Chapter Forty-seven, Part Two
Originally published 4/29/2007.
Continued from last post.
Elizabeth jumped out; and, after giving each of them a hasty kiss, hurried into the vestibule, where Jane, who came running down from her mother's apartment, immediately met her.
Elizabeth, as she affectionately embraced her, whilst tears filled the eyes of both, lost not a moment in asking whether anything had been heard of the fugitives.
This is good: Lizzy shows that she knows what's going on, that she's gotten Jane's letters, and that all the news Jane is eager to provide, Lizzy is read for on account of being up-to-date. This enables Lizzy to be the most use as early as possible, not least by helping Jane unburden herself.
"Not yet," replied Jane. "But now that my dear uncle is come, I hope everything will be well."
"Is my father in town?"
"Yes, he went on Tuesday, as I wrote you word."
"And have you heard from him often?"
"We have heard only twice. He wrote me a few lines on Wednesday to say that he had arrived in safety, and to give me his directions, which I particularly begged him to do. He merely added that he should not write again till he had something of importance to mention."
Jane, speaking of the typical Mr. Bennet style of writing, or non-writing as the case may be.
"And my mother-- how is she? How are you all?"
"My mother is tolerably well, I trust; though her spirits are greatly shaken. She is upstairs and will have great satisfaction in seeing you all. She does not yet leave her dressing-room. Mary and Kitty are, thank Heaven, are quite well."
"But you-- how are you?" cried Elizabeth. "You look pale. How much you must have gone through!"
Her sister, however, assured her of her being perfectly well; and their conversation, which had been passing while Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were engaged with their children, was now put an end to by the approach of the whole party. Jane ran to her uncle and aunt, and welcomed and thanked them both, with alternate smiles and tears.
When they were all in the drawing-room, the questions which Elizabeth had already asked were of course repeated by the others,...
Isn't that always the way? Many people, especially in families, tend to think alike. It's only natural, and certainly not necessarily wrong. It is, however, sometimes taxing on the poor person who has to keep answering the same questions, in this case Jane.
...and they soon found that Jane had no intelligence to give. The sanguine hope of good, however, which the benevolence of her heart suggested had not yet deserted her; she still expected that it would all end well, and that every morning would bring some letter, either from Lydia or her father, to explain their proceedings, and, perhaps, announce their marriage.
Mrs. Bennet, to whose apartment they all repaired, after a few minutes' conversation together, received them exactly as might be expected;...
And exactly as we have come to expect.
...with tears and lamentations of regret, invectives against the villainous conduct of Wickham, and complaints of her own sufferings and ill-usage; blaming everybody but the person to whose ill-judging indulgence the errors of her daughter must principally be owing.
Meaning herself. Mr. Bennet does much better in this regard, in the next chapter. He allows that he neglected Lydia, sort of. At least he lays much of the blame to himself in a very interesting passage about guilt versus guilt feelings (a very Sproul-ian concept). More on that when the passage comes up for review.
"If I had been able," said she, "to carry my point in going to Brighton, with all my family, this would not have happened;...
It is true that Mrs. Bennet wanted to take the entire family to Brighton. This comes from Chapter 39. Moreover, it is probably true that if they had all gone, this whole thing wouldn't have happened. It would not have been because of Mrs. Bennet. It might have been because of Jane and Lizzy, and possibly Mr. Bennet.
...but poor dear Lydia had nobody to take care of her. Why did the Forsters ever let her go out of their sight? I am sure there was some great neglect or other on their side, for she is not the kind of girl to do such a thing if she had been well looked after...
But that's just the point: she was not well looked after. However, as a wise person I knew said once, "Parents sometimes take too much credit, and sometimes too little." Mrs. Bennet here, isn't technically taking too much of the credit: she's imagining how things might have been different, and then taking too much credit for what happens in her fantasy world. Mr. Bennet understands the quote I offered. He is partly to blame, but not wholly. The best of parents, relying solely on God's strength, and presenting the full-orbed, faith-oriented, works-excluded (initially but not finally) gospel, can still fail to inculcate righteous living in their children. Only God can change the heart.
...I always thought they were very unfit to have the charge of her;...
This is manifestly untrue. Mrs. Bennet was overjoyed that Lydia could go. Even Mr. Bennet thought Colonel Forster was "a sensible man."
