FictionForest

Chapter 50

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

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Mr. Bennet had very often wished before
this period of his life that, instead of spending
his whole income, he had laid by an annual sum for
the better provision of his children, and of his wife,
if she survived him.  He now wished it more than
ever.  Had he done his duty in that respect, Lydia
need not have been indebted to her uncle for whatever
of honour or credit could now be purchased for her. 
The satisfaction of prevailing on one of the most
worthless young men in Great Britain to be her husband
might then have rested in its proper place.

He was seriously concerned that a
cause of so little advantage to anyone should be forwarded
at the sole expense of his brother-in-law, and he
was determined, if possible, to find out the extent
of his assistance, and to discharge the obligation
as soon as he could.

When first Mr. Bennet had married,
economy was held to be perfectly useless, for, of
course, they were to have a son.  The son was to
join in cutting off the entail, as soon as he should
be of age, and the widow and younger children would
by that means be provided for.  Five daughters
successively entered the world, but yet the son was
to come; and Mrs. Bennet, for many years after Lydia’s
birth, had been certain that he would.  This event
had at last been despaired of, but it was then too
late to be saving.  Mrs. Bennet had no turn for
economy, and her husband’s love of independence
had alone prevented their exceeding their income.

Five thousand pounds was settled by
marriage articles on Mrs. Bennet and the children. 
But in what proportions it should be divided amongst
the latter depended on the will of the parents. 
This was one point, with regard to Lydia, at least,
which was now to be settled, and Mr. Bennet could
have no hesitation in acceding to the proposal before
him.  In terms of grateful acknowledgment for
the kindness of his brother, though expressed most
concisely, he then delivered on paper his perfect
approbation of all that was done, and his willingness
to fulfil the engagements that had been made for him. 
He had never before supposed that, could Wickham be
prevailed on to marry his daughter, it would be done
with so little inconvenience to himself as by the present
arrangement.  He would scarcely be ten pounds a
year the loser by the hundred that was to be paid
them; for, what with her board and pocket allowance,
and the continual presents in money which passed to
her through her mother’s hands, Lydia’s
expenses had been very little within that sum.

That it would be done with such trifling
exertion on his side, too, was another very welcome
surprise; for his wish at present was to have as little
trouble in the business as possible.  When the
first transports of rage which had produced his activity
in seeking her were over, he naturally returned to
all his former indolence.  His letter was soon
dispatched; for, though dilatory in undertaking business,
he was quick in its execution.  He begged to know
further particulars of what he was indebted to his
brother, but was too angry with Lydia to send any
message to her.

The good news spread quickly through
the house, and with proportionate speed through the
neighbourhood.  It was borne in the latter with
decent philosophy.  To be sure, it would have
been more for the advantage of conversation had Miss
Lydia Bennet come upon the town; or, as the happiest
alternative, been secluded from the world, in some
distant farmhouse.  But there was much to be talked
of in marrying her; and the good-natured wishes for
her well-doing which had proceeded before from all
the spiteful old ladies in Meryton lost but a little
of their spirit in this change of circumstances, because
with such an husband her misery was considered certain.

It was a fortnight since Mrs. Bennet
had been downstairs; but on this happy day she again
took her seat at the head of her table, and in spirits
oppressively high.  No sentiment of shame gave
a damp to her triumph.  The marriage of a daughter,
which had been the first object of her wishes since
Jane was sixteen, was now on the point of accomplishment,
and her thoughts and her words ran wholly on those
attendants of elegant nuptials, fine muslins, new carriages,
and servants.  She was busily searching through
the neighbourhood for a proper situation for her daughter,
and, without knowing or considering what their income
might be, rejected many as deficient in size and importance.

“Haye Park might do,”
said she, “if the Gouldings could quit it ­or
the great house at Stoke, if the drawing-room were
larger; but Ashworth is too far off!  I could
not bear to have her ten miles from me; and as for
Pulvis Lodge, the attics are dreadful.”

Her husband allowed her to talk on
without interruption while the servants remained. 
But when they had withdrawn, he said to her:  “Mrs.
Bennet, before you take any or all of these houses
for your son and daughter, let us come to a right
understanding.  Into one house in this
neighbourhood they shall never have admittance. 
I will not encourage the impudence of either, by receiving
them at Longbourn.”

A long dispute followed this declaration;
but Mr. Bennet was firm.  It soon led to another;
and Mrs. Bennet found, with amazement and horror,
that her husband would not advance a guinea to buy
clothes for his daughter.  He protested that she
should receive from him no mark of affection whatever
on the occasion.  Mrs. Bennet could hardly comprehend
it.  That his anger could be carried to such a
point of inconceivable resentment as to refuse his
daughter a privilege without which her marriage would
scarcely seem valid, exceeded all she could believe
possible.  She was more alive to the disgrace which
her want of new clothes must reflect on her daughter’s
nuptials, than to any sense of shame at her eloping
and living with Wickham a fortnight before they took
place.

Elizabeth was now most heartily sorry
that she had, from the distress of the moment, been
led to make Mr. Darcy acquainted with their fears for
her sister; for since her marriage would so shortly
give the proper termination to the elopement, they
might hope to conceal its unfavourable beginning from
all those who were not immediately on the spot.

