Chapter Forty-seven, Part One
Originally published 4/29/2007.
This, alas, Susan-less chapter is mostly concerned with the communication of information. Lizzy makes known just a hair more of her knowledge of Wickham's misdeeds to the Gardiners on their way home from Kent, and when they get there, Lizzy and Jane exchange about all they know of the situation.
"I have been thinking it over again, Elizabeth," said her uncle, as they drove from the town; "and really, upon serious consideration, I am much more inclined than I was to judge as your eldest sister does on the matter...
This view of Jane's is, if you recall, that Wickham is disinterested, and really loves Lydia, in light of the idea that he knows she cannot have much money, etc.
...It appears to me so very unlikely that any young man should form such a design against a girl who is by no means unprotected or friendless, and who was actually staying in his colonel's family, that I am strongly inclined to hope the best. Could he expect that her friends would not step forward? Could he expect to be noticed again by the regiment, after such an affront to Colonel Forster? His temptation is not adequate to the risk!"
Alas, the uncle assumes too much. For this kind of sin, men will sometimes do just about anything. That's been true since David murdered Uriah after committing adultery with Bathsheba, and even before then. Certainly, though, we may give the uncle the benefit of the doubt. He seems wise, and later on remarks that though it is wise to be prepared for the worst, there's no occasion to look on it as certain.
"Do you really think so?" cried Elizabeth, brightening up for a moment.
"Upon my word," said Mrs. Gardiner, "I begin to be of your uncle's opinion. It is really too great a violation of decency, honour, and interest, for him to be guilty of. I cannot think so very ill of Wickham. Can you yourself, Lizzy, so wholly give him up, as to believe him capable of it?"
"Not, perhaps, of neglecting his own interest; but of every other neglect I can believe him capable...
Lizzy here, weighing in on the idea that Wickham is certainly not about to stop being selfish, though he's quite capable of ignoring everyone else's interests.
...If, indeed, it should be so! But I dare not hope it. Why should they not go on to Scotland if that had been the case?"
"In the first place," replied Mr. Gardiner, "there is no absolute proof that they are not gone to Scotland."
"Oh! but their removing from the chaise into a hackney coach is such a presumption!...
Lizzy here. Why is going into a hackney coach a presumption? This seems a cultural thing about the Regency Era, of which I am unaware. Some reader input would certainly be appreciated.
...And, besides, no traces of them were to be found on the Barnet road."
"Well, then-- supposing them to be in London. They may be there, though for the purpose of concealment, for no more exceptional purpose. It is not likely that money should be very abundant on either side; and it might strike them that they could be more economically, though less expeditiously, married in London than in Scotland."
But why all this secrecy? Why any fear of detection? Why must their marriage be private? Oh, no, no-- this is not likely. His most particular friend, you see by Jane's account, was persuaded of his never intending to marry her...
Jane's words were, "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 said he feared W. was not a man to be trusted." I think Lizzy's opinion of Forster's opinion is slightly exaggerated. Being persuaded of W. never intending to marry L. is stronger than not being disposed to depend on it. However, without necessarily having the best evidence for it, Lizzy is right. In addition, her next arguments are sound.
...Wickham will never marry a woman without some money. He cannot afford it. And what claims has Lydia-- what attraction has she beyond youth, health, and good humour that could make him, for her sake, forego every chance of benefiting himself by marrying well?...
So Lizzy is arguing that Wickham does not want to marry Lydia, but wants to seduce her. Her first reason is that Wickham cannot want marriage because Lydia was "not rich enough to solve his problems," as Mrs. Gardiner later writes to Lizzy in the BBC version.
...As to what restraint the apprehensions of disgrace in the corps might throw on a dishonourable elopement with her, I am not able to judge; for I know nothing of the effects that such a step might produce...
The second reason is really a non-reason: she does not know about the consequences of Wickham's life in the corps. Of course, we know that Darcy purchases his commission and pays all his debts.
...But as to your other objection, I am afraid it will hardly hold good. Lydia has no brothers to step forward; and he might imagine, from my father's behaviour, from his indolence and the little attention he has ever seemed to give to what was going forward in his family, that he would do as little, and think as little about it, as any father could do, in such a matter."
Alas, this holds true; one wonders whether Lizzy is quite proper to tell her aunt and uncle such a negative thing about her father, who is currently her covenant head. Is this in violation of the fifth commandment? Of course, Lizzy does use the word "seemed to give", not "actually give." So Lizzy could be leaving room for the appearances to be different from reality.
"But can you think that Lydia is so lost to everything but love of him as to consent to live with him on any terms other than marriage?"
Mr. Gardiner, using the word "love" in a less than biblically full manner. It seems that even back in the Regency Era, the word "love" was less than adequate to describe a full-orbed Christian agape love.
"It does seem, and it is most shocking indeed," replied Elizabeth, with tears in her eyes, "that a sister's sense of decency and virtue in such a point should admit of doubt. But, really, I know not what to say. Perhaps I am not doing her justice. But she is very young; she has never been taught to think on serious subjects;...
Whose fault is that? Mr. Bennet's. I wonder how directly Lizzy means this against her father.