...but I was overruled, as I always am....
With good reason.
...Poor dear child! And now here's Mr. Bennet gone away, and I know he will fight Wickham, wherever he meets him and then he will be killed, and what is to become of us all? The Collinses will turn us out before he is cold in his grave, and if you are not kind to us, brother, I do not know what we shall do."
A woman's imagination is very rapid. It jumps from fighting to death to homelessness in a moment.
They all exclaimed against such terrific ideas;...
Meaning, I think, full of terror.
...and Mr. Gardiner, after general assurances of his affection for her and all her family, told her that he meant to be in London the very next day, and would assist Mr. Bennet in every endeavour for recovering Lydia.
"Do not give way to useless alarm," added he; "though it is right to be prepared for the worst, there is no occasion to look on it a certain. It is not quite a week since they left Brighton. In a few days more we may gain some news of them; and till we know that they are not married, and have no design of marrying, do not let us give the matter over as lost. As soon as I get to town I shall go to my brother, and make him come home with me to Gracechurch Street; and then we may consult together as to what is to be done."
"Oh! my dear brother," replied Mrs. Bennet, "that is exactly what I could most wish for. And now do, when you get to town, find them out, wherever they may be; and if they are not married already, make them marry. And as for wedding clothes, do not let them wait for that, but tell Lydia she shall have as much money as she chooses to buy them, after they are married. And, above all, keep Mr. Bennet from fighting. Tell him what a dreadful state I am in, that I am frighted out of my wits-- and have such tremblings, such flutterings, all over me-- such spasms in my side and pains in my head, and such beatings at heart, that I can get no rest by night nor by day. And tell my dear Lydia not to give any directions about her clothes till she has seen me, for she does not know which are the best warehouses. Oh, brother, how kind you are! I know you will contrive it all."
This is general nonsense, as usual. She also flip-flops, and is easily led by Mr. Gardiner into thinking everything will be all right.
But Mr. Gardiner, though he assured her again of his earnest endeavours in the cause, could not avoid recommending moderation to her,...
Good advice, though probably falling on deaf ears.
...as well in her hopes as her fear; and after talking with her in this manner till dinner was on the table, they all left her to vent all her feelings on the housekeeper, who attended in the absence of her daughters.
Poor housekeeper. Still, she gets paid to do that.
Though her brother and sister were persuaded that there was no real occasion for such a seclusion from the family, they did not attempt to oppose it, for they knew that she had not prudence enough to hold her tongue before the servants, while they waited at table, and judged it better that one only of the household, and the one whom they could most trust should comprehend all her fears and solicitude on the subject.
Meaning the poor, already alluded to housekeeper. And it is definitely prudent to conceal information such as this from servants, as the tendency for servants to gossip seems almost cliched.
In the dining-room they were soon joined by Mary and Kitty, who had been too busily engaged in their separate apartments to make their appearance before. One came from her books, and the other from her toilette. The faces of both, however, were tolerably calm; and no change was visible in either, except that the loss of her favourite sister, or the anger which she had herself incurred in this business, had given more of fretfulness than usual to the accents of Kitty. As for Mary, she was mistress enough of herself to whisper to Elizabeth, with a countenance of grave reflection, soon after they were seated at table:
"This is a most unfortunate affair, and will probably be much talked of. But we must stem the tide of malice, and pour into the wounded bosoms of each other the balm of sisterly consolation."
Oooh. "Spiritual." I am reminded of the Tim Hawkins video Full Range of Motion. He talks about parents who name their children "spiritual" names. He gives and example: A woman introducing her daughters says they're "Mercy, Grace, and Truth. And Discretion is on the way." Then he talks about how parents should name their children after what they really are. "This is Vengeance, Greed, and Sloth. Come back here, Satan! And little Deception is on the way." This is Mary. She's "spiritual", in a sort of proud way, which kind of defeats the purpose.
Then, perceiving in Elizabeth no inclination of replying, she added, "Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson: that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex."
My fiancee Susan likes to talk about "Legolas" statements. The character Legolas in the movie version (not the book) of The Lord of the Rings, makes such self-evident revelations as, "A diversion!" They're known in popular circles as "duh-isms." That's Mary here. Moreover, her moralizing is not likely to make anyone feel better or bring any real comfort. It's just more self-righteousness.
