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 he 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 intreaties that the subject might never be a 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. --
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 every body,
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 should be able to shew 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
<CHAPTER IX (51)>
THEIR sister's wedding day arrived; and Jane and Elizabeth felt for her probably
more than she felt for herself. The carriage was sent to meet them at ----, and
they were to return in it by dinner-time. Their arrival was dreaded by the elder
Miss Bennets, and Jane more especially, who gave Lydia the feelings which would
have attended herself, had she been the culprit, and was wretched in the thought
of what her sister must endure.
They came. The family were assembled in the breakfast room to receive them. Smiles
decked the face of Mrs. Bennet as the carriage drove up to the door; her husband
looked impenetrably grave; her daughters, alarmed, anxious, uneasy.
Lydia's voice was heard in the vestibule; the door was thrown open, and she ran
into the room. Her mother stepped forwards, embraced her, and welcomed her with
rapture; gave her hand, with an affectionate smile, to Wickham, who followed his
lady; and wished them both joy with an alacrity which shewed no doubt of their happiness.
Their reception from Mr. Bennet, to whom they then turned, was not quite so cordial.
His countenance rather gained in austerity; and he scarcely opened his lips. The
easy assurance of the young couple, indeed, was enough to provoke him. Elizabeth
was disgusted, and even Miss Bennet was shocked. Lydia was Lydia still; untamed,
unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless. She turned from sister to sister, demanding
their congratulations; and when at length they all sat down, looked eagerly round
the room, took notice of some little alteration in it, and observed, with a laugh,
that it was a great while since she had been there.
Wickham was not at all more distressed than herself, but his manners were always
so pleasing, that had his character and his marriage been exactly what they ought,
his smiles and his easy address, while he claimed their relationship, would have
delighted them all. Elizabeth had not before believed him quite equal to such assurance;
but she sat down, resolving within herself to draw no limits in future to the impudence
of an impudent man. She blushed, and Jane blushed; but the cheeks of the two who
caused their confusion suffered no variation of colour.
There was no want of discourse. The bride and her mother could neither of them
talk fast enough; and Wickham, who happened to sit near Elizabeth, began enquiring
after his acquaintance in that neighbourhood, with a good humoured ease which she
felt very unable to equal in her replies. They seemed each of them to have the happiest
memories in the world. Nothing of the past was recollected with pain; and Lydia
led voluntarily to subjects which her sisters would not have alluded to for the
"Only think of its being three months," she cried, "since I went away; it seems
but a fortnight I declare; and yet there have been things enough happened in the
time. Good gracious! when I went away, I am sure I had no more idea of being married
till I came back again! though I thought it would be very good fun if I was."
Her father lifted up his eyes. Jane was distressed. Elizabeth looked expressively
at Lydia; but she, who never heard nor saw any thing of which she chose to be insensible,
gaily continued, "Oh! mamma, do the people here abouts 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 any thing."
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."