was usually most sport.
Mrs. Gardiner, who was walking arm-in-arm with Elizabeth, gave her a look expressive
of wonder.
Elizabeth said nothing, but it gratified her exceedingly; the compliment must be all
for herself.
Her astonishment, however, was extreme, and continually was she repeating, "Why is he
so altered? From what can it proceed?
It cannot be for me--it cannot be for my sake that his manners are thus softened.
My reproofs at Hunsford could not work such a change as this.
It is impossible that he should still love me."
After walking some time in this way, the two ladies in front, the two gentlemen
behind, on resuming their places, after descending to the brink of the river for
the better inspection of some curious
water-plant, there chanced to be a little alteration.
It originated in Mrs. Gardiner, who, fatigued by the exercise of the morning,
found Elizabeth's arm inadequate to her support, and consequently preferred her
husband's.
Mr. Darcy took her place by her niece, and they walked on together.
After a short silence, the lady first spoke.
She wished him to know that she had been assured of his absence before she came to
the place, and accordingly began by observing, that his arrival had been very
unexpected--"for your housekeeper," she
added, "informed us that you would certainly not be here till to-morrow; and
indeed, before we left Bakewell, we understood that you were not immediately
expected in the country."
He acknowledged the truth of it all, and said that business with his steward had
occasioned his coming forward a few hours before the rest of the party with whom he
had been travelling.
"They will join me early to-morrow," he continued, "and among them are some who
will claim an acquaintance with you--Mr. Bingley and his sisters."
Elizabeth answered only by a slight bow.
Her thoughts were instantly driven back to the time when Mr. Bingley's name had been
the last mentioned between them; and, if she might judge by his complexion, his mind
was not very differently engaged.
"There is also one other person in the party," he continued after a pause, "who
more particularly wishes to be known to you.
Will you allow me, or do I ask too much, to introduce my sister to your acquaintance
during your stay at Lambton?"
The surprise of such an application was great indeed; it was too great for her to
know in what manner she acceded to it.
She immediately felt that whatever desire Miss Darcy might have of being acquainted
with her must be the work of her brother, and, without looking farther, it was
satisfactory; it was gratifying to know
that his resentment had not made him think really ill of her.
They now walked on in silence, each of them deep in thought.
Elizabeth was not comfortable; that was impossible; but she was flattered and
pleased. His wish of introducing his sister to her
was a compliment of the highest kind.
They soon outstripped the others, and when they had reached the carriage, Mr. and Mrs.
Gardiner were half a quarter of a mile behind.
He then asked her to walk into the house-- but she declared herself not tired, and
they stood together on the lawn. At such a time much might have been said,
and silence was very awkward.
She wanted to talk, but there seemed to be an embargo on every subject.
At last she recollected that she had been travelling, and they talked of Matlock and
Dove Dale with great perseverance.
Yet time and her aunt moved slowly--and her patience and her ideas were nearly worn our
before the tete-a-tete was over.
On Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner's coming up they were all pressed to go into the house and
take some refreshment; but this was declined, and they parted on each side with
utmost politeness.
Mr. Darcy handed the ladies into the carriage; and when it drove off, Elizabeth
saw him walking slowly towards the house.
The observations of her uncle and aunt now began; and each of them pronounced him to
be infinitely superior to anything they had expected.
"He is perfectly well behaved, polite, and unassuming," said her uncle.
"There is something a little stately in him, to be sure," replied her aunt, "but it
is confined to his air, and is not unbecoming.
I can now say with the housekeeper, that though some people may call him proud, I
have seen nothing of it." "I was never more surprised than by his
behaviour to us.
It was more than civil; it was really attentive; and there was no necessity for
such attention. His acquaintance with Elizabeth was very
trifling."
"To be sure, Lizzy," said her aunt, "he is not so handsome as Wickham; or, rather, he
has not Wickham's countenance, for his features are perfectly good.
But how came you to tell me that he was so disagreeable?"
Elizabeth excused herself as well as she could; said that she had liked him better
when they had met in Kent than before, and that she had never seen him so pleasant as
this morning.
"But perhaps he may be a little whimsical in his civilities," replied her uncle.
"Your great men often are; and therefore I shall not take him at his word, as he might
change his mind another day, and warn me off his grounds."
Elizabeth felt that they had entirely misunderstood his character, but said
nothing.
"From what we have seen of him," continued Mrs. Gardiner, "I really should not have
thought that he could have behaved in so cruel a way by anybody as he has done by
poor Wickham.
He has not an ill-natured look. On the contrary, there is something
pleasing about his mouth when he speaks.
And there is something of dignity in his countenance that would not give one an
unfavourable idea of his heart.
But, to be sure, the good lady who showed us his house did give him a most flaming
character! I could hardly help laughing aloud
sometimes.
