FictionForest

Chapter 49

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

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Two days after Mr. Bennet’s
return, as Jane and Elizabeth were walking together
in the shrubbery behind the house, they saw the housekeeper
coming towards them, and, concluding that she came
to call them to their mother, went forward to meet
her; but, instead of the expected summons, when they
approached her, she said to Miss Bennet, “I beg
your pardon, madam, for interrupting you, but I was
in hopes you might have got some good news from town,
so I took the liberty of coming to ask.”

“What do you mean, Hill? 
We have heard nothing from town.”

“Dear madam,” cried Mrs.
Hill, in great astonishment, “don’t you
know there is an express come for master from Mr.
Gardiner?  He has been here this half-hour, and
master has had a letter.”

Away ran the girls, too eager to get
in to have time for speech.  They ran through
the vestibule into the breakfast-room; from thence
to the library; their father was in neither; and they
were on the point of seeking him upstairs with their
mother, when they were met by the butler, who said: 

“If you are looking for my master,
ma’am, he is walking towards the little copse.”

Upon this information, they instantly
passed through the hall once more, and ran across
the lawn after their father, who was deliberately
pursuing his way towards a small wood on one side of
the paddock.

Jane, who was not so light nor so
much in the habit of running as Elizabeth, soon lagged
behind, while her sister, panting for breath, came
up with him, and eagerly cried out: 

“Oh, papa, what news ­what
news?  Have you heard from my uncle?”

“Yes I have had a letter from him by express.”

“Well, and what news does it bring ­good
or bad?”

“What is there of good to be
expected?” said he, taking the letter from his
pocket.  “But perhaps you would like to read
it.”

Elizabeth impatiently caught it from his hand. 
Jane now came up.

“Read it aloud,” said
their father, “for I hardly know myself what
it is about.”

“Gracechurch Street, Monday, August 2.

“MY DEAR BROTHER,

“At last I am able to send you
some tidings of my niece, and such as, upon the whole,
I hope it will give you satisfaction.  Soon after
you left me on Saturday, I was fortunate enough to
find out in what part of London they were.  The
particulars I reserve till we meet; it is enough to
know they are discovered.  I have seen them both ­”

“Then it is as I always hoped,” cried
Jane; “they are married!”

Elizabeth read on: 

“I have seen them both. 
They are not married, nor can I find there was any
intention of being so; but if you are willing to perform
the engagements which I have ventured to make on your
side, I hope it will not be long before they are. 
All that is required of you is, to assure to your
daughter, by settlement, her equal share of the five
thousand pounds secured among your children after
the decease of yourself and my sister; and, moreover,
to enter into an engagement of allowing her, during
your life, one hundred pounds per annum.  These
are conditions which, considering everything, I had
no hesitation in complying with, as far as I thought
myself privileged, for you.  I shall send this
by express, that no time may be lost in bringing me
your answer.  You will easily comprehend, from
these particulars, that Mr. Wickham’s circumstances
are not so hopeless as they are generally believed
to be.  The world has been deceived in that respect;
and I am happy to say there will be some little money,
even when all his debts are discharged, to settle
on my niece, in addition to her own fortune.  If,
as I conclude will be the case, you send me full powers
to act in your name throughout the whole of this business,
I will immediately give directions to Haggerston for
preparing a proper settlement.  There will not
be the smallest occasion for your coming to town again;
therefore stay quiet at Longbourn, and depend on my
diligence and care.  Send back your answer as
fast as you can, and be careful to write explicitly. 
We have judged it best that my niece should be married
from this house, of which I hope you will approve. 
She comes to us to-day.  I shall write again as
soon as anything more is determined on.  Yours,
etc.,

“EDW.  GARDINER.”

“Is it possible?” cried
Elizabeth, when she had finished.  “Can it
be possible that he will marry her?”

“Wickham is not so undeserving,
then, as we thought him,” said her sister. 
“My dear father, I congratulate you.”

“And have you answered the letter?” cried
Elizabeth.

“No; but it must be done soon.”

Most earnestly did she then entreaty
him to lose no more time before he wrote.

“Oh! my dear father,”
she cried, “come back and write immediately. 
Consider how important every moment is in such a case.”

“Let me write for you,”
said Jane, “if you dislike the trouble yourself.”

“I dislike it very much,”
he replied; “but it must be done.”

And so saying, he turned back with
them, and walked towards the house.

“And may I ask ­”
said Elizabeth; “but the terms, I suppose, must
be complied with.”

“Complied with!  I am only
ashamed of his asking so little.”

“And they must marry!  Yet he is
such a man!”

“Yes, yes, they must marry. 
There is nothing else to be done.  But there are
two things that I want very much to know; one is, how
much money your uncle has laid down to bring it about;
and the other, how am I ever to pay him.”

“Money!  My uncle!” cried Jane, “what
do you mean, sir?”

“I mean, that no man in his
senses would marry Lydia on so slight a temptation
as one hundred a year during my life, and fifty after
I am gone.”

“That is very true,” said
Elizabeth; “though it had not occurred to me
before.  His debts to be discharged, and something
still to remain!  Oh! it must be my uncle’s
doings!  Generous, good man, I am afraid he has
distressed himself.  A small sum could not do all
this.”

“No,” said her father;
“Wickham’s a fool if he takes her with
a farthing less than ten thousand pounds.  I should
be sorry to think so ill of him, in the very beginning
of our relationship.”

“Ten thousand pounds!  Heaven
forbid!  How is half such a sum to be repaid?”

