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Chapter 6

  • The whole party were in hopes of a letter from Mr. Bennet the next morning,
  • but the post came in without bringing a single line from him. His family kne_im to be, on all common occasions, a most negligent and dilator_orrespondent; but at such a time they had hoped for exertion. They wer_orced to conclude that he had no pleasing intelligence to send; but even o_that_  they would have been glad to be certain. Mr. Gardiner had waited onl_or the letters before he set off.
  • When he was gone, they were certain at least of receiving constant informatio_f what was going on, and their uncle promised, at parting, to prevail on Mr.
  • Bennet to return to Longbourn, as soon as he could, to the great consolatio_f his sister, who considered it as the only security for her husband's no_eing killed in a duel.
  • Mrs. Gardiner and the children were to remain in Hertfordshire a few day_onger, as the former thought her presence might be serviceable to her nieces.
  • She shared in their attendance on Mrs. Bennet, and was a great comfort to the_n their hours of freedom. Their other aunt also visited them frequently, an_lways, as she said, with the design of cheering and heartening the_p—though, as she never came without reporting some fresh instance o_ickham's extravagance or irregularity, she seldom went away without leavin_hem more dispirited than she found them.
  • All Meryton seemed striving to blacken the man who, but three months before,
  • had been almost an angel of light. He was declared to be in debt to ever_radesman in the place, and his intrigues, all honoured with the title o_eduction, had been extended into every tradesman's family. Everybody declare_hat he was the wickedest young man in the world; and everybody began to fin_ut that they had always distrusted the appearance of his goodness. Elizabeth,
  • though she did not credit above half of what was said, believed enough to mak_er former assurance of her sister's ruin more certain; and even Jane, wh_elieved still less of it, became almost hopeless, more especially as the tim_as now come when, if they had gone to Scotland, which she had never befor_ntirely despaired of, they must in all probability have gained some news o_hem.
  • Mr. Gardiner left Longbourn on Sunday; on Tuesday his wife received a lette_rom him; it told them that, on his arrival, he had immediately found out hi_rother, and persuaded him to come to Gracechurch Street; that Mr. Bennet ha_een to Epsom and Clapham, before his arrival, but without gaining an_atisfactory information; and that he was now determined to inquire at all th_rincipal hotels in town, as Mr. Bennet thought it possible they might hav_one to one of them, on their first coming to London, before they procure_odgings. Mr. Gardiner himself did not expect any success from this measure,
  • but as his brother was eager in it, he meant to assist him in pursuing it. H_dded that Mr. Bennet seemed wholly disinclined at present to leave London an_romised to write again very soon. There was also a postscript to this effect:
  • "I have written to Colonel Forster to desire him to find out, if possible,
  • from some of the young man's intimates in the regiment, whether Wickham ha_ny relations or connections who would be likely to know in what part of tow_e has now concealed himself. If there were anyone that one could apply t_ith a probability of gaining such a clue as that, it might be of essentia_onsequence. At present we have nothing to guide us. Colonel Forster will, _are say, do everything in his power to satisfy us on this head. But, o_econd thoughts, perhaps, Lizzy could tell us what relations he has no_iving, better than any other person."
  • Elizabeth was at no loss to understand from whence this deference to he_uthority proceeded; but it was not in her power to give any information of s_atisfactory a nature as the compliment deserved. She had never heard of hi_aving had any relations, except a father and mother, both of whom had bee_ead many years. It was possible, however, that some of his companions in the
  • ——shire might be able to give more information; and though she was not ver_anguine in expecting it, the application was a something to look forward to.
  • Every day at Longbourn was now a day of anxiety; but the most anxious part o_ach was when the post was expected. The arrival of letters was the gran_bject of every morning's impatience. Through letters, whatever of good or ba_as to be told would be communicated, and every succeeding day was expected t_ring some news of importance.
  • But before they heard again from Mr. Gardiner, a letter arrived for thei_ather, from a different quarter, from Mr. Collins; which, as Jane ha_eceived directions to open all that came for him in his absence, sh_ccordingly read; and Elizabeth, who knew what curiosities his letters alway_ere, looked over her, and read it likewise. It was as follows:
  • "MY DEAR SIR,
  • "I feel myself called upon, by our relationship, and my situation in life, t_ondole with you on the grievous affliction you are now suffering under, o_hich we were yesterday informed by a letter from Hertfordshire. Be assured,
  • my dear sir, that Mrs. Collins and myself sincerely sympathise with you an_ll your respectable family, in your present distress, which must be of th_itterest kind, because proceeding from a cause which no time can remove. N_rguments shall be wanting on my part that can alleviate so severe _isfortune—or that may comfort you, under a circumstance that must be of al_thers the most afflicting to a parent's mind. The death of your daughte_ould have been a blessing in comparison of this. And it is the more to b_amented, because there is reason to suppose as my dear Charlotte informs me,
  • that this licentiousness of behaviour in your daughter has proceeded from _aulty degree of indulgence; though, at the same time, for the consolation o_ourself and Mrs. Bennet, I am inclined to think that her own disposition mus_e naturally bad, or she could not be guilty of such an enormity, at so earl_n age. Howsoever that may be, you are grievously to be pitied; in whic_pinion I am not only joined by Mrs. Collins, but likewise by Lady Catherin_nd her daughter, to whom I have related the affair. They agree with me i_pprehending that this false step in one daughter will be injurious to th_ortunes of all the others; for who, as Lady Catherine herself condescendingl_ays, will connect themselves with such a family? And this consideration lead_e moreover to reflect, with augmented satisfaction, on a certain event o_ast November; for had it been otherwise, I must have been involved in al_our sorrow and disgrace. Let me then advise you, dear sir, to consol_ourself as much as possible, to throw off your unworthy child from you_ffection for ever, and leave her to reap the fruits of her own heinou_ffense.
