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Pride and Prejudice
ELIZABETH had the satisfaction
of receiving an answer to her letter
as soon as she possibly could. She was no sooner in possession of it than,
hurrying into the little copse, where she was least likely to be interrupted,
she sat down on one of the benches and prepared to be happy; for the length of
the letter convinced her that it did not contain a
"Gracechurch-street, Sept. 6.
MY DEAR NIECE,
I have just received your letter,
and shall devote this whole morning to answering it, as I foresee that a
little writing will not comprise what I have to tell you. I must confess
myself surprised by your application; I did not expect it from you.
Don't think me angry, however, for I only mean to let you know that I had not
imagined such enquiries to be necessary on your side. If you do not
choose to understand me, forgive my impertinence. Your uncle is as much
surprised as I am -- and nothing but the belief of your being a party
concerned would have allowed him to act as he has done. But if you are really
innocent and ignorant, I must be more explicit. On the very day of my coming
home from Longbourn, your uncle had a
most unexpected visitor.
Mr. Darcy called, and was
shut up with him several hours. It was all over before I arrived; so my
curiosity was not so dreadfully racked as your's seems to have been.
He came to tell Mr. Gardiner that
he had found out where your sister and
Mr. Wickham were, and that he
had seen and talked with them both;
Lydia once. From what I can collect,
he left Derbyshire only one day after
ourselves, and came to town with the
resolution of hunting for them. The motive professed was his conviction of its
being owing to himself that
Wickham's worthlessness had not been
so well known as to make it impossible for any young woman of character to
love or confide in him. He generously imputed the whole to his mistaken
pride, and confessed that he
had before thought it beneath him to lay his private actions open to the
world. His character was to speak for itself. He called it, therefore, his
duty to step forward, and endeavour to remedy an evil which had been brought
on by himself. If he had another motive, I am sure it would never
disgrace him. He had been some days in town,
before he was able to discover them; but he had something to direct his
search, which was more than we had; and the consciousness of this was another
reason for his resolving to follow us. There is a lady, it seems, a
Mrs. Younge, who was some time ago
Miss Darcy, and was dismissed from
her charge on some cause of disapprobation, though he did not say what. She
then took a large house in Edward-street, and has since maintained herself by
letting lodgings. This Mrs. Younge
was, he knew, intimately acquainted with
Wickham; and he went to her for
intelligence of him as soon as he got to
town. But it was two or three days before he
could get from her what he wanted. She would not betray her trust, I suppose,
without bribery and corruption, for she really did know where her friend was
to be found. Wickham indeed had
gone to her on their first arrival in
London, and had she been able to receive
them into her house, they would have taken up their abode with her. At
length, however, our kind friend procured the wished-for direction. They were
in ---- street. He saw Wickham, and
afterwards insisted on seeing Lydia.
His first object with her, he acknowledged, had been to persuade her to quit
her present disgraceful situation, and return to her friends as soon as they
could be prevailed on to receive her, offering his assistance, as far as it
would go. But he found Lydia
absolutely resolved on remaining where she was. She cared for none of her
friends; she wanted no help of his; she would not hear of leaving
Wickham. She was sure they should be
married some time or other, and it did not much signify when. Since such were
her feelings, it only remained, he thought, to secure and expedite a marriage,
which, in his very first conversation with
Wickham, he easily learnt had never
been his design. He confessed himself obliged to leave the regiment, on
account of some debts of honour, which
were very pressing; and scrupled not to lay all the ill-consequences of
Lydia's flight on her own folly alone.
He meant to resign his commission immediately; and as to his future
situation, he could conjecture very little about it. He must go somewhere,
but he did not know where, and he knew he should have nothing to live on.
Mr. Darcy asked him why he
had not married your sister at once.
Though Mr. Bennet was not imagined to
be very rich, he would have been able to do something for him, and his
situation must have been benefited by marriage. But he found, in reply to
this question, that Wickham
still cherished the
hope of more effectually making his fortune by marriage in some other
country. Under such circumstances,
however, he was not likely to be proof against the temptation of immediate
relief. They met several times, for there was much to be discussed.
Wickham of course wanted more than
he could get; but at length was reduced to be reasonable. Every thing being
settled between them,
Mr. Darcy's next step was to
make your uncle acquainted with it, and
he first called in Gracechurch-street the evening before I came home. But
Mr. Gardiner could not be seen, and
Mr. Darcy found, on further
enquiry, that your father was still with
him, but would quit town the next morning.
