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Elizabeth had been a good deal
disappointed in not finding a letter from Jane on their first arrival
Lambton; and this disappointment had been renewed on each of the
had now been spent there; but on the third her repining was over, and
sister justified, by the receipt of two letters from her at once, on
which was marked that it had been mis-sent elsewhere. Elizabeth
was not surprised at it, as Jane
had written the direction remarkably ill.
They had just been
preparing to walk as
the letters came in; and her uncle and aunt, leaving her to enjoy them
quiet, set off by themselves. The
mis-sent must first be attended to; it had been written five days ago. The beginning contained an
account of all
their little parties and engagements, with such news as the country
but the latter half, which was dated a day later, and written in
gave more important intelligence.
to this effect:
"Since writing the
Lizzy, something has occurred of a most unexpected and serious nature;
but I am
afraid of alarming you-- be assured that we are all well. What I have to say relates
to poor Lydia. An express came at twelve
last night, just as
we were all gone to bed, from Colonel
Forster, to inform us that she was gone off to Scotland with one of his
officers; to own the truth, with Wickham!
Imagine our surprise. To Kitty, however, it does not
seem so wholly unexpected. I
am very, very sorry. So
imprudent a match on both sides! But I am
willing to hope the best, and that his character has been misunderstood. Thoughtless and indiscreet
I can easily
believe him, but this step (and let us rejoice over it) marks nothing
heart. His choice
is disinterested at
least, for he must know my father can give her nothing.
Our poor mother is sadly grieved.
My father bears it better.
How thankful am I that we never let them know
what has been said against him! we
forget it ourselves. They
Saturday night about twelve, as is conjectured, but were not missed
yesterday morning at eight. The
was sent off directly. My
they must have passed within ten miles of us.
Colonel Forster gives us reason to expect him here
few lines for his wife, informing her of their intention. I must conclude, for I
cannot be long from my
poor mother. I am
afraid you will not be
able to make it out, but I hardly know what I have written."
Without allowing herself
consideration, and scarcely knowing what she felt, Elizabeth
on finishing this letter instantly
seized the other, and opening it with the utmost impatience, read as
follows: it had
been written a day later
than the conclusion of the first.
"By this time, my
you have received my hurried letter; I wish this may be more
though not confined for time, my head is so bewildered that I cannot
being coherent. Dearest
Lizzy, I hardly
know what I would write, but I have bad news for you, and it cannot be
Imprudent as the marriage between Mr. Wickham and our poor Lydia would be, we are
now anxious to be assured
it has taken place, for there is but too much reason to fear they are
to Scotland. Colonel Forster came
yesterday, having left Brighton
the day before, not many hours after the
express. Though Lydia's short letter to Mrs. F. gave them to understand
they were going to Gretna Green, something was
dropped by Denny
belief that W. never intended to go there, or to marry Lydia at all,
repeated to Colonel F., who, instantly taking the alarm, set off from
intending to trace their route. He
trace them easily to Clapham, but no further; for on
removed into a hackney coach, and dismissed the chaise that brought
them from Epsom. All that is known after
this is, that they were seen to continue
road. I know not
what to think. After
making every possible inquiry on that
Colonel F. came on into Hertfordshire, anxiously renewing them at all
the turnpikes, and at the inns in Barnet and Hatfield, but without any
such people had been seen to pass through.
With the kindest concern he came on to Longbourn,
and broke his
apprehensions to us in a manner most creditable to his heart. I am sincerely grieved for
him and Mrs. F.,
but no one can throw any blame on them.
Our distress, my dear Lizzy, is very great. My father and mother
believe the worst, but I
cannot think so ill of him. Many circumstances might make it more
them to be married privately in town than to
pursue their first plan;
if he could form such a design against a young woman of Lydia's
which is not likely, can I suppose her so lost to everything? Impossible! I grieve to find, however,
that Colonel F. is not
disposed to depend
upon their marriage; he shook his head when I expressed my hopes, and
feared W. was not a man to be trusted.
poor mother is really ill, and keeps her room.
Could she exert herself, it would be better; but
this is not to be
expected. And as to
my father, I never
in my life saw him so affected. Poor
Kitty has anger for having concealed their attachment; but as it was a
of confidence, one cannot wonder.
truly glad, dearest Lizzy, that you have been spared something of these
distressing scenes; but now, as the first shock is over, shall I own
long for your return? I
am not so selfish,
however, as to press for it, if inconvenient.
