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|Chapter 41 (Vol. II, Chap. XVIII)|
|(Vol. II, Chap. 17)
||Table of Contents
||(Vol. II, Chap. 19)|
|Chapter 41 (Vol. II, Chap. XVIII)
|The first week of their return was soon gone. The second
began. It was the last of the regiment's stay in Meryton, and
all the young ladies in the neighbourhood were drooping apace.
The dejection was almost universal. The elder Miss Bennets
alone were still able to eat, drink, and sleep, and pursue the
usual course of their employments. Very frequently were they
reproached for this insensibility by Kitty and Lydia, whose own
misery was extreme, and who could not comprehend such
hard-heartedness in any of the family.
|"Good Heaven! What is to become of us! What are we to do!"
would they often exclaim in the bitterness of woe. "How can
you be smiling so, Lizzy?"
|Their affectionate mother shared all their grief; she
remembered what she had herself endured on a similar occasion,
five and twenty years ago.
|"I am sure," said she, "I cried for two days together when
Colonel Millar's regiment went away. I thought I should have
broke my heart."
|"I am sure I shall break mine," said Lydia.
|"If one could but go to Brighton!" observed Mrs. Bennet.
|"Oh, yes! -- if one could but go to Brighton! But papa is so
|"A little sea-bathing would set me up for ever."
|"And my aunt Philips is sure it would do me a great deal of
good," added Kitty.
|Such were the kind of lamentations resounding perpetually
through Longbourn-house. Elizabeth tried to be diverted by
them; but all sense of pleasure was lost in shame. She felt
anew the justice of Mr. Darcy's objections; and never had she
before been so much disposed to pardon his interference in the
views of his friend.
|But the gloom of Lydia's prospect was shortly cleared away;
for she received an invitation from Mrs. Forster, the wife of
the Colonel of the regiment, to accompany her to Brighton.
This invaluable friend was a very young woman, and very lately
married. A resemblance in good humour and good spirits had
recommended her and Lydia to each other, and out of their
three months' acquaintance they had been intimate two.
|The rapture of Lydia on this occasion, her adoration of
Mrs. Forster, the delight of Mrs. Bennet, and the mortification
of Kitty, are scarcely to be described. Wholly inattentive to
her sister's feelings, Lydia flew about the house in restless
ecstacy, calling for everyone's congratulations, and laughing
and talking with more violence than ever; whilst the luckless
Kitty continued in the parlour repining at her fate in terms as
unreasonable as her accent was peevish.
|"I cannot see why Mrs. Forster should not ask me as well as
Lydia," said she, "though I am not her particular friend.
I have just as much right to be asked as she has, and more too,
for I am two years older."
|In vain did Elizabeth attempt to reasonable, and Jane to make
her resigned. As for Elizabeth herself, this invitation was so
far from exciting in her the same feelings as in her mother and
Lydia, that she considered it as the death-warrant of all
possibility of common sense for the latter; and detestable as
such a step must make her were it known, she could not help
secretly advising her father not to let her go. She
represented to him all the improprieties of Lydia's general
behaviour, the little advantage she could derive from the
friendship of such a woman as Mrs. Forster, and the probability
of her being yet more imprudent with such a companion at
Brighton, where the temptations must be greater than at home.
He heard her attentively, and then said,
|"Lydia will never be easy till she has exposed herself in some
public place or other, and we can never expect her to do it
with so little expense or inconvenience to her family as under
the present circumstances."
|"If you were aware," said Elizabeth, "of the very great
disadvantage to us all, which must arise from the public notice
of Lydia's unguarded and imprudent manner; nay, which has
already arisen from it, I am sure you would judge differently
in the affair."
|"Already arisen!" repeated Mr. Bennet. "What, has she
frightened away some of your lovers? Poor little Lizzy! But
do not be cast down. Such squeamish youths as cannot bear to
be connected with a little absurdity are not worth a regret.
Come, let me see the list of the pitiful fellows who have been
kept aloof by Lydia's folly."
|"Indeed you are mistaken. I have no such injuries to resent,
It is not of peculiar, but of general evils, which I am now
complaining. Our importance, our respectability in the world,
must be affected by the wild volatility, the assurance and
disdain of all restraint which mark Lydia's character. Excuse
me -- for I must speak plainly. If you, my dear father, will
not take the trouble of checking her exuberant spirits, and of
teaching her that her present pursuits are not to be the
business of her life, she will soon be beyond the reach of
amendment. Her character will be fixed, and she will, at
sixteen, be the most determined flirt that ever made herself
and her family ridiculous. A flirt, too, in the worst and
meanest degree of flirtation; without any attraction beyond
youth and a tolerable person; and from the ignorance and
emptiness of her mind, wholly unable to ward off any portion of
that universal contempt which her rage for admiration will
excite. In this danger Kitty is also comprehended. She will
follow wherever Lydia leads. -- Vain, ignorant, idle, and
absolutely uncontrolled! Oh! my dear father, can you suppose
it possible that they will not be censured and despised
wherever they are known, and that their sisters will not be
often involved in the disgrace?"
|Mr. Bennet saw that her whole heart was in the subject;
and affectionately taking her hand, said in reply,
|"Do not make yourself uneasy, my love. Wherever you and Jane
are known, you must be respected and valued; and you will not
appear to less advantage for having a couple of -- or I may
say, three -- very silly sisters. We shall have no peace at
Longbourn if Lydia does not go to Brighton. Let her go then.
