I’d like to welcome Nicole Clarkston to Just Jane 1813 this week, where she’s been kind enough to host today’s chapter of Pride & Prejudice. When she recently told me how much she’s enjoyed this series, I was more than thrilled to ask her to host a chapter and it really should come as no surprise that I have asked her to host a chapter where the Gardiners play such a pivotal role. After all her latest book, The Courtship of Edward Gardiner, was not only a 2016 Just Jane Reviewer’s Favorite, it also appeared on other Austenesque book review blogs on their Best Books of 2016 lists too!
Nicole has also brought some terrific giveaways for us as well. With the release of The Courtship of Edward Gardiner as an audiobook, she’s here to offer a copy to one lucky Just Jane 1813 winner, as well as some other giveaways too!
There will be four fun ways to enter these giveaways, as well as three giveaway prizes for our winners. To enter our giveaways, please do one or more of the following:
- Have your share in the conversation! Tell us what you thought about Aunt Gardiner’s letter to Elizabeth about Mr. Darcy’s actions in the comments below.
- Do you have a song that you think sums up this chapter? Post the title of the song or a link to the song in the comments section. (I’ll even share a Spotify playlist of your selections with the list of giveaway winners, like the one I made a few months ago, Spotify playlist, “The Netherfield Ball,” based on Chapter 14.)
- Want to share your proficiency as a reader? Post a link to a review you have written for a book that Nicole Clarkston has written. If you’re unable to share the link, post the name of the book you reviewed, with the name of the site and your name on the review.
- Share this post on Facebook or Twitter (include@justjane1813 in your tweet.)
Each social media/ comment/post and Just Jane 1813 comment/post will enter you for these giveaway prizes. So, if you post and/or comment three times, that’s three chances to win. The deadline for entry comments/posts is midnight ET on Wednesday, February 1, and the winners will be announced on this blog on Thursday, February 2, 2017.
Our prizes are as follows:
- Readers’ choice of Rumours & Recklessness or The Courtship of Edward Gardiner by Nicole Clarkston
- An audiobook of Rumours & Recklessness by Nicole Clarkston
- An audiobook of The Courtship of Edward Gardiner by Nicole Clarkston
You may enjoy this selection from the 1995 BBC soundtrack as you read this chapter, titled The Gardiners:
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 yours 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 immediate relief.
“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 hour.
“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 there.”
“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 out well.”
“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 in Kent?”
“I have heard from authority, which I thought as good, that it was left you conditionally only, and at the will of the present patron.”
“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 of it.”
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.
I was surprised and utterly delighted when Claudine asked me to host Chapter 52 of this wonderful read-through of Pride and Prejudice. This is one of my favorite chapters for a number of reasons. To begin, it is where we truly see Darcy’s opinion of Mr and Mrs Gardiner, who happen to be two of my most beloved characters. It is a double honor to write on this particular chapter, because my current work in progress is a story which begins with Lydia’s dubious marriage and proceeds onward from this exact point.
This is a pivotal time for the Bennet family. Where only days before the entire family’s ruin had seemed certain, now their respectability had been mysteriously restored and at no little expense. Uncle Gardiner had been the reluctant beneficiary of the family’s gratitude, but Elizabeth’s letter brought him the surprised pleasure of an honourable man who is at last able to give credit where it is due.
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.”
Though Elizabeth is not without a profound interest in the unraveling of the mystery, her motives are quite pure. She truly had no concept of Darcy feeling obliged to her, and had never cast the blame for the elopement at his feet. She thought of him with only regret and humiliation before Lydia’s careless admission, and now that she knows he was involved, she still protests her innocence. This is one of the reasons I love Elizabeth- after how she has treated Darcy, it would never occur to her to presume that his interest in her could be more than gentlemanly. Her astonishment is palpable and her eagerness to know all is equally felt by the reader.
If you do not choose to understand me, forgive my impertinence.”
Mrs Gardiner’s letter holds a dear place in the hearts of many P&P readers- not only for what it says, but also for what it does not say. So much is implied by Mrs Gardiner’s gentle assumptions, her surprise at Elizabeth’s application, and her glowing approval of Mr Darcy, that the reader may comfortably picture her chuckling to herself over the pitiful, star-crossed lovers as she puts pen to paper. If Darcy thought himself to be “sly,” or Elizabeth believed her manner indifferent before the clever observations of the Gardiners, they were both sadly mistaken.
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.”