Adieu. I take up my
pen again to do what I have
just told you I would not; but circumstances are such that I cannot
earnestly begging you all to come here as soon as possible. I know my dear uncle and
aunt so well, that I
am not afraid of requesting it, though I have still something more to
the former. My
father is going to London with
Forster instantly, to try to discover her.
What he means to do I am sure I know not; but his
will not allow him to pursue any measure in the best and safest way,
Colonel Forster is obliged to be at Brighton again to-morrow evening. In such an exigence, my
uncle's advice and
assistance would be everything in the world; he will immediately
what I must feel, and I rely upon his goodness."
"Oh! where, where is my
uncle?" cried Elizabeth, darting from her seat as she finished the
in eagerness to follow him, without losing a moment of the time so
as she reached the door it was opened by a servant, and Mr. Darcy
appeared. Her pale
face and impetuous
manner made him start, and before he could recover himself to speak,
whose mind every idea was superseded by Lydia's
situation, hastily exclaimed,
"I beg your pardon, but I must leave you.
I must find Mr. Gardiner this moment, on business
that cannot be
delayed; I have not an instant to lose."
"Good God! what is the
matter?" cried he, with more feeling than politeness; then recollecting
"I will not detain you a minute; but let me, or let the servant go
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. You
are not well
enough; you cannot go yourself."
hesitated, but her knees trembled under her and she felt how little
gained by her attempting to pursue them. Calling back the servant,
she commissioned him, though in so breathless an accent as made her
unintelligible, to fetch his master and mistress home instantly.
On his quitting the room
she sat down,
unable to support herself, and looking so miserably ill, that it was
for Darcy to leave her, or to refrain from saying, in a tone of
commiseration, "Let me call your maid.
Is there nothing you could take to give you present
relief? A glass of
wine; shall I get you one? You
are very ill."
"No, I thank you," she
replied, endeavouring to recover herself.
"There is nothing the matter with me. I am quite well; I am only
distressed by some
dreadful news which I have just received from Longbourn."
She burst into tears as
she alluded to
it, and for a few minutes could not speak another word.
Darcy, in wretched suspense, could only say
something indistinctly of his concern, and observe her in compassionate
silence. At length
she spoke again. "I
have just had a letter from Jane,
with such dreadful news. It cannot be concealed from any one. My younger sister has left
all her friends--
has eloped; has thrown herself into the power of-- of Mr. Wickham. They are gone off together
from Brighton. You know
him too well to doubt the rest. She
no money, no connections, nothing that can tempt him to-- she is lost
Darcy was fixed in
I consider," she added in a
yet more agitated voice, "that I might have prevented it! I, who knew
he was. Had I but
explained some part of
it only-- some part of what I learnt, to my own family!
Had his character been known, this could not
have happened. But
it is all-- all too
"I am grieved indeed,"
"grieved-- shocked. But
certain-- absolutely certain?"
"Oh, yes! They left Brighton
together on Sunday night,
and were traced almost to London,
beyond; they are certainly not gone to Scotland."
"And what has been done,
been attempted, to recover her?"
"My father is gone to London,
and Jane has
written to beg my uncle's immediate assistance; and we shall be off, I
nothing can be done--
I know very well that nothing can be done.
How is such a man to be worked on? How are they even
discovered? I have
not the smallest
hope. It is every
Darcy shook his head in
"When my eyes were
opened to his
real character-- Oh! had I known what I ought, what I dared to do! But I knew not-- I was
afraid of doing too
Darcy made no answer. He
to hear her, and was walking up and down the room in earnest
brow contracted, his air gloomy. Elizabeth
and instantly understood it. Her
was sinking; everything must sink under such a proof of family
an assurance of the deepest disgrace.
She could neither wonder nor condemn, but the belief
self-conquest brought nothing to her consolatory to her bosom, afforded
palliation of her distress. It
the contrary, exactly calculated to make her understand her own wishes;
never had she so honestly felt that she could have loved him, as now,
love must be vain.
But self, though it
would intrude, could
not engross her. Lydia--
humiliation, the misery she was bringing on them all, soon swallowed up
private care; and covering her face with her handkerchief, Elizabeth
lost to everything else; and, after a pause of several minutes, was
recalled to a sense of her situation by the voice of her companion,
who, in a
manner which, though it spoke compassion, spoke likewise restraint,
"I am afraid you have been long
desiring my absence, nor have I anything to plead in excuse of my stay,
real, though unavailing concern. Would
to Heaven that anything could be either said or done on my part that
offer consolation to such distress!