He did not judge your father to be a
person whom he could so properly consult as
your uncle, and therefore readily
postponed seeing him till after the departure of
the former. He did not leave his name,
and till the next day it was only known that a gentleman had called on
business. On Saturday he came again. Your
father was gone, your uncle at
home, and, as I said before, they had a great deal of talk together. They met
again on Sunday, and then I saw him too. It was not all settled
before Monday: as soon as it was, the express was sent off to
Longbourn. But our visitor was very
obstinate. I fancy, Lizzy, that
obstinacy is the real defect of his character, after all. He has been accused
of many faults at different times, but this is the true one. Nothing
was to be done that he did not do himself; though I am sure (and I do not
speak it to be thanked, therefore say nothing about it),
your uncle would most readily have
settled the whole. They battled it together for a long time, which was more
than either the gentleman or
lady concerned in it deserved. But at
last your uncle was forced to yield,
and instead of being allowed to be of use to
his niece, was forced to put up with
only having the probable credit of it, which went sorely against the grain;
and I really believe your letter this
morning gave him great pleasure, because it required an explanation that would
rob him of his borrowed feathers, and give the praise where it was due. But,
Lizzy, this must go no farther
than yourself, or Jane at most. You
know pretty well, I suppose,
what has been done for
the young people. His debts are to be paid, amounting, I believe, to
considerably more than a thousand pounds, another thousand in addition to her
own settled upon her, and his
commission purchased. The reason why
all this was to be done by him alone, was such as I have given above. It was
owing to him, to his reserve and want of proper consideration, that
Wickham's character had been so
misunderstood, and consequently that he had been received and noticed as he
was. Perhaps there was some truth in this; though I doubt whether
his reserve, or anybody's reserve, can be answerable for the
event. But in spite of all this fine talking, my dear
Lizzy, you may rest perfectly
assured that your uncle would never
have yielded, if we had not given him credit for another interest in
the affair. When all this was resolved on, he returned again to his friends,
who were still staying at Pemberley; but
it was agreed that he should be in London
once more when the wedding took place, and all
money matters were then to receive the
last finish. I believe I have now told you every thing. It is a relation
which you tell me is to give you great surprise; I hope at least it will not
afford you any displeasure. Lydia
came to us; and Wickham had constant
admission to the house. He was exactly what he had been when I knew
him in Hertfordshire; but I would not
tell you how little I was satisfied with her behaviour while she
staid with us, if I had not perceived, by
Jane's letter last Wednesday, that her
conduct on coming home was exactly of a piece with it, and therefore what I
now tell you can give you no fresh pain. I talked to her repeatedly in the
most serious manner, representing to her all the wickedness of what she had
done, and all the unhappiness she had brought on her family. If she heard me,
it was by good luck, for I am sure she did not listen. I was sometimes quite
provoked, but then I recollected my dear
Jane, and for their sakes had patience
with her. Mr. Darcy was
punctual in his return, and as Lydia
informed you, attended the wedding. He dined with us the next day, and was to
leave town again on Wednesday or Thursday.
Will you be very angry with me, my dear
Lizzy, if I take this opportunity
of saying (what I was never bold enough to say before) how much I like him.
His behaviour to us has, in every respect, been as pleasing as when we were in
Derbyshire. His understanding and opinions
all please me; he wants nothing but a little more liveliness, and
that, if he marry prudently, his wife may teach him. I
thought him very sly; -- he hardly ever mentioned your name. But slyness
seems the fashion. Pray forgive me if I have been very presuming, or at least
do not punish me so far as to exclude me from
I shall never be quite happy till I have been all round the park. A low
phaeton, with a nice little pair of
ponies, would be the very thing. But I must write no more. The children have
been wanting me this half hour. Your's, very sincerely,
The contents of this letter threw
Elizabeth into a flutter of
spirits, in which it was difficult to determine whether pleasure or pain bore
the greatest share. The vague and unsettled suspicions which uncertainty had
produced of what Mr. Darcy
might have been doing to forward her
sister's match, which she had feared to encourage as an exertion of
goodness too great to be probable, and at the same time dreaded to be just,
from the pain of obligation, were proved beyond their greatest extent to be
true! He had followed them purposely to
town, he had taken on himself all the trouble
and mortification attendant on such a research; in which supplication had been
necessary to a woman whom he must
abominate and despise, and where he was reduced to meet, frequently meet,
reason with, persuade, and finally bribe,
the man whom he always most wished
to avoid, and whose very name it was punishment to him to pronounce. He had
done all this for a girl whom he could
neither regard nor esteem. Her heart did whisper that he had done it for her.
