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Chapter 50

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 of 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.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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