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Mr. Bennet had very often wished before this period of his life that, instead of spending his whole income, he had laid by an annual sum for the better provision of his children, and of his wife, if she survived him. He now wished it more than ever. Had he done his duty in that respect, Lydia need not have been indebted to her uncle for whatever of honour or credit could now be purchased for her. The satisfaction of prevailing on one of the most worthless young men in Great Britain to be her husband might then have rested in its proper place.

He was seriously concerned that a cause of so little advantage to anyone should be forwarded at the sole expense of his brother-in-law, and he was determined, if possible, to find out the extent of his assistance, and to discharge 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 off the entail, as soon as he should be of age, and the widow and younger children would by that means be provided for. Five daughters successively entered the world, but yet the son was to come; and Mrs. Bennet, for many years after Lydia's birth, had been certain that he would. This event had at last been despaired of, but it was then too late to be saving. Mrs. Bennet had no turn for economy, and her husband's love of independence had alone prevented their exceeding their income.

Five thousand pounds was settled by marriage articles on Mrs. Bennet and the children. But in what proportions it should be divided amongst the latter depended 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 hesitation in acceding to the proposal before him. In terms of grateful acknowledgment for the kindness of his brother, though expressed most concisely, he then delivered on paper his perfect approbation of all that was done, and his willingness to fulfil the engagements that had been made for him. He had never before supposed that, could Wickham be prevailed on to marry his daughter, it would be done with so little inconvenience to himself as by the present arrangement. He would scarcely be ten pounds a year the loser by the hundred that was to be paid them; for, what with her board and pocket allowance, and the continual presents in money which passed to her through her mother's hands, Lydia's expenses had been very little within that sum.

That it would be done with such trifling exertion on his side, too, was another very welcome surprise; for his wish at present was to have as little trouble in the business as possible. When the first transports of rage which had produced his activity in seeking her were over, he naturally returned to all his former indolence. His letter was soon dispatched; for, though dilatory in undertaking business, he was quick in its execution. He begged to know further particulars of what he was indebted to his brother, but was too angry with Lydia to send any message to her.

The good news spread quickly through the house, and with proportionate speed through 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 Miss Lydia Bennet come upon the town; or, as the happiest alternative, been secluded from the world, in some distant farmhouse. But there was much to be talked of in marrying her; and the good-natured wishes for her well-doing which had proceeded before from all the spiteful old ladies in Meryton lost but a little of their spirit in this change of circumstances, because with such an husband her misery was considered certain.

It was a fortnight since Mrs. Bennet had been downstairs; but on this happy day she again took her seat at the head of her table, and in spirits oppressively high. No sentiment of shame gave a damp to her triumph. The marriage of a daughter, which had been the first object of her wishes since Jane was sixteen, was now on the point of accomplishment, and her thoughts and her words ran wholly on those attendants of elegant nuptials, fine muslins, new carriages, and servants. She was busily searching through the neighbourhood for a proper situation for her daughter, and, without knowing or considering what their income might be, rejected many as deficient in size and importance.

"Haye Park might do," said she, "if the Gouldings could quit it—or the great house 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, the attics are dreadful."

Her husband allowed her to talk on without interruption while the servants remained. But when they had withdrawn, he said to her: "Mrs. Bennet, before you take any or all of these houses for your son and daughter, let us come to a right understanding. Into one house in this neighbourhood they shall never have admittance. I will not encourage the impudence of either, by receiving them at Longbourn."

A long dispute followed this declaration; but Mr. Bennet was firm. It soon led to another; and Mrs. Bennet found, with amazement and horror, that her husband would not advance a guinea to buy clothes for his daughter. He protested that she should receive from him no mark of affection whatever on the occasion. Mrs. Bennet could hardly comprehend it. That his anger could be carried to such a point of inconceivable resentment as to refuse his daughter a privilege without which her marriage would scarcely seem valid, exceeded all she could believe possible. She was more alive to the disgrace which her want of new clothes must reflect on her daughter's nuptials, than to any sense of shame at her eloping and living with Wickham a fortnight before they took place.

Elizabeth was now most heartily sorry that she had, from the distress of the moment, 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 the elopement, they might hope to conceal its unfavourable beginning from all those who were not immediately on the spot.

She had no fear of its spreading farther through his means. There were few people on whose secrecy she would have more confidently depended; but, at the same time, there was no one whose knowledge of a sister's frailty would have mortified her so much—not, however, from any fear of disadvantage from it individually to herself, for, at any rate, there seemed a gulf impassable between them. Had Lydia's marriage been concluded on the most honourable terms, it was not to be supposed that Mr. Darcy would connect himself with a family where, to every other objection, would now be added an alliance and relationship 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 of procuring her regard, which she had assured herself of his feeling in Derbyshire, could not in rational expectation survive such a blow as this. She was 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 be benefited by it. She wanted to hear of him, when there seemed the least chance of gaining intelligence. She was convinced that she could have been happy with him, when it was no longer likely they should meet.