But he is a liberal master, I suppose, and that in the eye of a servant comprehends
every virtue."
Elizabeth here felt herself called on to say something in vindication of his
behaviour to Wickham; and therefore gave them to understand, in as guarded a manner
as she could, that by what she had heard
from his relations in Kent, his actions were capable of a very different
construction; and that his character was by no means so faulty, nor Wickham's so
amiable, as they had been considered in Hertfordshire.
In confirmation of this, she related the particulars of all the pecuniary
transactions in which they had been connected, without actually naming her
authority, but stating it to be such as might be relied on.
Mrs. Gardiner was surprised and concerned; but as they were now approaching the scene
of her former pleasures, every idea gave way to the charm of recollection; and she
was too much engaged in pointing out to her
husband all the interesting spots in its environs to think of anything else.
Fatigued as she had been by the morning's walk they had no sooner dined than she set
off again in quest of her former acquaintance, and the evening was spent in
the satisfactions of a intercourse renewed after many years' discontinuance.
The occurrences of the day were too full of interest to leave Elizabeth much attention
for any of these new friends; and she could do nothing but think, and think with
wonder, of Mr. Darcy's civility, and, above
all, of his wishing her to be acquainted with his sister.
>
CHAPTER 44
Elizabeth had settled it that Mr. Darcy would bring his sister to visit her the
very day after her reaching Pemberley; and was consequently resolved not to be out of
sight of the inn the whole of that morning.
But her conclusion was false; for on the very morning after their arrival at
Lambton, these visitors came.
They had been walking about the place with some of their new friends, and were just
returning to the inn to dress themselves for dining with the same family, when the
sound of a carriage drew them to a window,
and they saw a gentleman and a lady in a curricle driving up the street.
Elizabeth immediately recognizing the livery, guessed what it meant, and imparted
no small degree of her surprise to her relations by acquainting them with the
honour which she expected.
Her uncle and aunt were all amazement; and the embarrassment of her manner as she
spoke, joined to the circumstance itself, and many of the circumstances of the
preceding day, opened to them a new idea on the business.
Nothing had ever suggested it before, but they felt that there was no other way of
accounting for such attentions from such a quarter than by supposing a partiality for
their niece.
While these newly-born notions were passing in their heads, the perturbation of
Elizabeth's feelings was at every moment increasing.
She was quite amazed at her own discomposure; but amongst other causes of
disquiet, she dreaded lest the partiality of the brother should have said too much in
her favour; and, more than commonly anxious
to please, she naturally suspected that every power of pleasing would fail her.
She retreated from the window, fearful of being seen; and as she walked up and down
the room, endeavouring to compose herself, saw such looks of inquiring surprise in her
uncle and aunt as made everything worse.
Miss Darcy and her brother appeared, and this formidable introduction took place.
With astonishment did Elizabeth see that her new acquaintance was at least as much
embarrassed as herself.
Since her being at Lambton, she had heard that Miss Darcy was exceedingly proud; but
the observation of a very few minutes convinced her that she was only exceedingly
shy.
She found it difficult to obtain even a word from her beyond a monosyllable.
Miss Darcy was tall, and on a larger scale than Elizabeth; and, though little more
than sixteen, her figure was formed, and her appearance womanly and graceful.
She was less handsome than her brother; but there was sense and good humour in her
face, and her manners were perfectly unassuming and gentle.
Elizabeth, who had expected to find in her as acute and unembarrassed an observer as
ever Mr. Darcy had been, was much relieved by discerning such different feelings.
They had not long been together before Mr. Darcy told her that Bingley was also coming
to wait on her; and she had barely time to express her satisfaction, and prepare for
such a visitor, when Bingley's quick step
was heard on the stairs, and in a moment he entered the room.
All Elizabeth's anger against him had been long done away; but had she still felt any,
it could hardly have stood its ground against the unaffected cordiality with
which he expressed himself on seeing her again.
He inquired in a friendly, though general way, after her family, and looked and spoke
with the same good-humoured ease that he had ever done.
To Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner he was scarcely a less interesting personage than to herself.
They had long wished to see him. The whole party before them, indeed,
excited a lively attention.
The suspicions which had just arisen of Mr. Darcy and their niece directed their
observation towards each with an earnest though guarded inquiry; and they soon drew
from those inquiries the full conviction
that one of them at least knew what it was to love.
Of the lady's sensations they remained a little in doubt; but that the gentleman was
overflowing with admiration was evident enough.
Elizabeth, on her side, had much to do.
She wanted to ascertain the feelings of each of her visitors; she wanted to compose
her own, and to make herself agreeable to all; and in the latter object, where she
feared most to fail, she was most sure of
success, for those to whom she endeavoured to give pleasure were prepossessed in her
favour. Bingley was ready, Georgiana was eager, and
Darcy determined, to be pleased.