...and for the last half-year, nay, for a twelvemonth-- she has been given up to nothing but amusement and vanity. She has been allowed to dispose of her time in the most idle and frivolous manner, and to adopt any opinions that came in her way...
Tossed about by every wind of doctrine.
...Since the ----shire were first quartered in Meryton, nothing but love,...
Lizzy using the word "love" the same way her uncle just did.
...flirtation, and officers have been in her head. She has been doing everything in her power by thinking and talking on the subject, to give greater-- what shall I call it? susceptibility to her feelings; which are naturally lively enough. And we all know that Wickham has every charm of person and address that can captivate a woman."
Thus concludes Lizzy's argument that Lydia is not strong enough to resist the temptation that is before her.
"But you see that Jane," said her aunt, "does not think so very ill of Wickham as to believe him capable of the attempt."
This is weak, for more than one reason. First, Mrs. Gardiner should know by now that not many people knew the real Wickham. Certainly not Jane, sensible though she is. Why should Jane be an expert on Wickham. Secondly, as Lizzy points out immediately below, Jane is predisposed to think well of everyone. Suspicion is not in Jane's nature. In this fallen world, sometimes suspicion is a necessary evil.
"Of whom does Jane ever think ill? And who is there, whatever might be their former conduct, that she would think capable of such an attempt, till it were proved against them? But Jane knows, as well as I do, what Wickham really is. We both know that he has been profligate in every sense of the word; that he has neither integrity nor honour; that he is as false and deceitful as he is insinuating."
Lizzy lays these charges at Wickham's door. Surely she knows she's going to have to substantiate these a bit. However, she also knows she can't reveal too much, or she would violate her word to Darcy.
"And do you really know all this?" cried Mrs. Gardiner, whose curiosity as to the mode of her intelligence was all alive.
This is only natural.
"I do indeed," replied Elizabeth, colouring. "I told you, the other day, of his infamous behaviour to Mr. Darcy;...
This happens in Chapter 43, where she tells her aunt and uncle about the living.
...and you yourself, when last at Longbourn, heard in what manner he spoke of the man who had behaved with such forbearance and liberality towards him...
I'm not quite certain to what this refers. In Chapter 25, Mrs. Gardiner hears Wickham talk about the present Darcy in the usual degrading terms, near the end of the chapter. But that is not technically the last time the Gardiners were at Longbourn: they came to pick Lizzy up. So perhaps Lizzy means the last time the Gardiners were at Longbourn for any length of time.
...And there are other circumstances which I am not at liberty-- which it is not worth while to relate;...
That might have been a slip of the tongue. Obviously, Lizzy is referring to Georgiana.
...but his lies about the whole Pemberley family are endless. From what he said of Miss Darcy I was thoroughly prepared to see a proud, reserved, disagreeable girl. Yet he knew to the contrary himself. He must know that she was as amiable and unpretending as we have found her."
"But does Lydia know nothing of this? can she be ignorant of what you and Jane seem so well to understand?"
"Oh, yes! that, that is the worst of all. Till I was in Kent, and saw so much both of Mr. Darcy and his relation Colonel Fitzwilliam, I was ignorant of the truth myself. And when I returned home, the ----shire was to leave Meryton in a week or fortnight's time. As that was the case, neither Jane, to whom I related the whole, nor I, thought it necessary to make our knowledge public; for of what use could it apparently be to any one, that the good opinion which all the neighbourhood had of him should then be overthrown? And even when it was settled that Lydia should go with Mrs. Forster, the necessity of opening her eyes to his character never occurred to me. That she could be in any danger from the deception never entered my head. That such a consequence as this could ensue, you may easily believe, was far enough from my thoughts."
"When they all removed to Brighton, therefore, you had no reason, I suppose, to believe them fond of each other?"
"Not the slightest. I can remember no symptom of affection on either side; and had anything of the kind been perceptible, you must be aware that ours is not a family on which it could be thrown away...
Perhaps a wry reference to the flirtatious nature of Lydia and Kitty: if any officer were to show them affection, they would jump on it.
...When first he entered the corps, she was ready enough to admire him; but so we all were. Every girl in or near Meryton was out of her senses about him for the first two months; but he never distinguished her by any particular attention; and, consequently, after a moderate period of extravagant and wild admiration, her fancy for him gave way, and others of the regiment, who treated her with more distinction, again became her favourites."
It may be easily believed, that however little of novelty could be added to their fears, hopes, and conjectures, on this interesting subject, by its repeated discussion, no other could detain them from it long, during the whole of the journey. From Elizabeth's thoughts it was never absent. Fixed there by the keenest of all anguish, self-reproach, she could find no interval of ease or forgetfulness.
It might be interesting to compare these events with the modern counseling ideas of trauma and crisis management.
They travelled as expeditiously as possible, and, sleeping one night on the road, reached Longbourn by dinner time the next day. It was a comfort to Elizabeth to consider that Jane could not have been wearied by long expectations.
The little Gardiners, attracted by the sight of a chaise, were standing on the steps of the house as they entered the paddock; and, when the carriage drove up to the door, the joyful surprise that lighted up their faces, and displayed itself over their whole bodies, in a variety of capers and frisks, was the first pleasing earnest of their welcome.
This seems a good place to divide the chapter into its natural two divisions.