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Chapter 52

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

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Elizabeth had the satisfaction of
receiving an answer to her letter as soon as she possibly
could.  She was no sooner in possession of it
than, hurrying into the little copse, where she was
least likely to be interrupted, she sat down on one
of the benches and prepared to be happy; for the length
of the letter convinced her that it did not contain
a denial.

“Gracechurch street, Sep.

“MY DEAR NIECE,

“I have just received your letter,
and shall devote this whole morning to answering it,
as I foresee that a little writing will not
comprise what I have to tell you.  I must confess
myself surprised by your application; I did not expect
it from you.  Don’t think me angry,
however, for I only mean to let you know that I had
not imagined such inquiries to be necessary on your
side.  If you do not choose to understand me,
forgive my impertinence.  Your uncle is as much
surprised as I am ­and nothing but the belief
of your being a party concerned would have allowed
him to act as he has done.  But if you are really
innocent and ignorant, I must be more explicit.

“On the very day of my coming
home from Longbourn, your uncle had a most unexpected
visitor.  Mr. Darcy called, and was shut up with
him several hours.  It was all over before I arrived;
so my curiosity was not so dreadfully racked as yours
seems to have been.  He came to tell Mr. Gardiner
that he had found out where your sister and Mr. Wickham
were, and that he had seen and talked with them both;
Wickham repeatedly, Lydia once.  From what I can
collect, he left Derbyshire only one day after ourselves,
and came to town with the resolution of hunting for
them.  The motive professed was his conviction
of its being owing to himself that Wickham’s
worthlessness had not been so well known as to make
it impossible for any young woman of character to love
or confide in him.  He generously imputed the
whole to his mistaken pride, and confessed that he
had before thought it beneath him to lay his private
actions open to the world.  His character was to
speak for itself.  He called it, therefore, his
duty to step forward, and endeavour to remedy an evil
which had been brought on by himself.  If he had
another
motive, I am sure it would never disgrace
him.  He had been some days in town, before he
was able to discover them; but he had something to
direct his search, which was more than we had;
and the consciousness of this was another reason for
his resolving to follow us.

“There is a lady, it seems,
a Mrs. Younge, who was some time ago governess to
Miss Darcy, and was dismissed from her charge on some
cause of disapprobation, though he did not say what. 
She then took a large house in Edward-street, and
has since maintained herself by letting lodgings. 
This Mrs. Younge was, he knew, intimately acquainted
with Wickham; and he went to her for intelligence
of him as soon as he got to town.  But it was
two or three days before he could get from her what
he wanted.  She would not betray her trust, I
suppose, without bribery and corruption, for she really
did know where her friend was to be found.  Wickham
indeed had gone to her on their first arrival in London,
and had she been able to receive them into her house,
they would have taken up their abode with her. 
At length, however, our kind friend procured the wished-for
direction.  They were in ­ street. 
He saw Wickham, and afterwards insisted on seeing
Lydia.  His first object with her, he acknowledged,
had been to persuade her to quit her present disgraceful
situation, and return to her friends as soon as they
could be prevailed on to receive her, offering his
assistance, as far as it would go.  But he found
Lydia absolutely resolved on remaining where she was. 
She cared for none of her friends; she wanted no help
of his; she would not hear of leaving Wickham. 
She was sure they should be married some time or other,
and it did not much signify when.  Since such were
her feelings, it only remained, he thought, to secure
and expedite a marriage, which, in his very first
conversation with Wickham, he easily learnt had never
been his design.  He confessed himself obliged
to leave the regiment, on account of some debts of
honour, which were very pressing; and scrupled not
to lay all the ill-consequences of Lydia’s flight
on her own folly alone.  He meant to resign his
commission immediately; and as to his future situation,
he could conjecture very little about it.  He
must go somewhere, but he did not know where, and he
knew he should have nothing to live on.

“Mr. Darcy asked him why he
had not married your sister at once.  Though Mr.
Bennet was not imagined to be very rich, he would have
been able to do something for him, and his situation
must have been benefited by marriage.  But he
found, in reply to this question, that Wickham still
cherished the hope of more effectually making his fortune
by marriage in some other country.  Under such
circumstances, however, he was not likely to be proof
against the temptation of immediate relief.

“They met several times, for
there was much to be discussed.  Wickham of course
wanted more than he could get; but at length was reduced
to be reasonable.

“Every thing being settled between
them, Mr. Darcy’s next step was to make
your uncle acquainted with it, and he first called
in Gracechurch street the evening before I came home. 
But Mr. Gardiner could not be seen, and Mr. Darcy
found, on further inquiry, that your father was still
with him, but would quit town the next morning. 
He did not judge your father to be a person whom he
could so properly consult as your uncle, and therefore
readily postponed seeing him till after the departure
of the former.  He did not leave his name, and
till the next day it was only known that a gentleman
had called on business.