Elizabeth lifted up her eyes in amazement, but was too much oppressed to make any reply. Mary, however, continued to console herself...
And ONLY herself.
...with such kind of moral extractions from the evil before them.
In the afternoon, the two elder Miss Bennets were able to be for half-an-hour by themselves; and Elizabeth instantly availed herself of the opportunity of making any inquiries, which Jane was equally eager to satisfy...
After a respite from the bombardment of questions earlier, perhaps Jane is, after all, equal to the task.
...After joining in general lamentations over the dreadful sequel of this event, which Elizabeth considered as all but certain,...
Weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn. Of course, what has happened equally affects Lizzy and Jane, so perhaps my application of that verse from the Bible is a bit off.
...and Miss Bennet could not assert to be wholly impossible,...
Another delicately stated trademark Austen double negative. This describes Jane in a nutshell.
...continued the subject, by saying, "But tell me all and everything about it which I have not already heard. Give me further particulars. What did Colonel Forster say? Had they no apprehension of anything before the elopement took place? They must have seen them together for ever."
"Colonel Forster did own that he had often suspected some partiality, especially on Lydia's side, but nothing to give him any alarm. I am so grieved for him! His behaviour was attentive and kind to the utmost...
Jane, proving my point earlier about being well looked after. Lydia was actually well looked after, if Colonel Forster is as sensible as this passage indicates.
...He was coming to us, in order to assure us of his concern, before he had any idea of their not being gone to Scotland: when that apprehension first got abroad, it hastened his journey."
Why? Because, the situation getting worse, he would want to get the information to Mr. Bennet as quickly as possible.
"And was Denny convinced that Wickham would not marry? Did he know of their intending to go off? Had Colonel Forster seen Denny himself?"
"Yes; but, when questioned by him, Denny denied knowing anything of their plans, and would not give his real opinion about it. He did not repeat his persuasion of their not marrying-- and from that, I am inclined to hope, he might have been misunderstood before."
Note that Jane here says "might have been misunderstood," not "might have misunderstood." The two things would certainly have widely different meanings.
"And till Colonel Forster came himself, not one of you entertained a doubt, I suppose, of their being really married?"
"How was it possible that such an idea should enter our brains?...
Ah, here Jane errs. She perhaps does not believe enough in the depravity of human nature, and natural familial bias further clouds her judgment. We must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
...I felt a little uneasy-- a little fearful of my sister's happiness with him in marriage, because I knew that his conduct had not been always quite right. My father and mother knew nothing of that; they only felt how imprudent a match it must be...
Interesting that even Mrs. Bennet thought the marriage was imprudent, when sometimes it seems she just wants to get her daughters married of as quickly as possible.
...Kitty then owned, with a very natural triumph on knowing more than the rest of us,...
So Kitty has as much pride as anyone else. Figures.
...that in Lydia's last letter she had prepared her for such a step. She had known, it seems, of their being in love with each other, many weeks."
"But not before they went to Brighton?"
"No, I believe not."
"And did Colonel Forster appear to think well of Wickham himself? Does he know his real character?"
"I must confess that he did not speak so well of Wickham as he formerly did. He believed him to be imprudent and extravagant. And since this sad affair has taken place, it is said that he left Meryton greatly in debt; but I hope this may be false."
"Oh, Jane, had we been less secret, had we told what we knew of him, this could not have happened!"
Lizzy, in one of the classic scenarios: the might-have-beens. It is not so wise to ask these questions, or think these thoughts.
"Perhaps it would have been better," replied her sister. "But to expose the former faults of any person without knowing what their present feelings were, seemed unjustifiable. We acted with the best intentions."
Jane. However, good intentions are not enough. You may wish to be charitable to someone, and yet if you don't know something about what you are doing, you can do a great deal of harm. I'm not necessarily saying that's what happened here; it's just a general principle.
"Could Colonel Forster repeat the particulars of Lydia's note to his wife?"
"He brought it with him for us to see."
