Pride and Prejudice > Chapter 52
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Pride and Prejudice
- by Jane Austen
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 denial.
"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 inquiries 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;
Wickham repeatedly, 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
governess to 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
"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 inquiry, 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 Elizabeth and 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 P. 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
"Yours, 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 Wickham.
"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
our uncle and aunt, that you have actually seen Pemberley."
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 misrepresented."
"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
"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 sister."
"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
"I dare say she will; she has got over the most trying age."
"Did you go by the village of Kympton?"
"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 every respect."
"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
"I have heard from authority, which I thought as good,
that it was left you conditionally only, and at the will of the
"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
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 good-humoured smile:
"Come, Mr. Wickham, we are brother and 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.