She had no fear of its spreading farther
through his means.  There were few people on whose
secrecy she would have more confidently depended;
but, at the same time, there was no one whose knowledge
of a sister’s frailty would have mortified her
so much ­not, however, from any fear of
disadvantage from it individually to herself, for,
at any rate, there seemed a gulf impassable between
them.  Had Lydia’s marriage been concluded
on the most honourable terms, it was not to be supposed
that Mr. Darcy would connect himself with a family
where, to every other objection, would now be added
an alliance and relationship of the nearest kind with
a man whom he so justly scorned.

From such a connection she could not
wonder that he would shrink.  The wish of procuring
her regard, which she had assured herself of his feeling
in Derbyshire, could not in rational expectation survive
such a blow as this.  She was humbled, she was
grieved; she repented, though she hardly knew of what. 
She became jealous of his esteem, when she could no
longer hope to be benefited by it.  She wanted
to hear of him, when there seemed the least chance
of gaining intelligence.  She was convinced that
she could have been happy with him, when it was no
longer likely they should meet.

What a triumph for him, as she often
thought, could he know that the proposals which she
had proudly spurned only four months ago, would now
have been most gladly and gratefully received! 
He was as generous, she doubted not, as the most generous
of his sex; but while he was mortal, there must be
a triumph.

She began now to comprehend that he
was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents,
would most suit her.  His understanding and temper,
though unlike her own, would have answered all her
wishes.  It was an union that must have been to
the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness,
his mind might have been softened, his manners improved;
and from his judgement, information, and knowledge
of the world, she must have received benefit of greater
importance.

But no such happy marriage could now
teach the admiring multitude what connubial felicity
really was.  An union of a different tendency,
and precluding the possibility of the other, was soon
to be formed in their family.

How Wickham and Lydia were to be supported
in tolerable independence, she could not imagine. 
But how little of permanent happiness could belong
to a couple who were only brought together because
their passions were stronger than their virtue, she
could easily conjecture.

Mr. Gardiner soon wrote again to his
brother.  To Mr. Bennet’s acknowledgments
he briefly replied, with assurance of his eagerness
to promote the welfare of any of his family; and concluded
with entreaties that the subject might never be mentioned
to him again.  The principal purport of his letter
was to inform them that Mr. Wickham had resolved on
quitting the militia.

“It was greatly my wish that
he should do so,” he added, “as soon as
his marriage was fixed on.  And I think you will
agree with me, in considering the removal from that
corps as highly advisable, both on his account and
my niece’s.  It is Mr. Wickham’s intention
to go into the regulars; and among his former friends,
there are still some who are able and willing to assist
him in the army.  He has the promise of an ensigncy
in General ­’s regiment, now
quartered in the North.  It is an advantage to
have it so far from this part of the kingdom. 
He promises fairly; and I hope among different people,
where they may each have a character to preserve,
they will both be more prudent.  I have written
to Colonel Forster, to inform him of our present arrangements,
and to request that he will satisfy the various creditors
of Mr. Wickham in and near Brighton, with assurances
of speedy payment, for which I have pledged myself. 
And will you give yourself the trouble of carrying
similar assurances to his creditors in Meryton, of
whom I shall subjoin a list according to his information? 
He has given in all his debts; I hope at least he
has not deceived us.  Haggerston has our directions,
and all will be completed in a week.  They will
then join his regiment, unless they are first invited
to Longbourn; and I understand from Mrs. Gardiner,
that my niece is very desirous of seeing you all before
she leaves the South.  She is well, and begs to
be dutifully remembered to you and your mother. ­Yours,
etc.,

“E.  GARDINER.”

Mr. Bennet and his daughters saw all
the advantages of Wickham’s removal from the
­shire as clearly as Mr. Gardiner
could do.  But Mrs. Bennet was not so well pleased
with it.  Lydia’s being settled in the North,
just when she had expected most pleasure and pride
in her company, for she had by no means given up her
plan of their residing in Hertfordshire, was a severe
disappointment; and, besides, it was such a pity that
Lydia should be taken from a regiment where she was
acquainted with everybody, and had so many favourites.

“She is so fond of Mrs. Forster,”
said she, “it will be quite shocking to send
her away!  And there are several of the young men,
too, that she likes very much.  The officers may
not be so pleasant in General ­’s
regiment.”

His daughter’s request, for
such it might be considered, of being admitted into
her family again before she set off for the North,
received at first an absolute negative.  But Jane
and Elizabeth, who agreed in wishing, for the sake
of their sister’s feelings and consequence,
that she should be noticed on her marriage by her parents,
urged him so earnestly yet so rationally and so mildly,
to receive her and her husband at Longbourn, as soon
as they were married, that he was prevailed on to
think as they thought, and act as they wished. 
And their mother had the satisfaction of knowing that
she would be able to show her married daughter in
the neighbourhood before she was banished to the North. 
When Mr. Bennet wrote again to his brother, therefore,
he sent his permission for them to come; and it was
settled, that as soon as the ceremony was over, they
should proceed to Longbourn.  Elizabeth was surprised,
however, that Wickham should consent to such a scheme,
and had she consulted only her own inclination, any
meeting with him would have been the last object of
her wishes.

 

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