Mr. Bennet made no answer, and each
of them, deep in thought, continued silent till they
reached the house.  Their father then went on to
the library to write, and the girls walked into the
breakfast-room.

“And they are really to be married!”
cried Elizabeth, as soon as they were by themselves. 
“How strange this is!  And for this
we are to be thankful.  That they should marry,
small as is their chance of happiness, and wretched
as is his character, we are forced to rejoice. 
Oh, Lydia!”

“I comfort myself with thinking,”
replied Jane, “that he certainly would not marry
Lydia if he had not a real regard for her.  Though
our kind uncle has done something towards clearing
him, I cannot believe that ten thousand pounds, or
anything like it, has been advanced.  He has children
of his own, and may have more.  How could he spare
half ten thousand pounds?”

“If he were ever able to learn
what Wickham’s debts have been,” said
Elizabeth, “and how much is settled on his side
on our sister, we shall exactly know what Mr. Gardiner
has done for them, because Wickham has not sixpence
of his own.  The kindness of my uncle and aunt
can never be requited.  Their taking her home,
and affording her their personal protection and countenance,
is such a sacrifice to her advantage as years of gratitude
cannot enough acknowledge.  By this time she is
actually with them!  If such goodness does not
make her miserable now, she will never deserve to
be happy!  What a meeting for her, when she first
sees my aunt!”

“We must endeavour to forget
all that has passed on either side,” said Jane: 
“I hope and trust they will yet be happy. 
His consenting to marry her is a proof, I will believe,
that he is come to a right way of thinking.  Their
mutual affection will steady them; and I flatter myself
they will settle so quietly, and live in so rational
a manner, as may in time make their past imprudence
forgotten.”

“Their conduct has been such,”
replied Elizabeth, “as neither you, nor I, nor
anybody can ever forget.  It is useless to talk
of it.”

It now occurred to the girls that
their mother was in all likelihood perfectly ignorant
of what had happened.  They went to the library,
therefore, and asked their father whether he would
not wish them to make it known to her.  He was
writing and, without raising his head, coolly replied: 

“Just as you please.”

“May we take my uncle’s letter to read
to her?”

“Take whatever you like, and get away.”

Elizabeth took the letter from his
writing-table, and they went upstairs together. 
Mary and Kitty were both with Mrs. Bennet:  one
communication would, therefore, do for all.  After
a slight preparation for good news, the letter was
read aloud.  Mrs. Bennet could hardly contain herself. 
As soon as Jane had read Mr. Gardiner’s hope
of Lydia’s being soon married, her joy burst
forth, and every following sentence added to its exuberance. 
She was now in an irritation as violent from delight,
as she had ever been fidgety from alarm and vexation. 
To know that her daughter would be married was enough. 
She was disturbed by no fear for her felicity, nor
humbled by any remembrance of her misconduct.

“My dear, dear Lydia!”
she cried.  “This is delightful indeed! 
She will be married!  I shall see her again! 
She will be married at sixteen!  My good, kind
brother!  I knew how it would be.  I knew he
would manage everything!  How I long to see her!
and to see dear Wickham too!  But the clothes,
the wedding clothes!  I will write to my sister
Gardiner about them directly.  Lizzy, my dear,
run down to your father, and ask him how much he will
give her.  Stay, stay, I will go myself.  Ring
the bell, Kitty, for Hill.  I will put on my things
in a moment.  My dear, dear Lydia!  How merry
we shall be together when we meet!”

Her eldest daughter endeavoured to
give some relief to the violence of these transports,
by leading her thoughts to the obligations which Mr.
Gardiner’s behaviour laid them all under.

“For we must attribute this
happy conclusion,” she added, “in a great
measure to his kindness.  We are persuaded that
he has pledged himself to assist Mr. Wickham with
money.”

“Well,” cried her mother,
“it is all very right; who should do it but
her own uncle?  If he had not had a family of his
own, I and my children must have had all his money,
you know; and it is the first time we have ever had
anything from him, except a few presents.  Well! 
I am so happy!  In a short time I shall have a
daughter married.  Mrs. Wickham!  How well
it sounds!  And she was only sixteen last June. 
My dear Jane, I am in such a flutter, that I am sure
I can’t write; so I will dictate, and you write
for me.  We will settle with your father about
the money afterwards; but the things should be ordered
immediately.”

She was then proceeding to all the
particulars of calico, muslin, and cambric, and would
shortly have dictated some very plentiful orders, had
not Jane, though with some difficulty, persuaded her
to wait till her father was at leisure to be consulted. 
One day’s delay, she observed, would be of small
importance; and her mother was too happy to be quite
so obstinate as usual.  Other schemes, too, came
into her head.

“I will go to Meryton,”
said she, “as soon as I am dressed, and tell
the good, good news to my sister Philips.  And
as I come back, I can call on Lady Lucas and Mrs.
Long.  Kitty, run down and order the carriage. 
An airing would do me a great deal of good, I am sure. 
Girls, can I do anything for you in Meryton? 
Oh!  Here comes Hill!  My dear Hill, have you
heard the good news?  Miss Lydia is going to be
married; and you shall all have a bowl of punch to
make merry at her wedding.”

Mrs. Hill began instantly to express
her joy.  Elizabeth received her congratulations
amongst the rest, and then, sick of this folly, took
refuge in her own room, that she might think with freedom.

Poor Lydia’s situation must,
at best, be bad enough; but that it was no worse,
she had need to be thankful.  She felt it so; and
though, in looking forward, neither rational happiness
nor worldly prosperity could be justly expected for
her sister, in looking back to what they had feared,
only two hours ago, she felt all the advantages of
what they had gained.

 

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