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|Chapter 48 (Vol. III, Chap. VI)|
|(Vol. III, Chap. 5)
||Table of Contents
||(Vol. III, Chap. 7)|
|Chapter 48 (Vol. III, Chap. VI)
|The whole party were in hopes of a letter from Mr. Bennet the
next morning, but the post came in without bringing a single
line from him. His family knew him to be, on all common
occasions, a most negligent and dilatory correspondent, but
at such a time they had hoped for exertion. They were forced
to conclude that he had no pleasing intelligence to send,
but even of that they would have been glad to be certain.
Mr. Gardiner had waited only for the letters before he set off.
|When he was gone, they were certain at least of receiving
constant information of what was going on, and their uncle
promised, at parting, to prevail on Mr. Bennet to return to
Longbourn as soon as he could, to the great consolation of
his sister, who considered it as the only security for her
husband's not being killed in a duel.
|Mrs. Gardiner and the children were to remain in Hertfordshire
a few days longer, as the former thought her presence might be
serviceable to her nieces. She shared in their attendance on
Mrs. Bennet, and was a great comfort to them in their hours of
freedom. Their other aunt also visited them frequently, and
always, as she said, with the design of cheering and heartening
them up, though as she never came without reporting some fresh
instance of Wickham's extravagance or irregularity, she seldom
went away without leaving them more dispirited than she found
|All Meryton seemed striving to blacken the man, who, but three
months before, had been almost an angel of light. He was
declared to be in debt to every tradesman in the place, and his
intrigues, all honoured with the title of seduction, had been
extended into every tradesman's family. Every body declared
that he was the wickedest young man in the world; and every
body began to find out that they had always distrusted the
appearance of his goodness. Elizabeth, though she did not
credit above half of what was said, believed enough to make her
former assurance of her sister's ruin still more certain; and
even Jane, who believed still less of it, became almost
hopeless, more especially as the time was now come when, if
they had gone to Scotland, which she had never before entirely
despaired of, they must in all probability have gained some
news of them.
|Mr. Gardiner left Longbourn on Sunday; on Tuesday, his wife
received a letter from him; it told them that on his arrival,
he had immediately found out his brother, and persuaded him to
come to Gracechurch street; that Mr. Bennet had been to Epsom
and Clapham before his arrival, but without gaining any
satisfactory information; and that he was now determined to
enquire at all the principal hotels in town, as Mr. Bennet
thought it possible they might have gone to one of them, on
their first coming to London, before they procured lodgings.
Mr. Gardiner himself did not expect any success from this
measure, but as his brother was eager in it, he meant to assist
him in pursuing it. He added that Mr. Bennet seemed wholly
disinclined at present, to leave London, and promised to write
again very soon. There was also a postscript to this effect:
|"I have written to Colonel Forster to desire him to find out,
if possible, from some of the young man's intimates in the
regiment, whether Wickham has any relations or connections who
would be likely to know in what part of the town he has now
concealed himself. If there were any one that one could apply
to with a probability of gaining such a clue as that, it might
be of essential consequence. At present we have nothing to
guide us. Colonel Forster will, I dare say, do every thing in
his power to satisfy us on this head. But, on second thoughts,
perhaps Lizzy could tell us what relations he has now living
better than any other person."
|Elizabeth was at no loss to understand from whence this
deference for her authority proceeded; but it was not in her
power to give any information of so satisfactory a nature as
the compliment deserved.
|She had never heard of his having had any relations, except a
father and mother, both of whom had been dead many years. It
was possible, however, that some of his companions in the
----shire, might be able to give more information; and, though
she was not very sanguine in expecting it, the application was
a something to look forward to.
|Every day at Longbourn was now a day of anxiety; but the
most anxious part of each was when the post was expected.
The arrival of letters was the first grand object of every
morning's impatience. Through letters, whatever of good or
bad was to be told would be communicated, and every succeeding
day was expected to bring some news of importance.
|But before they heard again from Mr. Gardiner, a letter arrived
for their father from a different quarter -- from Mr. Collins;
which, as Jane had received directions to open all that came
for him in his absence, she accordingly read; and Elizabeth,
who knew what curiosities his letters always were, looked over
her, and read it likewise. It was as follows:
|"MY DEAR SIR,
|I feel myself called upon by our relationship, and my situation
in life, to condole with you on the grievous affliction you are
now suffering under, of which we were yesterday informed by a
letter from Hertfordshire. Be assured, my dear Sir, that
Mrs. Collins and myself sincerely sympathise with you, and all
your respectable family, in your present distress, which must
be of the bitterest kind, because proceeding from a cause which
no time can remove. No arguments shall be wanting on my part
that can alleviate so severe a misfortune; or that may comfort
you, under a circumstance that must be of all others most
afflicting to a parent's mind. The death of your daughter
would have been a blessing in comparison of this. And it is
the more to be lamented, because there is reason to suppose, as
my dear Charlotte informs me, that this licentiousness of
behaviour in your daughter has proceeded from a faulty degree
of indulgence, though at the same time, for the consolation of
yourself and Mrs. Bennet, I am inclined to think that her own
disposition must be naturally bad, or she could not be guilty
of such an enormity at so early an age. Howsoever that may be,
you are grievously to be pitied, in which opinion I am not only
joined by Mrs. Collins, but likewise by Lady Catherine and her
daughter, to whom I have related the affair. They agree with
me in apprehending that this false step in one daughter will be
injurious to the fortunes of all the others; for who, as Lady
Catherine herself condescendingly says, will connect themselves
with such a family. And this consideration leads me moreover
to reflect with augmented satisfaction on a certain event of
last November, for had it been otherwise, I must have been
involved in all your sorrow and disgrace. Let me advise you
then, my dear Sir, to console yourself as much as possible, to
throw off your unworthy child from your affection for ever, and
leave her to reap the fruits of her own heinous offence.