Colonel Forster is a sensible man, and will keep her out of any
real mischief; and she is luckily too poor to be an object of
prey to any body. At Brighton she will be of less importance,
even as a common flirt, than she has been here. The officers
will find women better worth their notice. Let us hope,
therefore, that her being there may teach her her own
insignificance. At any rate, she cannot grow many degrees
worse without authorizing us to lock her up for the rest of her
|With this answer Elizabeth was forced to be content; but her
own opinion continued the same, and she left him disappointed
and sorry. It was not in her nature, however, to increase her
vexations by dwelling on them. She was confident of having
performed her duty, and to fret over unavoidable evils, or
augment them by anxiety, was no part of her disposition.
|Had Lydia and her mother known the substance of her conference
with her father, their indignation would hardly have found
expression in their united volubility. In Lydia's imagination,
a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly
happiness. She saw, with the creative eye of fancy, the
streets of that gay bathing place covered with officers. She
saw herself the object of attention to tens and to scores of
them at present unknown. She saw all the glories of the camp;
its tents stretched forth in beauteous uniformity of lines,
crowded with the young and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet;
and to complete the view, she saw herself seated beneath a
tent, tenderly flirting with at least six officers at once.
|Had she known that her sister sought to tear her from such
prospects and such realities as these, what would have been
her sensations? They could have been understood only by her
mother, who might have felt nearly the same. Lydia's going
to Brighton was all that consoled her for the melancholy
conviction of her husband's never intending to go there
|But they were entirely ignorant of what had passed; and their
raptures continued, with little intermission, to the very day
of Lydia's leaving home.
|Elizabeth was now to see Mr. Wickham for the last time. Having
been frequently in company with him since her return, agitation
was pretty well over; the agitations of former partiality
entirely so. She had even learnt to detect, in the very
gentleness which had first delighted her, an affectation and a
sameness to disgust and weary. In his present behaviour to
herself, moreover, she had a fresh source of displeasure, for
the inclination he soon testified of renewing those attentions
which had marked the early part of their acquaintance could
only serve, after what had since passed, to provoke her. She
lost all concern for him in finding herself thus selected as
the object of such idle and frivolous gallantry; and while she
steadily repressed it, could not but feel the reproof contained
in his believing that, however long, and for whatever cause,
his attentions had been withdrawn, her vanity would be
gratified and her preference secured at any time by their
|On the very last day of the regiment's remaining in Meryton, he
dined with others of the officers at Longbourn; and so little
was Elizabeth disposed to part from him in good humour, that on
his making some enquiry as to the manner in which her time had
passed at Hunsford, she mentioned Colonel Fitzwilliam's and
Mr. Darcy's having both spent three weeks at Rosings, and asked
him if he were acquainted with the former.
|He looked surprised, displeased, alarmed; but with a moment's
recollection and a returning smile, replied that he had
formerly seen him often; and after observing that he was a very
gentlemanlike man, asked her how she had liked him. Her answer
was warmly in his favour. With an air of indifference he soon
afterwards added, "How long did you say that he was at
|"Nearly three weeks."
|"And you saw him frequently?"
|"Yes, almost every day."
|"His manners are very different from his cousin's."
|"Yes, very different. But I think Mr. Darcy improves on
|"Indeed!" cried Wickham with a look which did not escape her.
"And pray may I ask -- ?" but checking himself, he added in a
gayer tone, "Is it in address that he improves? Has he deigned
to add ought of civility to his ordinary style? for I dare not
hope," he continued in a lower and more serious tone, "that he
is improved in essentials."
|"Oh, no!" said Elizabeth. "In essentials, I believe, he is
very much what he ever was."
|While she spoke, Wickham looked as if scarcely knowing whether
to rejoice over her words, or to distrust their meaning. There
was a something in her countenance which made him listen with
an apprehensive and anxious attention, while she added,
|"When I said that he improved on acquaintance, I did not mean
that either his mind or manners were in a state of improvement,
but that from knowing him better, his disposition was better
|Wickham's alarm now appeared in a heightened complexion and
agitated look; for a few minutes he was silent; till, shaking
off his embarrassment, he turned to her again, and said in the
gentlest of accents,
|"You, who so well know my feelings towards Mr. Darcy, will
readily comprehend how sincerely I must rejoice that he is wise
enough to assume even the appearance of what is right. His
pride, in that direction, may be of service, if not to himself,
to many others, for it must deter him from such foul misconduct
as I have suffered by. I only fear that the sort of
cautiousness, to which you, I imagine, have been alluding, is
merely adopted on his visits to his aunt, of whose good opinion
and judgment he stands much in awe. His fear of her has always
operated, I know, when they were together; and a good deal is
to be imputed to his wish of forwarding the match with Miss De
Bourgh, which I am certain he has very much at heart."
|Elizabeth could not repress a smile at this, but she answered
only by a slight inclination of the head. She saw that he
wanted to engage her on the old subject of his grievances, and
she was in no humour to indulge him. The rest of the evening
passed with the appearance, on his side, of usual
cheerfulness, but with no farther attempt to distinguish
Elizabeth; and they parted at last with mutual civility, and
possibly a mutual desire of never meeting again.
|When the party broke up, Lydia returned with Mrs. Forster to
Meryton, from whence they were to set out early the next
morning. The separation between her and her family was rather
noisy than pathetic. Kitty was the only one who shed tears;
but she did weep from vexation and envy. Mrs. Bennet was
diffuse in her good wishes for the felicity of her daughter,
and impressive in her injunctions that she would not miss the
opportunity of enjoying herself as much as possible; advice,
which there was every reason to believe would be attended to;
and in the clamorous happiness of Lydia herself in bidding
farewell, the more gentle adieus of her sisters were uttered
without being heard.
|(Vol. II, Chap. 17)
||Table of Contents
||(Vol. II, Chap. 19)|
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in English and Chinese