‘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.
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 any one 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. This 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
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 chief 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 despatched; 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 quickly spread 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 little of their spirit in this change of circumstances, because
with such a 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 would 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 Purvis 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 imprudence 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 that 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 the man whom he so justly scorned.
From such a connection she could not wonder that he should 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 be know that the proposals which she had proudly
spurned only four months ago would now have been 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 judgment, 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
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 assurances 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 a 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 her mother.—Yours, etc.
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
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 should be able to show
her married daughter in the neighbourhood, before she was banished to the north. When Mr. Bennet
wrote again to his brother, therefore, he sent his permission for them to come; and it was settled that, as
soon as the ceremony was over, they should proceed to Longbourn. Elizabeth was surprised, however,
that Wickham should consent to such a scheme; and, had she consulted only her own inclination, any
meeting with him would have been the last object of her wishes.
THEIR sister’s wedding day arrived; and Jane and Elizabeth felt for her probably more than she felt for
herself. The carriage was sent to meet them at ——, and they were to return in it by dinner-time. Their
arrival was dreaded by the elder Miss Bennets; and Jane more especially, who gave Lydia the feelings
which would have attended herself had she been the culprit, and was wretched in the thought of what her
sister must endure.
They came. The family were assembled in the breakfastroom to receive them. Smiles decked the face of
Mrs. Bennet, as the carriage drove up to the door; her husband looked impenetrably grave; her daughters,
alarmed, anxious, uneasy.
Lydia’s voice was heard in the vestibule; the door was thrown open, and she ran into the room. Her
mother stepped forwards, embraced her, and welcomed her with rapture; gave her hand with an
affectionate smile to Wickham, who followed his lady, and wished them both joy, with an alacrity which
showed no doubt of their happiness.
Their reception from Mr. Bennet, to whom they then turned, was not quite so cordial. His countenance
rather gained in austerity; and he scarcely opened his lips. The easy assurance of the young couple,
indeed, was enough to provoke him. Elizabeth was disgusted, and even Miss Bennet was shocked. Lydia
was Lydia still; untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless. She turned from sister to sister,
demanding their congratulations; and when at length they all sat down, looked eagerly round the room,
took notice of some little alteration in it, and observed, with a laugh, that it was a great while since she
had been there.
Wickham was not at all more distressed than herself; but his manners were always so pleasing, that had
his character and his marriage been exactly what they ought, his smiles and his easy address, while he
claimed their relationship, would have delighted them all. Elizabeth had not before believed him quite
equal to such assurance; but she sat down, resolving within herself to draw no limits in future to the
impudence of an impudent man. She blushed, and Jane blushed; but the cheeks of the two who caused
their confusion suffered no variation of colour.
There was no want of discourse. The bride and her mother could neither of them talk fast enough; and
Wickham, who happened to sit near Elizabeth, began inquiring after his acquaintance in that
neighbourhood, with a goodhumoured ease which she felt very unable to equal in her replies. They
seemed each of them to have the happiest memories in the world. Nothing of the past was recollected
with pain; and Lydia led voluntarily to subjects which her sisters would not have alluded to for the world.
‘Only think of its being three months,’ she cried, ‘since I went away: it seems but a fortnight, I declare;
and yet there have been things enough happened in the time. Good gracious! when I went away, I am
sure I had no more idea of being married till I came back again! though I thought it would be very good
fun if I was.’
Her father lifted up his eyes, Jane was distressed, Elizabeth looked expressively at Lydia; but she, who
never heard nor saw anything of which she chose to be insensible, gaily continued, ‘Oh, mamma, do the
people hereabouts know I am married to-day? I was afraid they might not; and we overtook William
Goulding in his curricle, so I was determined he should know it, and so I let down the side glass next to
him, and took off my glove and let my hand just rest upon the window frame, so that he might see the
ring, and then I bowed and smiled like anything.’
Elizabeth could bear it no longer. She got up and ran out of the room; and returned no more till she
heard them passing through the hall to the dining parlour. She then joined them soon enough to see
Lydia, with anxious parade, walk up to her mother’s right hand, and hear her say to her eldest sister, ‘Ah,
Jane I take your place now, and you must go lower, because I am a married woman.’
It was not to be supposed that time would give Lydia that embarrassment from which she had been so
wholly free at first. Her ease and good spirits increased. She longed to see Mrs. Philips, the Lucases, and
all their other neighbours, and to hear herself called ‘Mrs. Wickham’ by each of them; and in the
meantime she went after dinner to show her ring and boast of being married to Mrs. Hill and the two
‘Well, mamma,’ said she, when they were all returned to the breakfast-room, ‘and what do you think of
my husband? Is not he a charming man? I am sure my sisters must all envy me. I only hope they may
have half my good luck. They must all go to Brighton. That is the place to get husbands. What a pity it is,
mamma, we did not all go.’
‘Very true; and if I had my will we should. But, my dear Lydia, I don’t at all like your going such a way
off. Must it be so?’
‘O Lord! yes; there is nothing in that. I shall like it of all things. You and papa, and my sisters, must
come down and see us. We shall be at Newcastle all the winter, and I daresay there will be some balls,
and I will take care to get good partners for them all.’
‘I should like it beyond anything!’ said her mother.
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