Jane then took it from her pocket-book, and gave it to Elizabeth. These were the contents:
"MY DEAR HARRIET,--
"You will laugh when you know where I am gone, and I cannot help laughing myself at your surprise to-morrow morning, as soon as I am missed. I am going to Gretna Green, and if you cannot guess with who, I shall think you a simpleton, for there is but one man in the world I love, and he is an angel. I should never be happy without him, so think it no harm to be off. You need not send them word at Longbourn of my going, if you do not like it, for it will make the surprise the greater, when I write to them and sign my name 'Lydia Wickham.' What a good joke it will be! I can hardly write for laughing. Pray make my excuses to Pratt for not keeping my engagement, and dancing with him to-night. Tell him I hope he will excuse me when he knows all; and tell him I will dance with him at the next ball we meet, with great pleasure. I shall send for my clothes when I get to Longbourn; but I wish you would tell Sally to mend a great slit in my worked muslin gown before they are packed up. Good-bye. Give my love to Colonel Forster. I hope you will drink to our good journey. - Your affectionate friend,
What a letter! Jane and Lizzy disect it for us in just a moment, so I won't feel the need to do that myself.
"Oh! thoughtless, thoughtless Lydia!" cried Elizabeth when she had finished it. What a letter is this, to be written at such a moment! But at least it shows that she was serious on the subject of their journey. Whatever he might afterwards persuade her to, it was not on her side a scheme of infamy...
That is something, though very little.
...My poor father! how he must have felt it!"
"I never saw any one so shocked. He could not speak a word for full ten minutes...
I really like the way the A&E Jane acts this line. It's very poignant.
...My mother was taken ill immediately, and the whole house in such confusion!"
"Oh! Jane," cried Elizabeth, "was there a servant belonging to it who did not know the whole story before the end of the day?"
We've discussed this before.
"I do not know. I hope there was. But to be guarded at such a time is very difficult. My mother was in hysterics, and though I endeavoured to give her every assistance in my power, I am afraid I did not do so much as I might have done! But the horror of what might possibly happen almost took from me my faculties."
Jane here, describing the very common symptoms of shock and grief. Counselors talk about "denial" and such, and no doubt they know something of what they're saying.
"Your attendance upon her has been too much for you. You do not look well. Oh that I had been with you! you have had every care and anxiety upon yourself alone."
"Mary and Kitty have been very kind, and would have shared in every fatigue, I am sure; but I did not think it right for either of them. Kitty is slight and delicate; and Mary studies so much, that her hours of repose should not be broken in on...
Studies. Right. Very virtuous and efficacious studies those were, to be sure! They taught her to think well of herself. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
...My aunt Phillips came to Longbourn on Tuesday, after my father went away; and was so good as to stay till Thursday with me. She was of great use and comfort to us all. And Lady Lucas has been very kind; she walked here on Wednesday morning to condole with us, and offered her services, or any of her daughters', if they should be of use to us."
"She had better have stayed at home," cried Elizabeth; "perhaps she meant well, but, under such a misfortune as this, one cannot see too little of one's neighbours. Assistance is impossible; condolence insufferable. Let them triumph over us at a distance, and be satisfied."
Perhaps there is a bit of the bitterness the A&E Lizzy pours into these lines. I think they are very proud sentiments, in a bad sense. Everyone sins!
She then proceeded to inquire into the measures which her father had intended to pursue, while in town, for the recovery of his daughter.
"He meant I believe," replied Jane, "to go to Epsom, the place where they last changed horses, see the postilions and try if anything could be made out from them. His principal object must be to discover the number of the hackney coach which took them from Clapham. It had come with a fare from London; and as he thought that the circumstance of a gentleman and lady's removing from one carriage into another might be remarked...
Probably because it would look furtive.
...he meant to make inquiries at Clapham. If he could anyhow discover at what house the coachman had before set down his fare, he determined to make inquiries there, and hoped it might not be impossible to find out the stand and number of the coach. I do not know of any other designs that he had formed; but he was in such a hurry to be gone, and his spirits so greatly discomposed, that I had difficulty in finding out even so much as this."
Great news! I hope next chapter will have the added advice and input from the lovely Susan. You can look forward to that, as we discover more naughty things about Wickham, and there is still no good word yet about Lydia. We get the interesting thoughts about guilt versus guilt feelings I alluded to earlier. Stay tuned!