“On Saturday he came again. 
Your father was gone, your uncle at home, and, as
I said before, they had a great deal of talk together.

“They met again on Sunday, and
then I saw him too.  It was not all settled
before Monday:  as soon as it was, the express
was sent off to Longbourn.  But our visitor was
very obstinate.  I fancy, Lizzy, that obstinacy
is the real defect of his character, after all. 
He has been accused of many faults at different times,
but this is the true one.  Nothing was
to be done that he did not do himself; though I am
sure (and I do not speak it to be thanked, therefore
say nothing about it), your uncle would most readily
have settled the whole.

“They battled it together for
a long time, which was more than either the gentleman
or lady concerned in it deserved.  But at last
your uncle was forced to yield, and instead of being
allowed to be of use to his niece, was forced to put
up with only having the probable credit of it, which
went sorely against the grain; and I really believe
your letter this morning gave him great pleasure,
because it required an explanation that would rob
him of his borrowed feathers, and give the praise where
it was due.  But, Lizzy, this must go no farther
than yourself, or Jane at most.

“You know pretty well, I suppose,
what has been done for the young people.  His
debts are to be paid, amounting, I believe, to considerably
more than a thousand pounds, another thousand in addition
to her own settled upon her, and his commission
purchased.  The reason why all this was to be
done by him alone, was such as I have given above. 
It was owing to him, to his reserve and want of proper
consideration, that Wickham’s character had
been so misunderstood, and consequently that he had
been received and noticed as he was.  Perhaps there
was some truth in this; though I doubt whether
his reserve, or anybody’s reserve,
can be answerable for the event.  But in spite
of all this fine talking, my dear Lizzy, you may rest
perfectly assured that your uncle would never have
yielded, if we had not given him credit for another
interest
in the affair.

“When all this was resolved
on, he returned again to his friends, who were still
staying at Pemberley; but it was agreed that he should
be in London once more when the wedding took place,
and all money matters were then to receive the last
finish.

“I believe I have now told you
every thing.  It is a relation which you tell
me is to give you great surprise; I hope at least it
will not afford you any displeasure.  Lydia came
to us; and Wickham had constant admission to the house.
He was exactly what he had been, when I knew
him in Hertfordshire; but I would not tell you how
little I was satisfied with her behaviour while she
staid with us, if I had not perceived, by Jane’s
letter last Wednesday, that her conduct on coming
home was exactly of a piece with it, and therefore
what I now tell you can give you no fresh pain. 
I talked to her repeatedly in the most serious manner,
representing to her all the wickedness of what she
had done, and all the unhappiness she had brought
on her family.  If she heard me, it was by good
luck, for I am sure she did not listen.  I was
sometimes quite provoked, but then I recollected my
dear Elizabeth and Jane, and for their sakes had patience
with her.

“Mr. Darcy was punctual in his
return, and as Lydia informed you, attended the wedding. 
He dined with us the next day, and was to leave town
again on Wednesday or Thursday.  Will you be very
angry with me, my dear Lizzy, if I take this opportunity
of saying (what I was never bold enough to say before)
how much I like him.  His behaviour to us has,
in every respect, been as pleasing as when we were
in Derbyshire.  His understanding and opinions
all please me; he wants nothing but a little more
liveliness, and that, if he marry prudently,
his wife may teach him.  I thought him very sly; ­he
hardly ever mentioned your name.  But slyness
seems the fashion.

“Pray forgive me if I have been
very presuming, or at least do not punish me so far
as to exclude me from P. I shall never be quite happy
till I have been all round the park.  A low phaeton,
with a nice little pair of ponies, would be the very
thing.

“But I must write no more. 
The children have been wanting me this half hour.

“Yours, very sincerely,

“M.  GARDINER.”

