Mr. Bennet had very often wished before this period of his life that, instea_f spending his whole income, he had laid by an annual sum for the bette_rovision of his children, and of his wife, if she survived him. He now wishe_t more than ever. Had he done his duty in that respect, Lydia need not hav_een indebted to her uncle for whatever of honour or credit could now b_urchased for her. The satisfaction of prevailing on one of the most worthles_oung men in Great Britain to be her husband might then have rested in it_roper place.
He was seriously concerned that a cause of so little advantage to anyon_hould be forwarded at the sole expense of his brother-in-law, and he wa_etermined, if possible, to find out the extent of his assistance, and t_ischarge 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 of_he entail, as soon as he should be of age, and the widow and younger childre_ould by that means be provided for. Five daughters successively entered th_orld, but yet the son was to come; and Mrs. Bennet, for many years afte_ydia's birth, had been certain that he would. This event had at last bee_espaired of, but it was then too late to be saving. Mrs. Bennet had no tur_or economy, and her husband's love of independence had alone prevented thei_xceeding their income.
Five thousand pounds was settled by marriage articles on Mrs. Bennet and th_hildren. But in what proportions it should be divided amongst the latte_epended 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 hesitatio_n acceding to the proposal before him. In terms of grateful acknowledgmen_or the kindness of his brother, though expressed most concisely, he the_elivered on paper his perfect approbation of all that was done, and hi_illingness to fulfil the engagements that had been made for him. He had neve_efore supposed that, could Wickham be prevailed on to marry his daughter, i_ould be done with so little inconvenience to himself as by the presen_rrangement. He would scarcely be ten pounds a year the loser by the hundre_hat was to be paid them; for, what with her board and pocket allowance, an_he continual presents in money which passed to her through her mother'_ands, Lydia's expenses had been very little within that sum.
That it would be done with such trifling exertion on his side, too, wa_nother very welcome surprise; for his wish at present was to have as littl_rouble in the business as possible. When the first transports of rage whic_ad produced his activity in seeking her were over, he naturally returned t_ll his former indolence. His letter was soon dispatched; for, though dilator_n undertaking business, he was quick in its execution. He begged to kno_urther particulars of what he was indebted to his brother, but was too angr_ith Lydia to send any message to her.
The good news spread quickly through the house, and with proportionate spee_hrough 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 Mis_ydia Bennet come upon the town; or, as the happiest alternative, bee_ecluded from the world, in some distant farmhouse. But there was much to b_alked of in marrying her; and the good-natured wishes for her well-doin_hich had proceeded before from all the spiteful old ladies in Meryton los_ut a little of their spirit in this change of circumstances, because wit_uch an husband her misery was considered certain.
It was a fortnight since Mrs. Bennet had been downstairs; but on this happ_ay she again took her seat at the head of her table, and in spirit_ppressively high. No sentiment of shame gave a damp to her triumph. Th_arriage of a daughter, which had been the first object of her wishes sinc_ane was sixteen, was now on the point of accomplishment, and her thoughts an_er words ran wholly on those attendants of elegant nuptials, fine muslins,
new carriages, and servants. She was busily searching through th_eighbourhood for a proper situation for her daughter, and, without knowing o_onsidering what their income might be, rejected many as deficient in size an_mportance.
"Haye Park might do," said she, "if the Gouldings could quit it—or the grea_ouse 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, th_ttics are dreadful."
Her husband allowed her to talk on without interruption while the servant_emained. But when they had withdrawn, he said to her: "Mrs. Bennet, befor_ou take any or all of these houses for your son and daughter, let us come t_ right understanding. Into _one_ house in this neighbourhood they shal_ever have admittance. I will not encourage the impudence of either, b_eceiving them at Longbourn."
A long dispute followed this declaration; but Mr. Bennet was firm. It soon le_o another; and Mrs. Bennet found, with amazement and horror, that her husban_ould not advance a guinea to buy clothes for his daughter. He protested tha_he should receive from him no mark of affection whatever on the occasion.
Mrs. Bennet could hardly comprehend it. That his anger could be carried t_uch a point of inconceivable resentment as to refuse his daughter a privileg_ithout which her marriage would scarcely seem valid, exceeded all she coul_elieve possible. She was more alive to the disgrace which her want of ne_lothes must reflect on her daughter's nuptials, than to any sense of shame a_er eloping and living with Wickham a fortnight before they took place.
Elizabeth was now most heartily sorry that she had, from the distress of th_oment, 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 th_lopement, they might hope to conceal its unfavourable beginning from al_hose who were not immediately on the spot.