  • "I am, dear sir, etc., etc."
  • Mr. Gardiner did not write again till he had received an answer from Colone_orster; and then he had nothing of a pleasant nature to send. It was no_nown that Wickham had a single relationship with whom he kept up an_onnection, and it was certain that he had no near one living. His forme_cquaintances had been numerous; but since he had been in the militia, it di_ot appear that he was on terms of particular friendship with any of them.
  • There was no one, therefore, who could be pointed out as likely to give an_ews of him. And in the wretched state of his own finances, there was a ver_owerful motive for secrecy, in addition to his fear of discovery by Lydia'_elations, for it had just transpired that he had left gaming debts behind hi_o a very considerable amount. Colonel Forster believed that more than _housand pounds would be necessary to clear his expenses at Brighton. He owe_ good deal in town, but his debts of honour were still more formidable. Mr.
  • Gardiner did not attempt to conceal these particulars from the Longbour_amily. Jane heard them with horror. "A gamester!" she cried. "This is wholl_nexpected. I had not an idea of it."
  • Mr. Gardiner added in his letter, that they might expect to see their fathe_t home on the following day, which was Saturday. Rendered spiritless by th_ll-success of all their endeavours, he had yielded to his brother-in-law'_ntreaty that he would return to his family, and leave it to him to d_hatever occasion might suggest to be advisable for continuing their pursuit.
  • When Mrs. Bennet was told of this, she did not express so much satisfaction a_er children expected, considering what her anxiety for his life had bee_efore.
  • "What, is he coming home, and without poor Lydia?" she cried. "Sure he wil_ot leave London before he has found them. Who is to fight Wickham, and mak_im marry her, if he comes away?"
  • As Mrs. Gardiner began to wish to be at home, it was settled that she and th_hildren should go to London, at the same time that Mr. Bennet came from it.
  • The coach, therefore, took them the first stage of their journey, and brough_ts master back to Longbourn.
  • Mrs. Gardiner went away in all the perplexity about Elizabeth and he_erbyshire friend that had attended her from that part of the world. His nam_ad never been voluntarily mentioned before them by her niece; and the kind o_alf-expectation which Mrs. Gardiner had formed, of their being followed by _etter from him, had ended in nothing. Elizabeth had received none since he_eturn that could come from Pemberley.
  • The present unhappy state of the family rendered any other excuse for th_owness of her spirits unnecessary; nothing, therefore, could be fairl_onjectured from  _that_ , though Elizabeth, who was by this time tolerabl_ell acquainted with her own feelings, was perfectly aware that, had she know_othing of Darcy, she could have borne the dread of Lydia's infamy somewha_etter. It would have spared her, she thought, one sleepless night out of two.
  • When Mr. Bennet arrived, he had all the appearance of his usual philosophi_omposure. He said as little as he had ever been in the habit of saying; mad_o mention of the business that had taken him away, and it was some tim_efore his daughters had courage to speak of it.
  • It was not till the afternoon, when he had joined them at tea, that Elizabet_entured to introduce the subject; and then, on her briefly expressing he_orrow for what he must have endured, he replied, "Say nothing of that. Wh_hould suffer but myself? It has been my own doing, and I ought to feel it."
  • "You must not be too severe upon yourself," replied Elizabeth.
  • "You may well warn me against such an evil. Human nature is so prone to fal_nto it! No, Lizzy, let me once in my life feel how much I have been to blame.
  • I am not afraid of being overpowered by the impression. It will pass away soo_nough."
  • "Do you suppose them to be in London?"
  • "Yes; where else can they be so well concealed?"
  • "And Lydia used to want to go to London," added Kitty.
  • "She is happy then," said her father drily; "and her residence there wil_robably be of some duration."
  • Then after a short silence he continued:
  • "Lizzy, I bear you no ill-will for being justified in your advice to me las_ay, which, considering the event, shows some greatness of mind."
  • They were interrupted by Miss Bennet, who came to fetch her mother's tea.
  • "This is a parade," he cried, "which does one good; it gives such an eleganc_o misfortune! Another day I will do the same; I will sit in my library, in m_ightcap and powdering gown, and give as much trouble as I can; or, perhaps, _ay defer it till Kitty runs away."
  • "I am not going to run away, papa," said Kitty fretfully. "If I should ever g_o Brighton, I would behave better than Lydia."
  • " _You_  go to Brighton. I would not trust you so near it as Eastbourne fo_ifty pounds! No, Kitty, I have at last learnt to be cautious, and you wil_eel the effects of it. No officer is ever to enter into my house again, no_ven to pass through the village. Balls will be absolutely prohibited, unles_ou stand up with one of your sisters. And you are never to stir out of door_ill you can prove that you have spent ten minutes of every day in a rationa_anner."
  • Kitty, who took all these threats in a serious light, began to cry.
  • "Well, well," said he, "do not make yourself unhappy. If you are a good gir_or the next ten years, I will take you to a review at the end of them."