The contents of this letter threw
Elizabeth into a flutter of spirits, in which it was
difficult to determine whether pleasure or pain bore
the greatest share.  The vague and unsettled suspicions
which uncertainty had produced of what Mr. Darcy might
have been doing to forward her sister’s match,
which she had feared to encourage as an exertion of
goodness too great to be probable, and at the same
time dreaded to be just, from the pain of obligation,
were proved beyond their greatest extent to be true! 
He had followed them purposely to town, he had taken
on himself all the trouble and mortification attendant
on such a research; in which supplication had been
necessary to a woman whom he must abominate and despise,
and where he was reduced to meet, frequently meet,
reason with, persuade, and finally bribe, the man
whom he always most wished to avoid, and whose very
name it was punishment to him to pronounce.  He
had done all this for a girl whom he could neither
regard nor esteem.  Her heart did whisper that
he had done it for her.  But it was a hope shortly
checked by other considerations, and she soon felt
that even her vanity was insufficient, when required
to depend on his affection for her ­for
a woman who had already refused him ­as able
to overcome a sentiment so natural as abhorrence against
relationship with Wickham.  Brother-in-law of
Wickham!  Every kind of pride must revolt from
the connection.  He had, to be sure, done much. 
She was ashamed to think how much.  But he had
given a reason for his interference, which asked no
extraordinary stretch of belief.  It was reasonable
that he should feel he had been wrong; he had liberality,
and he had the means of exercising it; and though
she would not place herself as his principal inducement,
she could, perhaps, believe that remaining partiality
for her might assist his endeavours in a cause where
her peace of mind must be materially concerned. 
It was painful, exceedingly painful, to know that they
were under obligations to a person who could never
receive a return.  They owed the restoration of
Lydia, her character, every thing, to him.  Oh!
how heartily did she grieve over every ungracious sensation
she had ever encouraged, every saucy speech she had
ever directed towards him.  For herself she was
humbled; but she was proud of him.  Proud that
in a cause of compassion and honour, he had been able
to get the better of himself.  She read over her
aunt’s commendation of him again and again. 
It was hardly enough; but it pleased her.  She
was even sensible of some pleasure, though mixed with
regret, on finding how steadfastly both she and her
uncle had been persuaded that affection and confidence
subsisted between Mr. Darcy and herself.

She was roused from her seat, and
her reflections, by some one’s approach; and
before she could strike into another path, she was
overtaken by Wickham.

“I am afraid I interrupt your
solitary ramble, my dear sister?” said he, as
he joined her.

“You certainly do,” she
replied with a smile; “but it does not follow
that the interruption must be unwelcome.”

“I should be sorry indeed, if
it were.  We were always good friends; and now
we are better.”

“True.  Are the others coming out?”

“I do not know.  Mrs. Bennet
and Lydia are going in the carriage to Meryton. 
And so, my dear sister, I find, from our uncle and
aunt, that you have actually seen Pemberley.”

She replied in the affirmative.

“I almost envy you the pleasure,
and yet I believe it would be too much for me, or
else I could take it in my way to Newcastle.  And
you saw the old housekeeper, I suppose?  Poor
Reynolds, she was always very fond of me.  But
of course she did not mention my name to you.”

“Yes, she did.”

“And what did she say?”

“That you were gone into the
army, and she was afraid had ­not turned
out well.  At such a distance as that, you
know, things are strangely misrepresented.”

“Certainly,” he replied,
biting his lips.  Elizabeth hoped she had silenced
him; but he soon afterwards said: 

“I was surprised to see Darcy
in town last month.  We passed each other several
times.  I wonder what he can be doing there.”

“Perhaps preparing for his marriage
with Miss de Bourgh,” said Elizabeth.  “It
must be something particular, to take him there at
this time of year.”

“Undoubtedly.  Did you see
him while you were at Lambton?  I thought I understood
from the Gardiners that you had.”

“Yes; he introduced us to his sister.”

“And do you like her?”

“Very much.”

“I have heard, indeed, that
she is uncommonly improved within this year or two. 
When I last saw her, she was not very promising. 
I am very glad you liked her.  I hope she will
turn out well.”

“I dare say she will; she has got over the most
trying age.”

“Did you go by the village of Kympton?”

“I do not recollect that we did.”

“I mention it, because it is
the living which I ought to have had.  A most
delightful place! ­Excellent Parsonage House! 
It would have suited me in every respect.”

“How should you have liked making sermons?”

“Exceedingly well.  I should
have considered it as part of my duty, and the exertion
would soon have been nothing.  One ought not to
repine; ­but, to be sure, it would have been
such a thing for me!  The quiet, the retirement
of such a life would have answered all my ideas of
happiness!  But it was not to be.  Did you
ever hear Darcy mention the circumstance, when you
were in Kent?”

“I have heard from authority,
which I thought as good, that it was left you
conditionally only, and at the will of the present
patron.”

“You have.  Yes, there was
something in that; I told you so from the first,
you may remember.”

“I did hear, too, that
there was a time, when sermon-making was not so palatable
to you as it seems to be at present; that you actually
declared your resolution of never taking orders, and
that the business had been compromised accordingly.”

“You did! and it was not wholly
without foundation.  You may remember what I told
you on that point, when first we talked of it.”

They were now almost at the door of
the house, for she had walked fast to get rid of him;
and unwilling, for her sister’s sake, to provoke
him, she only said in reply, with a good-humoured
smile: 

“Come, Mr. Wickham, we are brother
and sister, you know.  Do not let us quarrel about
the past.  In future, I hope we shall be always
of one mind.”

She held out her hand; he kissed it
with affectionate gallantry, though he hardly knew
how to look, and they entered the house.

 

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