She had no fear of its spreading farther through his means. There were fe_eople on whose secrecy she would have more confidently depended; but, at th_ame time, there was no one whose knowledge of a sister's frailty would hav_ortified her so much—not, however, from any fear of disadvantage from i_ndividually to herself, for, at any rate, there seemed a gulf impassabl_etween them. Had Lydia's marriage been concluded on the most honourabl_erms, it was not to be supposed that Mr. Darcy would connect himself with _amily where, to every other objection, would now be added an alliance an_elationship 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 o_rocuring her regard, which she had assured herself of his feeling i_erbyshire, could not in rational expectation survive such a blow as this. Sh_as 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 b_enefited by it. She wanted to hear of him, when there seemed the least chanc_f gaining intelligence. She was convinced that she could have been happy wit_im, when it was no longer likely they should meet.
What a triumph for him, as she often thought, could he know that the proposal_hich she had proudly spurned only four months ago, would now have been mos_ladly and gratefully received! He was as generous, she doubted not, as th_ost 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 dispositio_nd talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlik_er own, would have answered all her wishes. It was an union that must hav_een to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might hav_een softened, his manners improved; and from his judgement, information, an_nowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance.
But no such happy marriage could now teach the admiring multitude wha_onnubial felicity really was. An union of a different tendency, an_recluding the possibility of the other, was soon to be formed in thei_amily.
How Wickham and Lydia were to be supported in tolerable independence, sh_ould not imagine. But how little of permanent happiness could belong to _ouple who were only brought together because their passions were stronge_han their virtue, she could easily conjecture.
Mr. Gardiner soon wrote again to his brother. To Mr. Bennet's acknowledgment_e briefly replied, with assurance of his eagerness to promote the welfare o_ny of his family; and concluded with entreaties that the subject might neve_e mentioned to him again. The principal purport of his letter was to infor_hem that Mr. Wickham had resolved on quitting the militia.
"It was greatly my wish that he should do so," he added, "as soon as hi_arriage was fixed on. And I think you will agree with me, in considering th_emoval from that corps as highly advisable, both on his account and m_iece's. It is Mr. Wickham's intention to go into the regulars; and among hi_ormer friends, there are still some who are able and willing to assist him i_he army. He has the promise of an ensigncy in General ——'s regiment, no_uartered in the North. It is an advantage to have it so far from this part o_he kingdom. He promises fairly; and I hope among different people, where the_ay each have a character to preserve, they will both be more prudent. I hav_ritten to Colonel Forster, to inform him of our present arrangements, and t_equest that he will satisfy the various creditors of Mr. Wickham in and nea_righton, with assurances of speedy payment, for which I have pledged myself.
And will you give yourself the trouble of carrying similar assurances to hi_reditors in Meryton, of whom I shall subjoin a list according to hi_nformation? He has given in all his debts; I hope at least he has no_eceived us. Haggerston has our directions, and all will be completed in _eek. They will then join his regiment, unless they are first invited t_ongbourn; and I understand from Mrs. Gardiner, that my niece is very desirou_f seeing you all before she leaves the South. She is well, and begs to b_utifully remembered to you and your mother.—Yours, etc.,
Mr. Bennet and his daughters saw all the advantages of Wickham's removal fro_he ——shire as clearly as Mr. Gardiner could do. But Mrs. Bennet was not s_ell pleased with it. Lydia's being settled in the North, just when she ha_xpected most pleasure and pride in her company, for she had by no means give_p 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 regimen_here 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 sen_er away! And there are several of the young men, too, that she likes ver_uch. The officers may not be so pleasant in General ——'s regiment."
His daughter's request, for such it might be considered, of being admitte_nto her family again before she set off for the North, received at first a_bsolute negative. But Jane and Elizabeth, who agreed in wishing, for the sak_f their sister's feelings and consequence, that she should be noticed on he_arriage by her parents, urged him so earnestly yet so rationally and s_ildly, to receive her and her husband at Longbourn, as soon as they wer_arried, that he was prevailed on to think as they thought, and act as the_ished. And their mother had the satisfaction of knowing that she would b_ble to show her married daughter in the neighbourhood before she was banishe_o the North. When Mr. Bennet wrote again to his brother, therefore, he sen_is permission for them to come; and it was settled, that as soon as th_eremony was over, they should proceed to Longbourn. Elizabeth was surprised,
however, that Wickham should consent to such a scheme, and had she consulte_nly her own inclination, any meeting with him would have been the last objec_f her wishes.