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Chapter 16

  • It was the second week in May, in which the three young ladies set ou_ogether from Gracechurch Street for the town of ——, in Hertfordshire; and, a_hey drew near the appointed inn where Mr. Bennet's carriage was to meet them,
  • they quickly perceived, in token of the coachman's punctuality, both Kitty an_ydia looking out of a dining-room upstairs. These two girls had been above a_our in the place, happily employed in visiting an opposite milliner, watchin_he sentinel on guard, and dressing a salad and cucumber.
  • After welcoming their sisters, they triumphantly displayed a table set ou_ith such cold meat as an inn larder usually affords, exclaiming, "Is not thi_ice? Is not this an agreeable surprise?"
  • "And we mean to treat you all," added Lydia, "but you must lend us the money,
  • for we have just spent ours at the shop out there." Then, showing he_urchases—"Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is ver_retty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not. I shall pull it to piece_s soon as I get home, and see if I can make it up any better."
  • And when her sisters abused it as ugly, she added, with perfect unconcern,
  • "Oh! but there were two or three much uglier in the shop; and when I hav_ought some prettier-coloured satin to trim it with fresh, I think it will b_ery tolerable. Besides, it will not much signify what one wears this summer,
  • after the ——shire have left Meryton, and they are going in a fortnight."
  • "Are they indeed!" cried Elizabeth, with the greatest satisfaction.
  • "They are going to be encamped near Brighton; and I do so want papa to take u_ll there for the summer! It would be such a delicious scheme; and I dare sa_ould hardly cost anything at all. Mamma would like to go too of all things!
  • Only think what a miserable summer else we shall have!"
  • "Yes," thought Elizabeth, " _that_  would be a delightful scheme indeed, an_ompletely do for us at once. Good Heaven! Brighton, and a whole campful o_oldiers, to us, who have been overset already by one poor regiment o_ilitia, and the monthly balls of Meryton!"
  • "Now I have got some news for you," said Lydia, as they sat down at table.
  • "What do you think? It is excellent news—capital news—and about a certai_erson we all like!"
  • Jane and Elizabeth looked at each other, and the waiter was told he need no_tay. Lydia laughed, and said:
  • "Aye, that is just like your formality and discretion. You thought the waite_ust not hear, as if he cared! I dare say he often hears worse things sai_han I am going to say. But he is an ugly fellow! I am glad he is gone. _ever saw such a long chin in my life. Well, but now for my news; it is abou_ear Wickham; too good for the waiter, is it not? There is no danger o_ickham's marrying Mary King. There's for you! She is gone down to her uncl_t Liverpool: gone to stay. Wickham is safe."
  • "And Mary King is safe!" added Elizabeth; "safe from a connection imprudent a_o fortune."
  • "She is a great fool for going away, if she liked him."
  • "But I hope there is no strong attachment on either side," said Jane.
  • "I am sure there is not on  _his_. I will answer for it, he never cared thre_traws about her—who could about such a nasty little freckled thing?"
  • Elizabeth was shocked to think that, however incapable of such coarseness o_expression_  herself, the coarseness of the _sentiment_  was little othe_han her own breast had harboured and fancied liberal!
  • As soon as all had ate, and the elder ones paid, the carriage was ordered; an_fter some contrivance, the whole party, with all their boxes, work-bags, an_arcels, and the unwelcome addition of Kitty's and Lydia's purchases, wer_eated in it.
  • "How nicely we are all crammed in," cried Lydia. "I am glad I bought m_onnet, if it is only for the fun of having another bandbox! Well, now let u_e quite comfortable and snug, and talk and laugh all the way home. And in th_irst place, let us hear what has happened to you all since you went away.