In seeing Bingley, her thoughts naturally flew to her sister; and, oh! how ardently
did she long to know whether any of his were directed in a like manner.
Sometimes she could fancy that he talked less than on former occasions, and once or
twice pleased herself with the notion that, as he looked at her, he was trying to trace
a resemblance.
But, though this might be imaginary, she could not be deceived as to his behaviour
to Miss Darcy, who had been set up as a rival to Jane.
No look appeared on either side that spoke particular regard.
Nothing occurred between them that could justify the hopes of his sister.
On this point she was soon satisfied; and two or three little circumstances occurred
ere they parted, which, in her anxious interpretation, denoted a recollection of
Jane not untinctured by tenderness, and a
wish of saying more that might lead to the mention of her, had he dared.
He observed to her, at a moment when the others were talking together, and in a tone
which had something of real regret, that it "was a very long time since he had had the
pleasure of seeing her;" and, before she
could reply, he added, "It is above eight months.
We have not met since the 26th of November, when we were all dancing together at
Netherfield."
Elizabeth was pleased to find his memory so exact; and he afterwards took occasion to
ask her, when unattended to by any of the rest, whether all her sisters were at
Longbourn.
There was not much in the question, nor in the preceding remark; but there was a look
and a manner which gave them meaning.
It was not often that she could turn her eyes on Mr. Darcy himself; but, whenever
she did catch a glimpse, she saw an expression of general complaisance, and in
all that he said she heard an accent so
removed from hauteur or disdain of his companions, as convinced her that the
improvement of manners which she had yesterday witnessed however temporary its
existence might prove, had at least outlived one day.
When she saw him thus seeking the acquaintance and courting the good opinion
of people with whom any intercourse a few months ago would have been a disgrace--when
she saw him thus civil, not only to
herself, but to the very relations whom he had openly disdained, and recollected their
last lively scene in Hunsford Parsonage-- the difference, the change was so great,
and struck so forcibly on her mind, that
she could hardly restrain her astonishment from being visible.
Never, even in the company of his dear friends at Netherfield, or his dignified
relations at Rosings, had she seen him so desirous to please, so free from self-
consequence or unbending reserve, as now,
when no importance could result from the success of his endeavours, and when even
the acquaintance of those to whom his attentions were addressed would draw down
the ridicule and censure of the ladies both of Netherfield and Rosings.
Their visitors stayed with them above half- an-hour; and when they arose to depart, Mr.
Darcy called on his sister to join him in expressing their wish of seeing Mr. and
Mrs. Gardiner, and Miss Bennet, to dinner at Pemberley, before they left the country.
Miss Darcy, though with a diffidence which marked her little in the habit of giving
invitations, readily obeyed.
Mrs. Gardiner looked at her niece, desirous of knowing how she, whom the invitation
most concerned, felt disposed as to its acceptance, but Elizabeth had turned away
her head.
Presuming however, that this studied avoidance spoke rather a momentary
embarrassment than any dislike of the proposal, and seeing in her husband, who
was fond of society, a perfect willingness
to accept it, she ventured to engage for her attendance, and the day after the next
was fixed on.
Bingley expressed great pleasure in the certainty of seeing Elizabeth again, having
still a great deal to say to her, and many inquiries to make after all their
Hertfordshire friends.
Elizabeth, construing all this into a wish of hearing her speak of her sister, was
pleased, and on this account, as well as some others, found herself, when their
visitors left them, capable of considering
the last half-hour with some satisfaction, though while it was passing, the enjoyment
of it had been little.
Eager to be alone, and fearful of inquiries or hints from her uncle and aunt, she
stayed with them only long enough to hear their favourable opinion of Bingley, and
then hurried away to dress.
But she had no reason to fear Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner's curiosity; it was not their wish
to force her communication.
It was evident that she was much better acquainted with Mr. Darcy than they had
before any idea of; it was evident that he was very much in love with her.
They saw much to interest, but nothing to justify inquiry.
Of Mr. Darcy it was now a matter of anxiety to think well; and, as far as their
acquaintance reached, there was no fault to find.
They could not be untouched by his politeness; and had they drawn his
character from their own feelings and his servant's report, without any reference to
any other account, the circle in
Hertfordshire to which he was known would not have recognized it for Mr. Darcy.
There was now an interest, however, in believing the housekeeper; and they soon
became sensible that the authority of a servant who had known him since he was four
years old, and whose own manners indicated
respectability, was not to be hastily rejected.
Neither had anything occurred in the intelligence of their Lambton friends that
could materially lessen its weight.
They had nothing to accuse him of but pride; pride he probably had, and if not,
it would certainly be imputed by the inhabitants of a small market-town where
the family did not visit.
