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, the misery of 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 affected. Not Lydia only, but all were concerned in it;
and after the first exclamations of surprise and horror, Mr. Gardiner readily 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, every thing 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
"That 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 best could serve only 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 in 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
<CHAPTER V (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 of 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 it.
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 an 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 exceptionable 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
"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 attractions has she beyond youth, health, and
good humour, that could make him, for her sake, forgo every chance of benefiting
himself by marrying well? As to what restraint the apprehension 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 every thing but love of him, as to
consent to live with him on any other terms 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 every thing 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 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 believe 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 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
That she could be in any danger from the deception never entered my head. That
such a consequence as this should 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 any thing 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."