  • Have you seen any pleasant men? Have you had any flirting? I was in grea_opes that one of you would have got a husband before you came back. Jane wil_e quite an old maid soon, I declare. She is almost three-and-twenty! Lord,
  • how ashamed I should be of not being married before three-and-twenty! My aun_hillips wants you so to get husbands, you can't think. She says Lizzy ha_etter have taken Mr. Collins; but  _I_  do not think there would have bee_ny fun in it. Lord! how I should like to be married before any of you; an_hen I would chaperon you about to all the balls. Dear me! we had such a goo_iece of fun the other day at Colonel Forster's. Kitty and me were to spen_he day there, and Mrs. Forster promised to have a little dance in th_vening; (by the bye, Mrs. Forster and me are  _such_  friends!) and so sh_sked the two Harringtons to come, but Harriet was ill, and so Pen was force_o come by herself; and then, what do you think we did? We dressed u_hamberlayne in woman's clothes on purpose to pass for a lady, only think wha_un! Not a soul knew of it, but Colonel and Mrs. Forster, and Kitty and me,
  • except my aunt, for we were forced to borrow one of her gowns; and you canno_magine how well he looked! When Denny, and Wickham, and Pratt, and two o_hree more of the men came in, they did not know him in the least. Lord! how _aughed! and so did Mrs. Forster. I thought I should have died. And  _that_ade the men suspect something, and then they soon found out what was th_atter."
  • With such kinds of histories of their parties and good jokes, did Lydia,
  • assisted by Kitty's hints and additions, endeavour to amuse her companions al_he way to Longbourn. Elizabeth listened as little as she could, but there wa_o escaping the frequent mention of Wickham's name.
  • Their reception at home was most kind. Mrs. Bennet rejoiced to see Jane i_ndiminished beauty; and more than once during dinner did Mr. Bennet sa_oluntarily to Elizabeth:
  • "I am glad you are come back, Lizzy."
  • Their party in the dining-room was large, for almost all the Lucases came t_eet Maria and hear the news; and various were the subjects that occupie_hem: Lady Lucas was inquiring of Maria, after the welfare and poultry of he_ldest daughter; Mrs. Bennet was doubly engaged, on one hand collecting a_ccount of the present fashions from Jane, who sat some way below her, and, o_he other, retailing them all to the younger Lucases; and Lydia, in a voic_ather louder than any other person's, was enumerating the various pleasure_f the morning to anybody who would hear her.
  • "Oh! Mary," said she, "I wish you had gone with us, for we had such fun! As w_ent along, Kitty and I drew up the blinds, and pretended there was nobody i_he coach; and I should have gone so all the way, if Kitty had not been sick;
  • and when we got to the George, I do think we behaved very handsomely, for w_reated the other three with the nicest cold luncheon in the world, and if yo_ould have gone, we would have treated you too. And then when we came away i_as such fun! I thought we never should have got into the coach. I was read_o die of laughter. And then we were so merry all the way home! we talked an_aughed so loud, that anybody might have heard us ten miles off!"
  • To this Mary very gravely replied, "Far be it from me, my dear sister, t_epreciate such pleasures! They would doubtless be congenial with th_enerality of female minds. But I confess they would have no charms for  _me_
  • —I should infinitely prefer a book."
  • But of this answer Lydia heard not a word. She seldom listened to anybody fo_ore than half a minute, and never attended to Mary at all.
  • In the afternoon Lydia was urgent with the rest of the girls to walk t_eryton, and to see how everybody went on; but Elizabeth steadily opposed th_cheme. It should not be said that the Miss Bennets could not be at home hal_ day before they were in pursuit of the officers. There was another reaso_oo for her opposition. She dreaded seeing Mr. Wickham again, and was resolve_o avoid it as long as possible. The comfort to  _her_  of the regiment'_pproaching removal was indeed beyond expression. In a fortnight they were t_o—and once gone, she hoped there could be nothing more to plague her on hi_ccount.
  • She had not been many hours at home before she found that the Brighton scheme,
  • of which Lydia had given them a hint at the inn, was under frequent discussio_etween her parents. Elizabeth saw directly that her father had not th_mallest intention of yielding; but his answers were at the same time so vagu_nd equivocal, that her mother, though often disheartened, had never ye_espaired of succeeding at last.