It was acknowledged, however, that he was a liberal man, and did much good among the
poor.
With respect to Wickham, the travellers soon found that he was not held there in
much estimation; for though the chief of his concerns with the son of his patron
were imperfectly understood, it was yet a
well-known fact that, on his quitting Derbyshire, he had left many debts behind
him, which Mr. Darcy afterwards discharged.
As for Elizabeth, her thoughts were at Pemberley this evening more than the last;
and the evening, though as it passed it seemed long, was not long enough to
determine her feelings towards one in that
mansion; and she lay awake two whole hours endeavouring to make them out.
She certainly did not hate him.
No; hatred had vanished long ago, and she had almost as long been ashamed of ever
feeling a dislike against him, that could be so called.
The respect created by the conviction of his valuable qualities, though at first
unwillingly admitted, had for some time ceased to be repugnant to her feeling; and
it was now heightened into somewhat of a
friendlier nature, by the testimony so highly in his favour, and bringing forward
his disposition in so amiable a light, which yesterday had produced.
But above all, above respect and esteem, there was a motive within her of goodwill
which could not be overlooked.
It was gratitude; gratitude, not merely for having once loved her, but for loving her
still well enough to forgive all the petulance and acrimony of her manner in
rejecting him, and all the unjust accusations accompanying her rejection.
He who, she had been persuaded, would avoid her as his greatest enemy, seemed, on this
accidental meeting, most eager to preserve the acquaintance, and without any
indelicate display of regard, or any
peculiarity of manner, where their two selves only were concerned, was soliciting
the good opinion of her friends, and bent on making her known to his sister.
Such a change in a man of so much pride exciting not only astonishment but
gratitude--for to love, ardent love, it must be attributed; and as such its
impression on her was of a sort to be
encouraged, as by no means unpleasing, though it could not be exactly defined.
She respected, she esteemed, she was grateful to him, she felt a real interest
in his welfare; and she only wanted to know how far she wished that welfare to depend
upon herself, and how far it would be for
the happiness of both that she should employ the power, which her fancy told her
she still possessed, of bringing on her the renewal of his addresses.
It had been settled in the evening between the aunt and the niece, that such a
striking civility as Miss Darcy's in coming to see them on the very day of her arrival
at Pemberley, for she had reached it only
to a late breakfast, ought to be imitated, though it could not be equalled, by some
exertion of politeness on their side; and, consequently, that it would be highly
expedient to wait on her at Pemberley the following morning.
They were, therefore, to go.
Elizabeth was pleased; though when she asked herself the reason, she had very
little to say in reply. Mr. Gardiner left them soon after
breakfast.
The fishing scheme had been renewed the day before, and a positive engagement made of
his meeting some of the gentlemen at Pemberley before noon.
>
CHAPTER 45
Convinced as Elizabeth now was that Miss Bingley's dislike of her had originated in
jealousy, she could not help feeling how unwelcome her appearance at Pemberley must
be to her, and was curious to know with how
much civility on that lady's side the acquaintance would now be renewed.
On reaching the house, they were shown through the hall into the saloon, whose
northern aspect rendered it delightful for summer.
Its windows opening to the ground, admitted a most refreshing view of the high woody
hills behind the house, and of the beautiful oaks and Spanish chestnuts which
were scattered over the intermediate lawn.
In this house they were received by Miss Darcy, who was sitting there with Mrs.
Hurst and Miss Bingley, and the lady with whom she lived in London.
Georgiana's reception of them was very civil, but attended with all the
embarrassment which, though proceeding from shyness and the fear of doing wrong, would
easily give to those who felt themselves
inferior the belief of her being proud and reserved.
Mrs. Gardiner and her niece, however, did her justice, and pitied her.
By Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley they were noticed only by a curtsey; and, on their
being seated, a pause, awkward as such pauses must always be, succeeded for a few
moments.
It was first broken by Mrs. Annesley, a genteel, agreeable-looking woman, whose
endeavour to introduce some kind of discourse proved her to be more truly well-
bred than either of the others; and between
her and Mrs. Gardiner, with occasional help from Elizabeth, the conversation was
carried on.
Miss Darcy looked as if she wished for courage enough to join in it; and sometimes
did venture a short sentence when there was least danger of its being heard.
Elizabeth soon saw that she was herself closely watched by Miss Bingley, and that
she could not speak a word, especially to Miss Darcy, without calling her attention.
This observation would not have prevented her from trying to talk to the latter, had
they not been seated at an inconvenient distance; but she was not sorry to be
spared the necessity of saying much.
Her own thoughts were employing her. She expected every moment that some of the
gentlemen would enter the room.
She wished, she feared that the master of the house might be amongst them; and
whether she wished or feared it most, she could scarcely determine.