|I am, dear Sir, &c. &c."
|Mr. Gardiner did not write again till he had received an answer
from Colonel Forster; and then he had nothing of a pleasant
nature to send. It was not known that Wickham had a single
relation with whom he kept up any connection, and it was
certain that he had no near one living. His former
acquaintance had been numerous; but since he had been in the
militia, it did not appear that he was on terms of particular
friendship with any of them. There was no one therefore who
could be pointed out as likely to give any news of him. And in
the wretched state of his own finances there was a very
powerful motive for secrecy, in addition to his fear of
discovery by Lydia's relations, for it had just transpired that
he had left gaming debts behind him, to a very considerable
amount. Colonel Forster believed that more than a thousand
pounds would be necessary to clear his expences at Brighton.
He owed a good deal in the town, but his debts of honour were
still more formidable. Mr. Gardiner did not attempt to conceal
these particulars from the Longbourn family; Jane heard them
with horror. "A gamester!" she cried. "This is wholly
unexpected. I had not an idea of it."
|Mr. Gardiner added, in his letter, that they might expect to
see their father at home on the following day, which was
Saturday. Rendered spiritless by the ill-success of all their
endeavours, he had yielded to his brother-in-law's entreaty
that he would return to his family, and leave it to him to do
whatever occasion might suggest to be advisable for continuing
their pursuit. When Mrs. Bennet was told of this, she did not
express so much satisfaction as her children expected,
considering what her anxiety for his life had been before.
|"What, is he coming home, and without poor Lydia!" she cried.
"Sure he will not leave London before he has found them. Who
is to fight Wickham, and make him marry her, if he comes away?"
|As Mrs. Gardiner began to wish to be at home, it was settled
that she and her children should go to London at the same time
that Mr. Bennet came from it. The coach, therefore, took them
the first stage of their journey, and brought its master back
|Mrs. Gardiner went away in all the perplexity about Elizabeth
and her Derbyshire friend that had attended her from that part
of the world. His name had never been voluntarily mentioned
before them by her niece; and the kind of half-expectation
which Mrs. Gardiner had formed, of their being followed by a
letter from him, had ended in nothing. Elizabeth had received
none since her return, that could come from Pemberley.
|The present unhappy state of the family, rendered any other
excuse for the lowness of her spirits unnecessary; nothing,
therefore, could be fairly conjectured from that, though
Elizabeth, who was by this time tolerably well acquainted with
her own feelings, was perfectly aware that, had she known
nothing of Darcy, she could have borne the dread of Lydia's
infamy somewhat better. It would have spared her, she thought,
one sleepless night out of two.
|When Mr. Bennet arrived, he had all the appearance of his usual
philosophic composure. He said as little as he had ever been
in the habit of saying; made no mention of the business that
had taken him away, and it was some time before his daughters
had courage to speak of it.
|It was not till the afternoon, when he joined them at tea, that
Elizabeth ventured to introduce the subject; and then, on her
briefly expressing her sorrow for what he must have endured, he
replied, "Say nothing of that. Who would suffer but myself?
It has been my own doing, and I ought to feel it."
|"You must not be too severe upon yourself," replied Elizabeth.
|"You may well warn me against such an evil. Human nature is so
prone to fall into it! No, Lizzy, let me once in my life feel
how much I have been to blame. I am not afraid of being
overpowered by the impression. It will pass away soon enough."
|"Do you suppose them to be in London?"
|"Yes; where else can they be so well concealed?"
|"And Lydia used to want to go to London," added Kitty.
|"She is happy, then," said her father, drily; "and her
residence there will probably be of some duration."
|Then, after a short silence, he continued, "Lizzy, I bear you
no ill-will for being justified in your advice to me last May,
which, considering the event, shows some greatness of mind."
|They were interrupted by Miss Bennet, who came to fetch her
|"This is a parade," cried he, "which does one good; it gives
such an elegance to misfortune! Another day I will do the
same; I will sit in my library, in my night cap and powdering
gown, and give as much trouble as I can, -- or, perhaps, I may
defer it till Kitty runs away."
|"I am not going to run away, Papa," said Kitty, fretfully;
"if I should ever go to Brighton, I would behave better than
|"You go to Brighton! -- I would not trust you so near it as
East-Bourne, for fifty pounds! No, Kitty, I have at last
learnt to be cautious, and you will feel the effects of it.
No officer is ever to enter my house again, nor even to pass
through the village. Balls will be absolutely prohibited,
unless you stand up with one of your sisters. And you are
never to stir out of doors till you can prove that you have
spent ten minutes of every day in a rational manner."
|Kitty, who took all these threats in a serious light, began to
|"Well, well," said he, "do not make yourself unhappy. If you
are a good girl for the next ten years, I will take you to a
review at the end of them."
|(Vol. III, Chap. 5)
||Table of Contents
||(Vol. III, Chap. 7)|
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in English and Chinese