FictionForest

Chapter 51

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

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Their sister’s wedding day arrived;
and Jane and Elizabeth felt for her probably more
than she felt for herself.  The carriage was sent
to meet them at ­, and they were
to return in it by dinner-time.  Their arrival
was dreaded by the elder Miss Bennets, and Jane more
especially, who gave Lydia the feelings which would
have attended herself, had she been the culprit, and
was wretched in the thought of what her sister must
endure.

They came.  The family were assembled
in the breakfast room to receive them.  Smiles
decked the face of Mrs. Bennet as the carriage drove
up to the door; her husband looked impenetrably grave;
her daughters, alarmed, anxious, uneasy.

Lydia’s voice was heard in the
vestibule; the door was thrown open, and she ran into
the room.  Her mother stepped forwards, embraced
her, and welcomed her with rapture; gave her hand,
with an affectionate smile, to Wickham, who followed
his lady; and wished them both joy with an alacrity
which shewed no doubt of their happiness.

Their reception from Mr. Bennet, to
whom they then turned, was not quite so cordial. 
His countenance rather gained in austerity; and he
scarcely opened his lips.  The easy assurance
of the young couple, indeed, was enough to provoke
him.  Elizabeth was disgusted, and even Miss Bennet
was shocked.  Lydia was Lydia still; untamed, unabashed,
wild, noisy, and fearless.  She turned from sister
to sister, demanding their congratulations; and when
at length they all sat down, looked eagerly round
the room, took notice of some little alteration in
it, and observed, with a laugh, that it was a great
while since she had been there.

Wickham was not at all more distressed
than herself, but his manners were always so pleasing,
that had his character and his marriage been exactly
what they ought, his smiles and his easy address, while
he claimed their relationship, would have delighted
them all.  Elizabeth had not before believed him
quite equal to such assurance; but she sat down, resolving
within herself to draw no limits in future to the impudence
of an impudent man.  She blushed, and Jane blushed;
but the cheeks of the two who caused their confusion
suffered no variation of colour.

There was no want of discourse. 
The bride and her mother could neither of them talk
fast enough; and Wickham, who happened to sit near
Elizabeth, began inquiring after his acquaintance in
that neighbourhood, with a good humoured ease which
she felt very unable to equal in her replies. 
They seemed each of them to have the happiest memories
in the world.  Nothing of the past was recollected
with pain; and Lydia led voluntarily to subjects which
her sisters would not have alluded to for the world.

“Only think of its being three
months,” she cried, “since I went away;
it seems but a fortnight I declare; and yet there have
been things enough happened in the time.  Good
gracious! when I went away, I am sure I had no more
idea of being married till I came back again! though
I thought it would be very good fun if I was.”

Her father lifted up his eyes. 
Jane was distressed.  Elizabeth looked expressively
at Lydia; but she, who never heard nor saw anything
of which she chose to be insensible, gaily continued,
“Oh! mamma, do the people hereabouts know I
am married to-day?  I was afraid they might not;
and we overtook William Goulding in his curricle, so
I was determined he should know it, and so I let down
the side-glass next to him, and took off my glove,
and let my hand just rest upon the window frame, so
that he might see the ring, and then I bowed and smiled
like anything.”

Elizabeth could bear it no longer. 
She got up, and ran out of the room; and returned
no more, till she heard them passing through the hall
to the dining parlour.  She then joined them soon
enough to see Lydia, with anxious parade, walk up
to her mother’s right hand, and hear her say
to her eldest sister, “Ah!  Jane, I take
your place now, and you must go lower, because I am
a married woman.”

It was not to be supposed that time
would give Lydia that embarrassment from which she
had been so wholly free at first.  Her ease and
good spirits increased.  She longed to see Mrs.
Phillips, the Lucases, and all their other neighbours,
and to hear herself called “Mrs. Wickham”
by each of them; and in the mean time, she went after
dinner to show her ring, and boast of being married,
to Mrs. Hill and the two housemaids.

“Well, mamma,” said she,
when they were all returned to the breakfast room,
“and what do you think of my husband?  Is
not he a charming man?  I am sure my sisters must
all envy me.  I only hope they may have half my
good luck.  They must all go to Brighton. 
That is the place to get husbands.  What a pity
it is, mamma, we did not all go.”

“Very true; and if I had my
will, we should.  But my dear Lydia, I don’t
at all like your going such a way off.  Must it
be so?”

“Oh, lord! yes; ­there
is nothing in that.  I shall like it of all things. 
You and papa, and my sisters, must come down and see
us.  We shall be at Newcastle all the winter,
and I dare say there will be some balls, and I will
take care to get good partners for them all.”

“I should like it beyond anything!” said
her mother.

“And then when you go away,
you may leave one or two of my sisters behind you;
and I dare say I shall get husbands for them before
the winter is over.”

“I thank you for my share of
the favour,” said Elizabeth; “but I do
not particularly like your way of getting husbands.”

Their visitors were not to remain
above ten days with them.  Mr. Wickham had received
his commission before he left London, and he was to
join his regiment at the end of a fortnight.