After sitting in this manner a quarter of an hour without hearing Miss Bingley's
voice, Elizabeth was roused by receiving from her a cold inquiry after the health of
her family.
She answered with equal indifference and brevity, and the others said no more.
The next variation which their visit afforded was produced by the entrance of
servants with cold meat, cake, and a variety of all the finest fruits in season;
but this did not take place till after many
a significant look and smile from Mrs. Annesley to Miss Darcy had been given, to
remind her of her post.
There was now employment for the whole party--for though they could not all talk,
they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches
soon collected them round the table.
While thus engaged, Elizabeth had a fair opportunity of deciding whether she most
feared or wished for the appearance of Mr. Darcy, by the feelings which prevailed on
his entering the room; and then, though but
a moment before she had believed her wishes to predominate, she began to regret that he
came.
He had been some time with Mr. Gardiner, who, with two or three other gentlemen from
the house, was engaged by the river, and had left him only on learning that the
ladies of the family intended a visit to Georgiana that morning.
No sooner did he appear than Elizabeth wisely resolved to be perfectly easy and
unembarrassed; a resolution the more necessary to be made, but perhaps not the
more easily kept, because she saw that the
suspicions of the whole party were awakened against them, and that there was scarcely
an eye which did not watch his behaviour when he first came into the room.
In no countenance was attentive curiosity so strongly marked as in Miss Bingley's, in
spite of the smiles which overspread her face whenever she spoke to one of its
objects; for jealousy had not yet made her
desperate, and her attentions to Mr. Darcy were by no means over.
Miss Darcy, on her brother's entrance, exerted herself much more to talk, and
Elizabeth saw that he was anxious for his sister and herself to get acquainted, and
forwarded as much as possible, every attempt at conversation on either side.
Miss Bingley saw all this likewise; and, in the imprudence of anger, took the first
opportunity of saying, with sneering civility:
"Pray, Miss Eliza, are not the ----shire Militia removed from Meryton?
They must be a great loss to your family."
In Darcy's presence she dared not mention Wickham's name; but Elizabeth instantly
comprehended that he was uppermost in her thoughts; and the various recollections
connected with him gave her a moment's
distress; but exerting herself vigorously to repel the ill-natured attack, she
presently answered the question in a tolerably detached tone.
While she spoke, an involuntary glance showed her Darcy, with a heightened
complexion, earnestly looking at her, and his sister overcome with confusion, and
unable to lift up her eyes.
Had Miss Bingley known what pain she was then giving her beloved friend, she
undoubtedly would have refrained from the hint; but she had merely intended to
discompose Elizabeth by bringing forward
the idea of a man to whom she believed her partial, to make her betray a sensibility
which might injure her in Darcy's opinion, and, perhaps, to remind the latter of all
the follies and absurdities by which some
part of her family were connected with that corps.
Not a syllable had ever reached her of Miss Darcy's meditated elopement.
To no creature had it been revealed, where secrecy was possible, except to Elizabeth;
and from all Bingley's connections her brother was particularly anxious to conceal
it, from the very wish which Elizabeth had
long ago attributed to him, of their becoming hereafter her own.
He had certainly formed such a plan, and without meaning that it should effect his
endeavour to separate him from Miss Bennet, it is probable that it might add something
to his lively concern for the welfare of his friend.
Elizabeth's collected behaviour, however, soon quieted his emotion; and as Miss
Bingley, vexed and disappointed, dared not approach nearer to Wickham, Georgiana also
recovered in time, though not enough to be able to speak any more.
Her brother, whose eye she feared to meet, scarcely recollected her interest in the
affair, and the very circumstance which had been designed to turn his thoughts from
Elizabeth seemed to have fixed them on her more and more cheerfully.
Their visit did not continue long after the question and answer above mentioned; and
while Mr. Darcy was attending them to their carriage Miss Bingley was venting her
feelings in criticisms on Elizabeth's person, behaviour, and dress.
But Georgiana would not join her.
Her brother's recommendation was enough to ensure her favour; his judgement could not
err.
And he had spoken in such terms of Elizabeth as to leave Georgiana without the
power of finding her otherwise than lovely and amiable.
When Darcy returned to the saloon, Miss Bingley could not help repeating to him
some part of what she had been saying to his sister.
"How very ill Miss Eliza Bennet looks this morning, Mr. Darcy," she cried; "I never in
my life saw anyone so much altered as she is since the winter.
She is grown so brown and coarse!
Louisa and I were agreeing that we should not have known her again."
However little Mr. Darcy might have liked such an address, he contented himself with
coolly replying that he perceived no other alteration than her being rather tanned, no
miraculous consequence of travelling in the summer.
"For my own part," she rejoined, "I must confess that I never could see any beauty
in her.