But it was a hope shortly checked by other considerations, and she soon felt
that even her vanity was insufficient, when required to depend on his
affection for her -- for a woman who had already refused him -- as able to
overcome a sentiment so natural as abhorrence against relationship with
Wickham. Brother-in-law of
Wickham! Every kind of
pride must revolt from the
connection. He had, to be sure, done much. She was ashamed to think how
much. But he had given a reason for his interference, which asked no
extraordinary stretch of belief. It was reasonable that he should feel he had
been wrong; he had liberality, and he had
the means of exercising it; and
though she would not place herself as his principal inducement, she could,
perhaps, believe that remaining partiality for her might assist his endeavours
in a cause where her peace of mind must be materially concerned. It was
painful, exceedingly painful, to know that they were under obligations to a
person who could never receive a return. They owed the restoration of
Lydia, her character, every thing, to
him. Oh! how heartily did she grieve over every ungracious sensation she had
ever encouraged, every saucy speech she had ever directed towards him. For
herself she was humbled; but she was
proud of him. Proud that in a
cause of compassion and honour, he had been able to get the better of himself.
She read over her aunt's commendation of him again and again. It was hardly
enough; but it pleased her. She was even sensible of some pleasure, though
mixed with regret, on finding how steadfastly both she and
her uncle had been persuaded that
affection and confidence subsisted between
Mr. Darcy and herself.
She was roused from her seat, and her reflections, by some one's approach;
and before she could strike into another path, she was overtaken by
"I am afraid I interrupt your solitary ramble, my dear
sister?" said he, as he joined her.
"You certainly do," she replied with a smile; "but it does not follow that
the interruption must be unwelcome."
"I should be sorry indeed, if it were. We were always good
friends; and now we are better."
"True. Are the others coming out?"
"I do not know. Mrs. Bennet and
Lydia are going in the carriage to
Meryton. And so, my dear
sister, I find, from
aunt, that you have actually seen
She replied in the affirmative.
"I almost envy you the pleasure, and yet I believe it would be too much for
me, or else I could take it in my way to
Newcastle. And you saw the
old housekeeper, I suppose? Poor
Reynolds, she was always very fond of
me. But of course she did not mention my name to you."
"Yes, she did."
"And what did she say?"
"That you were gone into the army, and she was afraid had -- not turned out
well. At such a distance as that, you know, things are strangely
"Certainly," he replied, biting his lips.
Elizabeth hoped she had silenced
him; but he soon afterwards said,
"I was surprised to see Darcy
in town last month. We passed each other
several times. I wonder what he can be doing there."
"Perhaps preparing for his marriage with
Miss de Bourgh," said
Elizabeth. "It must be something
particular, to take him there at this time of year."
"Undoubtedly. Did you see him while you were at
Lambton? I thought I understood from
the Gardiners that you had."
"Yes; he introduced us to his
"And do you like her?"
"I have heard, indeed, that she is uncommonly improved within this year or
two. When I last saw her, she was not very promising. I am very glad you
liked her. I hope she will turn out well."
"I dare say she will; she has got over the most trying age."
"Did you go by the village of
"I do not recollect that we did."
"I mention it, because it is the living which I ought to have had. A most
delightful place! -- Excellent Parsonage House! It would have suited me in
"How should you have liked making sermons?"
"Exceedingly well. I should have considered it as part of my duty, and the
exertion would soon have been nothing. One ought not to repine; -- but, to be
sure, it would have been such a thing for me! The quiet, the retirement of
such a life would have answered all my ideas of happiness! But it was not to
be. Did you ever hear Darcy
mention the circumstance, when you were in
"I have heard from authority, which I thought as good,
that it was left you conditionally only, and at the will of the present
"You have. Yes, there was something in that; I told you so from
the first, you may remember."
"I did hear, too, that there was a time, when sermon-making was
not so palatable to you as it seems to be at present; that you actually
declared your resolution of never taking orders, and that the business had
been compromised accordingly."
"You did! and it was not wholly without foundation. You may remember what
I told you on that point, when first we talked of it."
They were now almost at the door of the house, for she had walked fast to
get rid of him; and unwilling, for her
sister's sake, to provoke him, she only said in reply, with a
"Come, Mr. Wickham, we are
sister, you know. Do not let us quarrel about
the past. In future, I hope we shall be always of one mind."
She held out her hand; he kissed it with affectionate gallantry, though he
hardly knew how to look, and they entered the house.
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