But he found Lydia absolutely resolved on remaining where she was. She cared
for none of her friends; she wanted no help of his; she would not hear of leaving
Wickham. She was sure they should be married some time or other, and it did not
much signify when. Since such were her feelings, it only remained, he thought, to
secure and expedite a marriage, which, in his very first conversation with Wickham,
he easily learnt had never been his design. He confessed himself obliged to leave
the regiment, on account of some debts of honour, which were very pressing; and
scrupled not to lay all the ill-consequences of Lydia's flight on her own folly
alone. He meant to resign his commission immediately; and as to his future situation,
he could conjecture very little about it. He must go somewhere, but he did not know
where, and he knew he should have nothing to live on. Mr. Darcy asked him why he
had not married your sister at once. Though Mr. Bennet was not imagined to be very
rich, he would have been able to do something for him, and his situation must have
been benefited by marriage. But he found, in reply to this question, that Wickham
still cherished the hope of more effectually making his fortune by marriage in some
other country. Under such circumstances, however, he was not likely to be proof
against the temptation of immediate relief.
They met several times, for there was much to be discussed.
Wickham of course wanted more than he could get; but at length was reduced to
be reasonable. Every thing being settled between them, Mr. Darcy's next step was
to make your uncle acquainted with it, and he first called in Gracechurch-street
the evening before I came home. But Mr. Gardiner could not be seen, and Mr. Darcy
found, on further enquiry, that your father was still with him, but would quit town
the next morning. He did not judge your father to be a person whom he could so properly
consult as your uncle, and therefore readily postponed seeing him till after the
departure of the former. He did not leave his name, and till the next day it was
only known that a gentleman had called on business. On Saturday he came again.
Your father was gone, your uncle at home, and, as I said before, they had a great
deal of talk together. They met again on Sunday, and then I saw him too. It was
not all settled before Monday: as soon as it was, the express was sent off to Longbourn.
But our visitor was very obstinate. I fancy, Lizzy, that obstinacy is the real defect
of his character, after all. He has been accused of many faults at different times,
but this is the true one. Nothing was to be done that he did not do himself; though
I am sure (and I do not speak it to be thanked, therefore say nothing about it),
your uncle would most readily have settled the whole. They battled it together for
a long time, which was more than either the gentleman or lady concerned in it deserved.
But at last your uncle was forced to yield, and instead of being allowed to be of
use to his niece, was forced to put up with only having the probable credit of it,
which went sorely against the grain; and I really believe your letter this morning
gave him great pleasure, because it required an explanation that would rob him of
his borrowed feathers, and give the praise where it was due.
But, Lizzy, this must go no farther than yourself, or Jane at most. You know
pretty well, I suppose, what has been done for the young people. His debts are to
be paid, amounting, I believe, to considerably more than a thousand pounds, another
thousand in addition to her own settled upon her, and his commission purchased.
The reason why all this was to be done by him alone, was such as I have given above.
It was owing to him, to his reserve and want of proper consideration, that Wickham's
character had been so misunderstood, and consequently that he had been received
and noticed as he was. Perhaps there was some truth in this; though I doubt whether
his reserve, or anybody's reserve, can be answerable for the event. But in spite
of all this fine talking, my dear Lizzy, you may rest perfectly assured that your
uncle would never have yielded, if we had not given him credit for another interest
in the affair. When all this was resolved on, he returned again to his friends,
who were still staying at Pemberley; but it was agreed that he should be in London
once more when the wedding took place, and all money matters were then to receive
the last finish. I believe I have now told you every thing. It is a relation which
you tell me is to give you great surprise; I hope at least it will not afford you
Lydia came to us; and Wickham had constant admission to the house. He was exactly
what he had been when I knew him in Hertfordshire; but I would not tell you how
little I was satisfied with her behaviour while she staid with us, if I had not
perceived, by Jane's letter last Wednesday, that her conduct on coming home was
exactly of a piece with it, and therefore what I now tell you can give you no fresh
I talked to her repeatedly in the most serious manner, representing to her all
the wickedness of what she had done, and all the unhappiness she had brought on
her family. If she heard me, it was by good luck, for I am sure she did not listen.
I was sometimes quite provoked, but then I recollected my dear Elizabeth and Jane,
and for their sakes had patience with her. Mr. Darcy was punctual in his return,
and as Lydia informed you, attended the wedding. He dined with us the next day,
and was to leave town again on Wednesday or Thursday.
Will you be very angry with me, my dear Lizzy, if I take this opportunity of
saying (what I was never bold enough to say before) how much I like him. His behaviour
to us has, in every respect, been as pleasing as when we were in Derbyshire. His
understanding and opinions all please me; he wants nothing but a little more liveliness,
and that, if he marry prudently, his wife may teach him. I thought him very
sly; -- he hardly ever mentioned your name. But slyness seems the fashion. Pray
forgive me if I have been very presuming, or at least do not punish me so far as
to exclude me from P. I shall never be quite happy till I have been all round the
park. A low phaeton, with a nice little pair of ponies, would be the very thing.
But I must write no more. The children have been wanting me this half hour. Your's,
very sincerely, M. GARDINER."
The contents of this letter threw Elizabeth into a flutter of spirits, in which
it was difficult to determine whether pleasure or pain bore the greatest share.
The vague and unsettled suspicions which uncertainty had produced of what Mr. Darcy
might have been doing to forward her sister's match, which she had feared to encourage
as an exertion of goodness too great to be probable, and at the same time dreaded
to be just, from the pain of obligation, were proved beyond their greatest extent
to be true! He had followed them purposely to town, he had taken on himself all
the trouble and mortification attendant on such a research; in which supplication
had been necessary to a woman whom he must abominate and despise, and where he was
reduced to meet, frequently meet, reason with, persuade, and finally bribe, the
man whom he always most wished to avoid, and whose very name it was punishment to
him to pronounce. He had done all this for a girl whom he could neither regard nor
esteem. Her heart did whisper that he had done it for her. But it was a hope shortly
checked by other considerations, and she soon felt that even her vanity was insufficient,
when required to depend on his affection for her -- for a woman who had already
refused him -- as able to overcome a sentiment so natural as abhorrence against
relationship with Wickham. Brother-in-law of Wickham! Every kind of pride must revolt
from the connection. He had, to be sure, done much. She was ashamed to think how
much. But he had given a reason for his interference, which asked no extraordinary
stretch of belief. It was reasonable that he should feel he had been wrong; he had
liberality, and he had the means of exercising it; and though she would not place
herself as his principal inducement, she could, perhaps, believe that remaining
partiality for her might assist his endeavours in a cause where her peace of mind
must be materially concerned. It was painful, exceedingly painful, to know that
they were under obligations to a person who could never receive a return. They owed
the restoration of Lydia, her character, every thing, to him. Oh! how heartily did
she grieve over every ungracious sensation she had ever encouraged, every saucy
speech she had ever directed towards him. For herself she was humbled; but she was
proud of him. Proud that in a cause of compassion and honour, he had been able to
get the better of himself. She read over her aunt's commendation of him again and
again. It was hardly enough; but it pleased her. She was even sensible of some pleasure,
though mixed with regret, on finding how steadfastly both she and her uncle had
been persuaded that affection and confidence subsisted between Mr. Darcy and herself.
She was roused from her seat, and her reflections, by some one's approach; and
before she could strike into another path, she was overtaken by Wickham.
"I am afraid I interrupt your solitary ramble, my dear sister?"
said he, as he joined her.
"You certainly do," she replied with a smile; "but it does not follow that the
interruption must be unwelcome."
"I should be sorry indeed, if it were. We were always good friends; and now
we are better."