FictionForest

Chapter 42

Jane AustenAug 15, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Had Elizabeth’s opinion been
all drawn from her own family, she could not have
formed a very pleasing opinion of conjugal felicity
or domestic comfort.  Her father, captivated by
youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour
which youth and beauty generally give, had married
a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind
had very early in their marriage put an end to all
real affection for her.  Respect, esteem, and
confidence had vanished for ever; and all his views
of domestic happiness were overthrown.  But Mr.
Bennet was not of a disposition to seek comfort for
the disappointment which his own imprudence had brought
on, in any of those pleasures which too often console
the unfortunate for their folly or their vice. 
He was fond of the country and of books; and from
these tastes had arisen his principal enjoyments. 
To his wife he was very little otherwise indebted,
than as her ignorance and folly had contributed to
his amusement.  This is not the sort of happiness
which a man would in general wish to owe to his wife;
but where other powers of entertainment are wanting,
the true philosopher will derive benefit from such
as are given.

Elizabeth, however, had never been
blind to the impropriety of her father’s behaviour
as a husband.  She had always seen it with pain;
but respecting his abilities, and grateful for his
affectionate treatment of herself, she endeavoured
to forget what she could not overlook, and to banish
from her thoughts that continual breach of conjugal
obligation and decorum which, in exposing his wife
to the contempt of her own children, was so highly
reprehensible.  But she had never felt so strongly
as now the disadvantages which must attend the children
of so unsuitable a marriage, nor ever been so fully
aware of the evils arising from so ill-judged a direction
of talents; talents, which, rightly used, might at
least have preserved the respectability of his daughters,
even if incapable of enlarging the mind of his wife.

When Elizabeth had rejoiced over Wickham’s
departure she found little other cause for satisfaction
in the loss of the regiment.  Their parties abroad
were less varied than before, and at home she had a
mother and sister whose constant repinings at the
dullness of everything around them threw a real gloom
over their domestic circle; and, though Kitty might
in time regain her natural degree of sense, since the
disturbers of her brain were removed, her other sister,
from whose disposition greater evil might be apprehended,
was likely to be hardened in all her folly and assurance
by a situation of such double danger as a watering-place
and a camp.  Upon the whole, therefore, she found,
what has been sometimes found before, that an event
to which she had been looking with impatient desire
did not, in taking place, bring all the satisfaction
she had promised herself.  It was consequently
necessary to name some other period for the commencement
of actual felicity ­to have some other point
on which her wishes and hopes might be fixed, and by
again enjoying the pleasure of anticipation, console
herself for the present, and prepare for another disappointment. 
Her tour to the Lakes was now the object of her happiest
thoughts; it was her best consolation for all the
uncomfortable hours which the discontentedness of her
mother and Kitty made inevitable; and could she have
included Jane in the scheme, every part of it would
have been perfect.

“But it is fortunate,”
thought she, “that I have something to wish for. 
Were the whole arrangement complete, my disappointment
would be certain.  But here, by carrying with
me one ceaseless source of regret in my sister’s
absence, I may reasonably hope to have all my expectations
of pleasure realised.  A scheme of which every
part promises delight can never be successful; and
general disappointment is only warded off by the defence
of some little peculiar vexation.”

When Lydia went away she promised
to write very often and very minutely to her mother
and Kitty; but her letters were always long expected,
and always very short.  Those to her mother contained
little else than that they were just returned from
the library, where such and such officers had attended
them, and where she had seen such beautiful ornaments
as made her quite wild; that she had a new gown, or
a new parasol, which she would have described more
fully, but was obliged to leave off in a violent hurry,
as Mrs. Forster called her, and they were going off
to the camp; and from her correspondence with her
sister, there was still less to be learnt ­for
her letters to Kitty, though rather longer, were much
too full of lines under the words to be made public.

After the first fortnight or three
weeks of her absence, health, good humour, and cheerfulness
began to reappear at Longbourn.  Everything wore
a happier aspect.  The families who had been in
town for the winter came back again, and summer finery
and summer engagements arose.  Mrs. Bennet was
restored to her usual querulous serenity; and, by the
middle of June, Kitty was so much recovered as to
be able to enter Meryton without tears; an event of
such happy promise as to make Elizabeth hope that by
the following Christmas she might be so tolerably reasonable
as not to mention an officer above once a day, unless,
by some cruel and malicious arrangement at the War
Office, another regiment should be quartered in Meryton.