Her face is too thin; her complexion has no brilliancy; and her features are not at all
handsome. Her nose wants character--there is nothing
marked in its lines.
Her teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common way; and as for her eyes, which have
sometimes been called so fine, I could never see anything extraordinary in them.
They have a sharp, shrewish look, which I do not like at all; and in her air
altogether there is a self-sufficiency without fashion, which is intolerable."
Persuaded as Miss Bingley was that Darcy admired Elizabeth, this was not the best
method of recommending herself; but angry people are not always wise; and in seeing
him at last look somewhat nettled, she had all the success she expected.
He was resolutely silent, however, and, from a determination of making him speak,
she continued:
"I remember, when we first knew her in Hertfordshire, how amazed we all were to
find that she was a reputed beauty; and I particularly recollect your saying one
night, after they had been dining at
Netherfield, 'She a beauty!--I should as soon call her mother a wit.'
But afterwards she seemed to improve on you, and I believe you thought her rather
pretty at one time."
"Yes," replied Darcy, who could contain himself no longer, "but that was only when
I first saw her, for it is many months since I have considered her as one of the
handsomest women of my acquaintance."
He then went away, and Miss Bingley was left to all the satisfaction of having
forced him to say what gave no one any pain but herself.
Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth talked of all that had occurred during their visit, as
they returned, except what had particularly interested them both.
The look and behaviour of everybody they had seen were discussed, except of the
person who had mostly engaged their attention.
They talked of his sister, his friends, his house, his fruit--of everything but
himself; yet Elizabeth was longing to know what Mrs. Gardiner thought of him, and Mrs.
Gardiner would have been highly gratified by her niece's beginning the subject.
>
CHAPTER 46
Elizabeth had been a good deal disappointed in not finding a letter from Jane on their
first arrival at Lambton; and this disappointment had been renewed on each of
the mornings that had now been spent there;
but on the third her repining was over, and her sister justified, by the receipt of two
letters from her at once, on one of which was marked that it had been missent
elsewhere.
Elizabeth was not surprised at it, as Jane had written the direction remarkably ill.
They had just been preparing to walk as the letters came in; and her uncle and aunt,
leaving her to enjoy them in quiet, set off by themselves.
The one missent must first be attended to; it had been written five days ago.
The beginning contained an account of all their little parties and engagements, with
such news as the country afforded; but the latter half, which was dated a day later,
and written in evident agitation, gave more important intelligence.
It was to this effect:
"Since writing the above, dearest Lizzy, something has occurred of a most unexpected
and serious nature; but I am afraid of alarming you--be assured that we are all
well.
What I have to say relates to poor Lydia.
An express came at twelve last night, just as we were all gone to bed, from Colonel
Forster, to inform us that she was gone off to Scotland with one of his officers; to
own the truth, with Wickham!
Imagine our surprise. To Kitty, however, it does not seem so
wholly unexpected. I am very, very sorry.
So imprudent a match on both sides!
But I am willing to hope the best, and that his character has been misunderstood.
Thoughtless and indiscreet I can easily believe him, but this step (and let us
rejoice over it) marks nothing bad at heart.
His choice is disinterested at least, for he must know my father can give her
nothing. Our poor mother is sadly grieved.
My father bears it better.
How thankful am I that we never let them know what has been said against him; we
must forget it ourselves.
They were off Saturday night about twelve, as is conjectured, but were not missed till
yesterday morning at eight. The express was sent off directly.
My dear Lizzy, they must have passed within ten miles of us.
Colonel Forster gives us reason to expect him here soon.
Lydia left a few lines for his wife, informing her of their intention.
I must conclude, for I cannot be long from my poor mother.
I am afraid you will not be able to make it out, but I hardly know what I have
written."
Without allowing herself time for consideration, and scarcely knowing what
she felt, Elizabeth on finishing this letter instantly seized the other, and
opening it with the utmost impatience, read
as follows: it had been written a day later than the conclusion of the first.
"By this time, my dearest sister, you have received my hurried letter; I wish this may
be more intelligible, but though not confined for time, my head is so bewildered
that I cannot answer for being coherent.
Dearest Lizzy, I hardly know what I would write, but I have bad news for you, and it
cannot be delayed.
Imprudent as the marriage between Mr. Wickham and our poor Lydia would be, we are
now anxious to be assured it has taken place, for there is but too much reason to
fear they are not gone to Scotland.
Colonel Forster came yesterday, having left Brighton the day before, not many hours
after the express.
Though Lydia's short letter to Mrs. F. gave them to understand that they were going to
Gretna Green, something was dropped by Denny expressing his belief that W. never
intended to go there, or to marry Lydia at
all, which was repeated to Colonel F., who, instantly taking the alarm, set off from B.
intending to trace their route.