No one but Mrs. Bennet regretted that
their stay would be so short; and she made the most
of the time by visiting about with her daughter, and
having very frequent parties at home.  These parties
were acceptable to all; to avoid a family circle was
even more desirable to such as did think, than such
as did not.

Wickham’s affection for Lydia
was just what Elizabeth had expected to find it; not
equal to Lydia’s for him.  She had scarcely
needed her present observation to be satisfied, from
the reason of things, that their elopement had been
brought on by the strength of her love, rather than
by his; and she would have wondered why, without violently
caring for her, he chose to elope with her at all,
had she not felt certain that his flight was rendered
necessary by distress of circumstances; and if that
were the case, he was not the young man to resist an
opportunity of having a companion.

Lydia was exceedingly fond of him. 
He was her dear Wickham on every occasion; no one
was to be put in competition with him.  He did
every thing best in the world; and she was sure he
would kill more birds on the first of September, than
any body else in the country.

One morning, soon after their arrival,
as she was sitting with her two elder sisters, she
said to Elizabeth: 

“Lizzy, I never gave you
an account of my wedding, I believe.  You were
not by, when I told mamma and the others all about
it.  Are not you curious to hear how it was managed?”

“No really,” replied Elizabeth;
“I think there cannot be too little said on
the subject.”

“La!  You are so strange! 
But I must tell you how it went off.  We were
married, you know, at St. Clement’s, because
Wickham’s lodgings were in that parish. 
And it was settled that we should all be there by eleven
o’clock.  My uncle and aunt and I were to
go together; and the others were to meet us at the
church.  Well, Monday morning came, and I was in
such a fuss!  I was so afraid, you know, that something
would happen to put it off, and then I should have
gone quite distracted.  And there was my aunt,
all the time I was dressing, preaching and talking
away just as if she was reading a sermon.  However,
I did not hear above one word in ten, for I was thinking,
you may suppose, of my dear Wickham.  I longed
to know whether he would be married in his blue coat.”

“Well, and so we breakfasted
at ten as usual; I thought it would never be over;
for, by the bye, you are to understand, that my uncle
and aunt were horrid unpleasant all the time I was
with them.  If you’ll believe me, I did
not once put my foot out of doors, though I was there
a fortnight.  Not one party, or scheme, or anything. 
To be sure London was rather thin, but, however, the
Little Theatre was open.  Well, and so just as
the carriage came to the door, my uncle was called
away upon business to that horrid man Mr. Stone. 
And then, you know, when once they get together, there
is no end of it.  Well, I was so frightened I
did not know what to do, for my uncle was to give me
away; and if we were beyond the hour, we could not
be married all day.  But, luckily, he came back
again in ten minutes’ time, and then we all set
out.  However, I recollected afterwards that if
he had been prevented going, the wedding need not
be put off, for Mr. Darcy might have done as well.”

“Mr. Darcy!” repeated Elizabeth, in utter
amazement.

“Oh, yes! ­he was
to come there with Wickham, you know.  But gracious
me!  I quite forgot!  I ought not to have said
a word about it.  I promised them so faithfully! 
What will Wickham say?  It was to be such a secret!”

“If it was to be secret,”
said Jane, “say not another word on the subject. 
You may depend upon my seeking no further.”

“Oh! certainly,” said
Elizabeth, though burning with curiosity; “we
will ask you no questions.”

“Thank you,” said Lydia,
“for if you did, I should certainly tell you
all, and then Wickham would be angry.”

On such encouragement to ask, Elizabeth
was forced to put it out of her power, by running
away.

But to live in ignorance on such a
point was impossible; or at least it was impossible
not to try for information.  Mr. Darcy had been
at her sister’s wedding.  It was exactly
a scene, and exactly among people, where he had apparently
least to do, and least temptation to go.  Conjectures
as to the meaning of it, rapid and wild, hurried into
her brain; but she was satisfied with none.  Those
that best pleased her, as placing his conduct in the
noblest light, seemed most improbable.  She could
not bear such suspense; and hastily seizing a sheet
of paper, wrote a short letter to her aunt, to request
an explanation of what Lydia had dropt, if it were
compatible with the secrecy which had been intended.

“You may readily comprehend,”
she added, “what my curiosity must be to know
how a person unconnected with any of us, and (comparatively
speaking) a stranger to our family, should have been
amongst you at such a time.  Pray write instantly,
and let me understand it ­unless it is,
for very cogent reasons, to remain in the secrecy which
Lydia seems to think necessary; and then I must endeavour
to be satisfied with ignorance.”

“Not that I shall, though,”
she added to herself, as she finished the letter;
“and my dear aunt, if you do not tell me in an
honourable manner, I shall certainly be reduced to
tricks and stratagems to find it out.”

Jane’s delicate sense of honour
would not allow her to speak to Elizabeth privately
of what Lydia had let fall; Elizabeth was glad of
it; ­till it appeared whether her inquiries
would receive any satisfaction, she had rather be
without a confidante.

 

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