What a triumph for him, as she often thought, could he know that the proposals which she had proudly spurned only four months ago, would now have been most gladly and gratefully received! He was as generous, she doubted not, as the most 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 disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved; and from his judgement, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance.

But no such happy marriage could now teach the admiring multitude what connubial felicity really was. An union of a different tendency, and precluding the possibility of the other, was soon to be formed in their family.

How Wickham and Lydia were to be supported in tolerable independence, she could not imagine. But how little of permanent happiness could belong to a couple who were only brought together because their passions were stronger than their virtue, she could easily conjecture.


Mr. Gardiner soon wrote again to his brother. To Mr. Bennet's acknowledgments he briefly replied, with assurance of his eagerness to promote the welfare of any of his family; and concluded with entreaties that the subject might never be mentioned to him again. The principal purport of his letter was to inform them that Mr. Wickham had resolved on quitting the militia.

"It was greatly my wish that he should do so," he added, "as soon as his marriage was fixed on. And I think you will agree with me, in considering the removal from that corps as highly advisable, both on his account and my niece's. It is Mr. Wickham's intention to go into the regulars; and among his former friends, there are still some who are able and willing to assist him in the army. He has the promise of an ensigncy in General ——'s regiment, now quartered in the North. It is an advantage to have it so far from this part of the kingdom. He promises fairly; and I hope among different people, where they may each have a character to preserve, they will both be more prudent. I have written to Colonel Forster, to inform him of our present arrangements, and to request that he will satisfy the various creditors of Mr. Wickham in and near Brighton, with assurances of speedy payment, for which I have pledged myself. And will you give yourself the trouble of carrying similar assurances to his creditors in Meryton, of whom I shall subjoin a list according to his information? He has given in all his debts; I hope at least he has not deceived us. Haggerston has our directions, and all will be completed in a week. They will then join his regiment, unless they are first invited to Longbourn; and I understand from Mrs. Gardiner, that my niece is very desirous of seeing you all before she leaves the South. She is well, and begs to be dutifully remembered to you and her mother.—Yours, etc.,

"E. GARDINER."

Mr. Bennet and his daughters saw all the advantages of Wickham's removal from the ——shire as clearly as Mr. Gardiner could do. But Mrs. Bennet was not so well pleased with it. Lydia's being settled in the North, just when she had expected most pleasure and pride in her company, for she had by no means given up 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 regiment where 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 send her away! And there are several of the young men, too, that she likes very much. The officers may not be so pleasant in General ——'s regiment."

His daughter's request, for such it might be considered, of being admitted into her family again before she set off for the North, received at first an absolute negative. But Jane and Elizabeth, who agreed in wishing, for the sake of their sister's feelings and consequence, that she should be noticed on her marriage by her parents, urged him so earnestly yet so rationally and so mildly, to receive her and her husband at Longbourn, as soon as they were married, that he was prevailed on to think as they thought, and act as they wished. And their mother had the satisfaction of knowing that she would be able to show her married daughter in the neighbourhood before she was banished to the North. When Mr. Bennet wrote again to his brother, therefore, he sent his permission for them to come; and it was settled, that as soon as the ceremony was over, they should proceed to Longbourn. Elizabeth was surprised, however, that Wickham should consent to such a scheme, and had she consulted only her own inclination, any meeting with him would have been the last object of her wishes.

班纳特先生远在好久以前,就希望每年的进款不要全部花光,能够积蓄一部分,让儿女往后不至于衣食匮乏;如果太太比他命长,衣食便也有了着落。拿目前来说,他这个希望比以往来得更迫切。要是他在这方面早就安排好了,那么这次丽迪雅挽回面子名誉的事,自然就不必要她舅舅为她花钱;也不必让舅舅去说服全英国最下流的一个青年给她确定夫妇的名份。

这事情对任何人都没有好处,如今却得由他舅爷独自拿出钱来成其好事,这实在叫他太过意不去;他决定要竭力打听出舅爷究竟帮了多大的忙,以便尽快报答这笔人情。

班纳特先生刚结婚的时候,完全不必省吃俭用,因为他们夫妇自然会生儿子,等到儿子成了年,外人继承产权的这桩事就可以取消,寡妇孤女也就衣食无虑了。可是五个女儿接接连连地出世,儿子还不知道在哪里;丽迪雅出世多少年以后,班纳特太太还一直以为会生儿子。这个指望落了空,如今省吃俭用已经太迟了。班纳特太太不惯于节省,好在丈夫自有主张,才算没有入不敷出。