I will not torment you with vain wishes, which may seem purposely to
your thanks. This
will, I fear, prevent my sister's having the pleasure of seeing you at
"Oh, yes. Be so kind as to apologise
for us to Miss
Darcy. Say that
urgent business calls us
home immediately. Conceal
truth as long as it is possible, I know it cannot be long."
He readily assured her
of his secrecy;
again expressed his sorrow for her distress, wished it a happier
than there was at present reason to hope, and leaving his compliments
relations, with only one serious, parting look went away.
As he quitted the room,
how improbable it was that they should ever see each other again on
of cordiality as had marked their several meetings in Derbyshire; and
threw a retrospective glance over the whole of their acquaintance, so
contradictions and varieties, sighed at the perverseness of those
which would now have promoted its continuance, and would formerly have
in its termination.
If gratitude and esteem
foundations of affection, Elizabeth's
change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty. But if otherwise-- if
regard springing from
such sources is unreasonable or unnatural, in comparison of what is so
described as arising on a first interview with its object, and even
words have been exchanged, nothing can be said in her defence, except
had given somewhat of a trial to the latter method in her partiality
Wickham, and that its ill success might, perhaps, authorise her to seek
other less interesting mode of attachment.
Be that as it may, she saw him go with regret; and
in this early example
of what Lydia's
infamy must produce, found additional anguish as she reflected on that
since reading Jane's
second letter, had she entertained a hope of Wickham's meaning to marry
one but Jane, she thought, could flatter herself with such an
was the least of her feelings on
this development. While
the contents of
the first letter remained in her mind, she was all surprise-- all
that Wickham should marry a girl whom it was impossible he could marry
money; and how Lydia could ever have attached him had appeared
no it was all too
natural. For such an attachment as this she might have sufficient
though she did not suppose Lydia
to be deliberately engaging in an elopement without the intention of
she had no difficulty in believing that neither her virtue nor her
understanding would preserve her from falling an easy prey.
She had never perceived,
regiment was in Hertfordshire, that Lydia
had any partiality for him; but she was convinced that Lydia
only encouragement to attach herself to anybody.
Sometimes one officer, sometimes another, had
been her favourite, as their attentions raised them in her opinion. Her affections had
fluctuating but never without an object.
The mischief of neglect and mistaken indulgence
towards such a girl--
oh! how acutely did she now feel it!
She was wild to be at
home-- to hear, to
see, to be upon the spot to share with Jane in the cares that must now
wholly upon her, in a family so deranged, a father absent, a mother
of exertion, and requiring constant attendance; and though almost
that nothing could be done for Lydia, her uncle's interference seemed
utmost importance, and till he entered the room her impatience was
severe. Mr. and
Mrs. Gardiner had hurried back in
alarm, supposing by the servant's account that their niece was taken
ill; but satisfying them instantly on that head, she eagerly
cause of their summons, reading the two letters aloud, and dwelling on
postscript of the last with trembling energy, though Lydia had never
favourite with them, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner could not but be deeply
afflicted. Not Lydia
all were concerned in it; and after the first exclamations of surprise
horror, Mr. Gardiner promised every assistance in his power. Elizabeth,
though expecting no less, thanked him with tears of gratitude; and all
being actuated by one spirit, everything relating to their journey was
settled. They were
to be off as soon as
possible. "But what
is to be done
about Pemberley?" cried Mrs. Gardiner. "John told us Mr. Darcy was
here when you sent for us; was it so?"
"Yes; and I told him we
be able to keep our engagement. That
"What is all settled?"
repeated the other, as she ran into her room to prepare. "And are they upon such
terms as for her
to disclose the real truth? Oh,
that I knew
how it was!"
But wishes were vain, or
at least could
only serve to amuse her in the hurry and confusion of the following
hour. Had Elizabeth
been at leisure to be idle, she
would have remained certain that all employment was impossible to one
wretched as herself; but she had her share of business as well as her
amongst the rest there were notes to be written to all their friends at
Lambton, with false excuses for their sudden departure.
An hour, however, saw the whole completed;
and Mr. Gardiner meanwhile having settled his account at the inn,
remained to be done but to go; and Elizabeth, after all the misery of
morning, found herself, in a shorter space of time than she could have
supposed, seated in the carriage, and on the road to Longbourn.
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