He did trace them easily to Clapham, but no further; for on entering that place, they
removed into a hackney coach, and dismissed the chaise that brought them from Epsom.
All that is known after this is, that they were seen to continue the London road.
I know not what to think.
After making every possible inquiry on that side London, Colonel F. came on into
Hertfordshire, anxiously renewing them at all the turnpikes, and at the inns in
Barnet and Hatfield, but without any
success--no such people had been seen to pass through.
With the kindest concern he came on to Longbourn, and broke his apprehensions to
us in a manner most creditable to his heart.
I am sincerely grieved for him and Mrs. F., but no one can throw any blame on them.
Our distress, my dear Lizzy, is very great. My father and mother believe the worst, but
I cannot think so ill of him.
Many circumstances might make it more eligible for them to be married privately
in town than to pursue their first plan; and even if he could form such a design
against a young woman of Lydia's
connections, which is not likely, can I suppose her so lost to everything?
Impossible!
I grieve to find, however, that Colonel F. is not disposed to depend upon their
marriage; he shook his head when I expressed my hopes, and said he feared W.
was not a man to be trusted.
My poor mother is really ill, and keeps her room.
Could she exert herself, it would be better; but this is not to be expected.
And as to my father, I never in my life saw him so affected.
Poor Kitty has anger for having concealed their attachment; but as it was a matter of
confidence, one cannot wonder.
I am truly glad, dearest Lizzy, that you have been spared something of these
distressing scenes; but now, as the first shock is over, shall I own that I long for
your return?
I am not so selfish, however, as to press for it, if inconvenient.
Adieu!
I take up my pen again to do what I have just told you I would not; but
circumstances are such that I cannot help earnestly begging you all to come here as
soon as possible.
I know my dear uncle and aunt so well, that I am not afraid of requesting it, though I
have still something more to ask of the former.
My father is going to London with Colonel Forster instantly, to try to discover her.
What he means to do I am sure I know not; but his excessive distress will not allow
him to pursue any measure in the best and safest way, and Colonel Forster is obliged
to be at Brighton again to-morrow evening.
In such an exigence, my uncle's advice and assistance would be everything in the
world; he will immediately comprehend what I must feel, and I rely upon his goodness."
"Oh! where, where is my uncle?" cried Elizabeth, darting from her seat as she
finished the letter, in eagerness to follow him, without losing a moment of the time so
precious; but as she reached the door it
was opened by a servant, and Mr. Darcy appeared.
Her pale face and impetuous manner made him start, and before he could recover himself
to speak, she, in whose mind every idea was superseded by Lydia's situation, hastily
exclaimed, "I beg your pardon, but I must leave you.
I must find Mr. Gardiner this moment, on business that cannot be delayed; I have not
an instant to lose."
"Good God! what is the matter?" cried he, with more feeling than politeness; then
recollecting himself, "I will not detain you a minute; but let me, or let the
servant go after Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner.
You are not well enough; you cannot go yourself."
Elizabeth hesitated, but her knees trembled under her and she felt how little would be
gained by her attempting to pursue them.
Calling back the servant, therefore, she commissioned him, though in so breathless
an accent as made her almost unintelligible, to fetch his master and
mistress home instantly.
On his quitting the room she sat down, unable to support herself, and looking so
miserably ill, that it was impossible for Darcy to leave her, or to refrain from
saying, in a tone of gentleness and commiseration, "Let me call your maid.
Is there nothing you could take to give you present relief?
A glass of wine; shall I get you one?
You are very ill." "No, I thank you," she replied,
endeavouring to recover herself. "There is nothing the matter with me.
I am quite well; I am only distressed by some dreadful news which I have just
received from Longbourn."
She burst into tears as she alluded to it, and for a few minutes could not speak
another word.
Darcy, in wretched suspense, could only say something indistinctly of his concern, and
observe her in compassionate silence. At length she spoke again.
"I have just had a letter from Jane, with such dreadful news.
It cannot be concealed from anyone.
My younger sister has left all her friends- -has eloped; has thrown herself into the
power of--of Mr. Wickham. They are gone off together from Brighton.
You know him too well to doubt the rest.
She has no money, no connections, nothing that can tempt him to--she is lost for
ever." Darcy was fixed in astonishment.
"When I consider," she added in a yet more agitated voice, "that I might have
prevented it! I, who knew what he was.
Had I but explained some part of it only-- some part of what I learnt, to my own
family! Had his character been known, this could
not have happened.
But it is all--all too late now." "I am grieved indeed," cried Darcy;
"grieved--shocked. But is it certain--absolutely certain?"
"Oh, yes!
They left Brighton together on Sunday night, and were traced almost to London,
but not beyond; they are certainly not gone to Scotland."
"And what has been done, what has been attempted, to recover her?"