The time fixed for the beginning of
their northern tour was now fast approaching, and
a fortnight only was wanting of it, when a letter
arrived from Mrs. Gardiner, which at once delayed its
commencement and curtailed its extent.  Mr. Gardiner
would be prevented by business from setting out till
a fortnight later in July, and must be in London again
within a month, and as that left too short a period
for them to go so far, and see so much as they had
proposed, or at least to see it with the leisure and
comfort they had built on, they were obliged to give
up the Lakes, and substitute a more contracted tour,
and, according to the present plan, were to go no
farther northwards than Derbyshire.  In that county
there was enough to be seen to occupy the chief of
their three weeks; and to Mrs. Gardiner it had a peculiarly
strong attraction.  The town where she had formerly
passed some years of her life, and where they were
now to spend a few days, was probably as great an object
of her curiosity as all the celebrated beauties of
Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak.

Elizabeth was excessively disappointed;
she had set her heart on seeing the Lakes, and still
thought there might have been time enough.  But
it was her business to be satisfied ­and
certainly her temper to be happy; and all was soon
right again.

With the mention of Derbyshire there
were many ideas connected.  It was impossible
for her to see the word without thinking of Pemberley
and its owner.  “But surely,” said
she, “I may enter his county without impunity,
and rob it of a few petrified spars without his perceiving
me.”

The period of expectation was now
doubled.  Four weeks were to pass away before
her uncle and aunt’s arrival.  But they did
pass away, and Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, with their four
children, did at length appear at Longbourn. 
The children, two girls of six and eight years old,
and two younger boys, were to be left under the particular
care of their cousin Jane, who was the general favourite,
and whose steady sense and sweetness of temper exactly
adapted her for attending to them in every way ­teaching
them, playing with them, and loving them.

The Gardiners stayed only one night
at Longbourn, and set off the next morning with Elizabeth
in pursuit of novelty and amusement.  One enjoyment
was certain ­that of suitableness of companions;
a suitableness which comprehended health and temper
to bear inconveniences ­cheerfulness to
enhance every pleasure ­and affection and
intelligence, which might supply it among themselves
if there were disappointments abroad.

It is not the object of this work
to give a description of Derbyshire, nor of any of
the remarkable places through which their route thither
lay; Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenilworth, Birmingham,
etc. are sufficiently known.  A small part
of Derbyshire is all the present concern.  To
the little town of Lambton, the scene of Mrs. Gardiner’s
former residence, and where she had lately learned
some acquaintance still remained, they bent their
steps, after having seen all the principal wonders
of the country; and within five miles of Lambton,
Elizabeth found from her aunt that Pemberley was situated. 
It was not in their direct road, nor more than a mile
or two out of it.  In talking over their route
the evening before, Mrs. Gardiner expressed an inclination
to see the place again.  Mr. Gardiner declared
his willingness, and Elizabeth was applied to for
her approbation.

“My love, should not you like
to see a place of which you have heard so much?”
said her aunt; “a place, too, with which so many
of your acquaintances are connected.  Wickham
passed all his youth there, you know.”

Elizabeth was distressed.  She
felt that she had no business at Pemberley, and was
obliged to assume a disinclination for seeing it. 
She must own that she was tired of seeing great houses;
after going over so many, she really had no pleasure
in fine carpets or satin curtains.

Mrs. Gardiner abused her stupidity. 
“If it were merely a fine house richly furnished,”
said she, “I should not care about it myself;
but the grounds are delightful.  They have some
of the finest woods in the country.”

Elizabeth said no more ­but
her mind could not acquiesce.  The possibility
of meeting Mr. Darcy, while viewing the place, instantly
occurred.  It would be dreadful!  She blushed
at the very idea, and thought it would be better to
speak openly to her aunt than to run such a risk. 
But against this there were objections; and she finally
resolved that it could be the last resource, if her
private inquiries to the absence of the family were
unfavourably answered.

Accordingly, when she retired at night,
she asked the chambermaid whether Pemberley were not
a very fine place? what was the name of its proprietor?
and, with no little alarm, whether the family were
down for the summer?  A most welcome negative
followed the last question ­and her alarms
now being removed, she was at leisure to feel a great
deal of curiosity to see the house herself; and when
the subject was revived the next morning, and she
was again applied to, could readily answer, and with
a proper air of indifference, that she had not really
any dislike to the scheme.  To Pemberley, therefore,
they were to go.

 

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