"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 up stairs 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 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 every thing, 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 quietly at Longbourn, and depend an my diligence
and care. Send back your answer as soon 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 any thing more is determined
on. Your's, &c.
"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 have thought him!"
said her sister. "My dear father, I congratulate you."
"And have you answered the letter?" said Elizabeth.
"No; but it must be done soon."
Most earnestly did she then intreat 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
"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 I am ever to pay
"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 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 any
thing like it, has been advanced. He has children of his own, and may have more.
How could he spare half ten thousand pounds?"
"If we are 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
"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
any body, 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 up stairs 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 every thing. 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.