当年老夫妇的婚约上规定了班纳特太太和子女们一共应享有五千磅遗产。至于子女们究竟怎样分享,得由父母在遗嘱上解决,班纳特先生毫不犹豫地同意了摆在他面前的那个建议。他回信给舅爷,多谢他一片好心。他的措辞极其简洁,只说他对一切既成事实都表示赞同,而且舅爷所提出的各项条件,他都愿意照办。原来这次说服韦翰跟他女儿结婚一事,竟安排得这样好,简直没有带给他什么麻烦,这实在是他所意料不到的。虽说他每年要付给他们俩一百镑,可是事实上他每年还损失不了十镑,因为丽迪雅在家里也要吃用开销,外加她母亲还要贴钱给她花,计算起来每年几乎也不下于一百镑。

还有一件可喜的意外,那就是办起这件事来,他自己简直可以不费什么力气,他目前最希望麻烦越少越好。他开头也曾因为一时冲动,亲自去找女儿,如今他已经气平怒消,自然又变得象往常一样懒散。他把那封回信立刻寄出去;虽然做事喜欢拖延,可是只要他肯动手,倒也完成得很快。他在信上请他舅爷把一切代劳之处详详细细告诉他,可是说起丽迪雅,实在使他太气恼,因此连问候也没有问候她一声。

好消息立刻在全家传开了,而且很快便传到邻舍们耳朵里去。四邻八舍对这件事都抱着相当超然的态度。当然,如果丽迪雅-班纳特小姐亲自上这儿来了,或者说,如果她恰恰相反,远隔尘嚣,住到一个偏僻的农村里去,那就可以给人家增加许多谈话的资料。不过她的出嫁问题毕竟还是使人家议论纷纷。麦里屯那些恶毒的老太婆,原先总是一番好心肠,祝她嫁个如意夫君,如今虽然眼看着情境变了,也是在起劲地谈个不休,因为大家看到她嫁了这么一个丈夫,都认为必定会遭到悲惨的下场。

班纳特太太已经有两个星期没有下楼,遇到今天这么快乐的日子,她欢欣若狂,又坐上了首席。她并没有觉得羞耻,自然也不会扫兴。远从吉英十六岁那年起,她的第一个心愿就是嫁女儿,现在她快要如愿以偿了。她的思想言论都完全离不了婚嫁的漂亮排场;上好的细说纱,新的马车,以及男女佣仆之类的事情。她并且在附近一带到处奔波,要给女儿找一所适当的住宅;她根本不知道他们有多少收入,也从来没有考虑到这一点。她看了多少处房子都看不中,不是为了开间太小,就是嫌不够气派。

她说:“要是戈丁家能迁走,海夜花园倒还合适;斯托克那幢大房子,要是会客室大一些,也还可以,可是阿西渥斯离这儿太远!我不忍心让她同我隔开十英里路;讲到柏卫别业,那所假三层实在太糟了。”

每当有佣人在跟前的时候,她丈夫总是让她讲下去,不去岔断她的话。可是佣人一出去,他可老实不客气地跟她说了:“我的好太太,你要为你的女儿和女婿租房子,不管你要租一幢也好,或是把所有的房子都租下来也好,都得让我们事先把问题谈谈清楚。邻近的房子,一幢也不许他们来住。他们不要梦想,认为我会在浪搏恩招待他们!”

这话一出口,两人便争吵不休;可是班纳特先生说一不二,于是又吵了起来;后来班纳特太太又发觉丈夫不肯拿出一文钱来给女儿添置一些衣服,不禁大为惊骇。班纳特先生坚决声明,丽迪雅这一次休想得到他半点疼爱,这实在叫他太太弄不懂。他竟会气愤到这样深恶痛绝的地步,连女儿出嫁都不肯优待她一番,简直要把婚礼弄得不成体统,这确实太出乎她的意料。她只知道女儿出嫁而没有嫁妆是件丢脸的事情,至于她的私奔,她没有结婚以前就跟韦翰同居了两个星期,她倒丝毫不放在心上。

伊丽莎白目前非常后悔,当初实在不应该因为一时痛苦,竟让达西先生知道了她自己家里为她妹妹担忧的经过,因为妹妹既然马上就可以名正言顺地结婚,了却那一段私奔的风流孽债,那么,开头那一段不体面的事情,她们当然希望最好不要让局外人知道。

她并不是担心达西会把这事情向外界传开。讲到保守秘密,简直就没有第二个人比他更能使她信任;不过,这一次如果是别的人知道了她妹妹的丑行,她决不会象现在这样难受。这倒不是生怕对她本身有任何不利,因为她和达西之间反正隔着一条跨不过的鸿沟。即使丽迪雅能够体体面面地结了婚,达西先生也决不会跟这样一家人家攀亲,因为这家人家本来已经缺陷够多,如今又添上了一个一向为他所不齿的人做他的至亲,那当然一切都不必谈了。

