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Chapter 49

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.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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