"My father is gone to London, and Jane has written to beg my uncle's immediate
assistance; and we shall be off, I hope, in half-an-hour.
But nothing can be done--I know very well that nothing can be done.
How is such a man to be worked on? How are they even to be discovered?
I have not the smallest hope.
It is every way horrible!" Darcy shook his head in silent
acquiescence.
"When my eyes were opened to his real character--Oh! had I known what I ought,
what I dared to do! But I knew not--I was afraid of doing too
much.
Wretched, wretched mistake!" Darcy made no answer.
He seemed scarcely to hear her, and was walking up and down the room in earnest
meditation, his brow contracted, his air gloomy.
Elizabeth soon observed, and instantly understood it.
Her power was sinking; everything must sink under such a proof of family weakness, such
an assurance of the deepest disgrace.
She could neither wonder nor condemn, but the belief of his self-conquest brought
nothing consolatory to her bosom, afforded no palliation of her distress.
It was, on the contrary, exactly calculated to make her understand her own wishes; and
never had she so honestly felt that she could have loved him, as now, when all love
must be vain.
But self, though it would intrude, could not engross her.
Lydia--the humiliation, the misery she was bringing on them all, soon swallowed up
every private care; and covering her face with her handkerchief, Elizabeth was soon
lost to everything else; and, after a pause
of several minutes, was only recalled to a sense of her situation by the voice of her
companion, who, in a manner which, though it spoke compassion, spoke likewise
restraint, said, "I am afraid you have been
long desiring my absence, nor have I anything to plead in excuse of my stay, but
real, though unavailing concern.
Would to Heaven that anything could be either said or done on my part that might
offer consolation to such distress!
But I will not torment you with vain wishes, which may seem purposely to ask for
your thanks.
This unfortunate affair will, I fear, prevent my sister's having the pleasure of
seeing you at Pemberley to-day." "Oh, yes.
Be so kind as to apologise for us to Miss Darcy.
Say that urgent business calls us home immediately.
Conceal the unhappy truth as long as it is possible, I know it cannot be long."
He readily assured her of his secrecy; again expressed his sorrow for her
distress, wished it a happier conclusion than there was at present reason to hope,
and leaving his compliments for her
relations, with only one serious, parting look, went away.
As he quitted the room, Elizabeth felt how improbable it was that they should ever see
each other again on such terms of cordiality as had marked their several
meetings in Derbyshire; and as she threw a
retrospective glance over the whole of their acquaintance, so full of
contradictions and varieties, sighed at the perverseness of those feelings which would
now have promoted its continuance, and
would formerly have rejoiced in its termination.
If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection, Elizabeth's
change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty.
But if otherwise--if regard springing from such sources is unreasonable or unnatural,
in comparison of what is so often described as arising on a first interview with its
object, and even before two words have been
exchanged, nothing can be said in her defence, except that she had given somewhat
of a trial to the latter method in her partiality for Wickham, and that its ill
success might, perhaps, authorise her to
seek the other less interesting mode of attachment.
Be that as it may, she saw him go with regret; and in this early example of what
Lydia's infamy must produce, found additional anguish as she reflected on that
wretched business.
Never, since reading Jane's second letter, had she entertained a hope of Wickham's
meaning to marry her. No one but Jane, she thought, could flatter
herself with such an expectation.
Surprise was the least of her feelings on this development.
While the contents of the first letter remained in her mind, she was all surprise-
-all astonishment that Wickham should marry a girl whom it was impossible he could
marry for money; and how Lydia could ever
have attached him had appeared incomprehensible.
But now it was all too natural.
For such an attachment as this she might have sufficient charms; and though she did
not suppose Lydia to be deliberately engaging in an elopement without the
intention of marriage, she had no
difficulty in believing that neither her virtue nor her understanding would preserve
her from falling an easy prey.
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 so?"
"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.
>
CHAPTER 47
"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 moment.
"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 marriage?"
"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 forgetfulness.
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, 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 their
marriage.
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 Lydia.
"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 at table:
"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
his journey."
"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 his wife?"
"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, "LYDIA BENNET."
"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 my faculties."
"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."
>
CHAPTER 48
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 to Longbourn.
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 mother's tea.
"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."
>
CHAPTER 49
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 uncle?"
"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, August 2. "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.,
"EDW. GARDINER."
"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 yourself."
"I dislike it very much," he replied; "but it must be done."
And so saying, he turned back with them, and walked towards the house.
"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
breakfast-room.
"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 of it."
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.
>
CHAPTER 50
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 sum.
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 to her.
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 importance.
"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 triumph.
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 militia.
"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 mother.--Yours,
etc., "E. GARDINER."
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 many favourites.
"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.
>
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Part 4 - Pride and Prejudice Audiobook by Jane Austen (Chs 41-50)

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