她当然不怪他对这门亲事望而却步。她在德比郡的时候就看出他想要博得她的欢心,可是他遭受了这一次打击以后,当然不会不改变初衷。她觉得丢脸,她觉得伤心;她后悔了,可是她又几乎不知道在后悔些什么。如今她已经不想攀附他的身份地位,却又忌恨他的身份地位;如今她已经没有机会再听到他的消息,她可又偏偏希望能够听到他的消息;如今他们俩已经再不可能见面,她可又认为,如果他们俩能够朝夕聚首,那会多么幸福。她常常想,才不过四个月以前,她那么高傲地拒绝了他的求婚,如今可又心悦诚服地盼望他再来求婚,这要是让他知道了,他会感到怎样的得意!她完全相信他是个极其宽宏大量的男人。不过,他既然是人,当然免不了要得意。

她开始理解到,他无论在个性方面和才能方面,都百分之百是一个最适合她的男人。纵使他的见解,他的脾气,和她自己不是一模一样,可是一定能够叫她称心如意。这个结合对双方都有好处:女方从容活泼,可以把男方陶治得心境柔和,作风优雅;男方精明通达,阅历颇深,也一定会使女方得到莫大的裨益。

可惜这件幸福的婚姻已经不可能实现,天下千千万万想要缔结真正幸福婚姻的情人,从此也错过了一个借鉴的榜样。她家里立刻就要缔结一门另一种意味的亲事,也就是那门亲事破坏了这门亲事。

她无从想象韦翰和丽迪雅究竟怎么样独立维持生活。可是她倒很容易想象到另一方面:这种只顾情欲不顾道德的结合,实在很难得到久远的幸福。

嘉丁纳先生马上又写了封信给他姐夫。他先对班纳特先生信上那些感激的话简捷地应酬了几句,再说到他极其盼望班纳特府上的男女老幼都能过得舒舒服服,末了还要求班纳特先生再也不要提起这件事。他写这封信的主要目的是,要把韦翰先生已经决定脱离民兵团的消息告诉他们。

他这封信接下去是这样写的:

我非常希望他婚事一定夺之后就这样办。我认为无论为他自己着想,为外甥女儿着想离开民兵团确是一个非常高明的措施,我想你一定会同意我的看法。韦翰先生想参加正规军,他从前的几个朋友都愿意协助他,也能够协助他。驻扎在北方的某将军麾下的一个团,已经答应让他当旗手。他离开这一带远些,只会有利于他自己。他前途颇有希望,但愿他们到了人地生疏的地方能够争点面子,行为稍加检点一些。我已经写了信给弗斯脱上校,把我们目前的安排告诉了他,又请他在白利屯一带通知一下韦翰先生所有债主,就说我一定信守诺言,马上就偿还他们的债务。是否也可以麻烦你就近向麦里屯的债主们通知一声?随信附上债主名单一份,这都是他自己说出来的。他把全部债务都讲了出来;我希望他至少没有欺骗我们。我们已经委托哈斯东在一周以内将所有的事统统办好。那时候你如果不愿意请他们上浪搏恩来,他们就可以直接到军队里去,听见内人说,外甥女儿很希望在离开南方之前跟你们见见面。她近况很好,还请我代她向你和她母亲请安。

爱-嘉丁纳

班纳特先生和他的女儿们都和嘉丁纳先生同样地看得明明白白,认为韦翰离开某某郡有许多好处。只有班纳特太太不甚乐意。她正在盼望着要跟丽迪雅痛痛快快、得意非凡地过一阵,不料她却要住到北方去,这真叫她太失望。到现在为止,她还是决计要让女儿和女婿住到哈德福郡来。再说丽迪雅刚刚在这个民兵团里和大家处熟了,又有那么多人喜欢她,如今远去他方,未免太可惜。

她说:“她那么喜欢弗斯脱太太,把她送走可太糟了!而且还有好几个年轻小伙子,她也很喜欢。某某将军那个团里的军官们未必能够这样讨她喜欢呢。”

她女儿要求(其实应该算作她自己的要求)在去北方之前,再回家来看一次,不料开头就遭到她父亲的断然拒绝。幸亏吉英和伊丽莎白顾全到妹妹的心绪和身份,一致希望她的婚姻会受到父母的重视,再三要求父亲,让妹妹和妹婿一结婚之后,就到浪搏恩来。她们要求得那么恳切,那么合理,又那么婉转,终于把父亲说动了心,同意了她们的想法,愿意照着她们的意思去办。母亲这一下可真得意:她可以趁着这个嫁出去的女儿没有充军到北方去之前,把她当作宝贝似的显给街坊四邻看看。于是班纳特写回信给他舅爷的时候,便提到让他们回来一次,讲定让他们行过婚礼就立刻到浪搏恩来。不过伊丽莎白倒冷不防地想到韦翰会不会同意这样的做法;如果单是为她自己着想,那么,跟韦翰见面实在是万不得已的事。