So much of Darcy’s character is revealed in Mrs Gardiner’s description; his willingness to contract the business for two unworthy characters, his obstinate refusal to allow any other to assist in the matter, his assumption of the whole of the blame for the damage Wickham had been allowed to perpetrate against unsuspecting young women. Darcy endures embarrassment and much trouble, not to mention a great expense, to set right this perceived wrong of his. He does so with no expectation that he will ever be recompensed, and indeed no desire for Elizabeth even to hear of his deeds lest it cause her more shame. This is a man of the very noblest of hearts! I believe this letter of Mrs Gardiner’s does as much to make Elizabeth (and the reader) fall head over heels in love with Darcy as the rest of the book put together.
Mrs Gardiner makes no secret of her beliefs regarding Darcy’s motives, and it is heart-warming to read how she so tenderly teases her lovelorn niece. She does not demand explanations, nor does she openly declare anything in particular, but her hearty approval of Mr Darcy and her expectations of knowing him better are perfectly clear.
Poor Elizabeth! If she had been ashamed of her conduct before, now I think she wishes for a sink hole to swallow her up. Really, of all the people to step in and help, it had to be the one man whose knowledge of the whole affair would embarrass her the most! How could she possibly look him in the eye after he has had full knowledge of the “frailty” of her sister? What a pity she had to open her mouth and tell him all about it!
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.”
Mrs Gardiner does not sugar-coat the facts. These two people have behaved reprehensibly, and are most unworthy of the efforts exerted on their behalf. Lydia is wild, unrepentant, and careless. She has caught herself a man before any of her sisters, which had always been her stated objective. She wants no help from anyone else, and is insensible to Darcy’s exhortations to leave him and join her family.
It says something about Darcy’s opinions of Wickham here that he would even try to remove her. After all, this was an era when dancing twice with the same man would spark rumours of an engagement and an unchaperoned moment might lead to a compromise which could only satisfied by marriage. As Sophie Turner so eloquently reminded us a few chapters ago, sex and marriage in Regency England were about property rights, and Lydia was now used merchandise. Why would Darcy even attempt to persuade her to leave him when no one else would be likely to have her?
Clearly, Darcy worried about her future with Wickham, which beautifully displays his very romantic and (at the time) surprisingly modern sensibilities. Wickham himself testifies to his own character when he states his intentions; he took something which did not belong to him, he never intended to pay for it, and he places the blame squarely on Lydia’s shoulders. Even his reasons for leaving the regiment speak poorly of him. He is abandoning debts of honour to other soldiers with no design to repay them, which is far more “serious” than mere shopkeeper’s debts. This is a guy with few scruples and only one priority: George Wickham. Personally, I imagine Darcy becoming almost nauseated when he arranges the marriage.
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.”
It is so telling that Darcy deliberately sought out Mr Gardiner to discuss Lydia’s affairs. He had a perfect opportunity to sit down properly with the girl’s father- another landed gentleman, by the way- and offer his assistance. Why did Darcy choose to go away without leaving his name until the following day? The most obvious reason seems to be Darcy’s profound regard for and trust in this tradesman. Mr Gardiner had proven respectable and intelligent, as well as genuinely concerned for the well-being of his nieces.
Darcy’s decision may have been in part a slight against Mr Bennet for allowing Lydia’s situation to arise in the first place, but equally likely is his fear that Elizabeth’s immediate family would speculate things which would become uncomfortable for her. Many romantically inclined readers feel that Darcy showed up alone at the Lambton inn that day to further his courtship, or perhaps *gasp* even propose a second time.
His intentions seemed obstinately fixed upon making Elizabeth his wife, but she never had a chance to offer her revised opinion on the matter. No gentleman who considered the lady’s sentiments as paramount would dare impose his assistance upon the family without some assurances of her affections and dependence upon his aid. In the absence of a pre-existing engagement, the only other avenue is absolute discretion, and Edward Gardiner offered that possibility. Darcy felt certain that Mr Gardiner was a prudent, sensible man who could be persuaded to act in the best interests of all his nieces- even the most undeserving one.
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.”
The wisdom and warmth, as well as the tongue-in-cheek humor pouring through this letter is a wonderful contrast to Elizabeth’s rumpled feelings. Mrs Gardiner continues her narrative with descriptions of Darcy’s stellar actions, noting that “obstinacy is the real defect of his character.” (The reader who remembers Mrs Bennet’s description of her daughter as an “obstinate, headstrong girl” is here permitted to snicker.)
Lydia’s faults are again enumerated and the sham of a wedding described with no mention of a proper wedding breakfast. This would speak loudly to the members of their circle, but dear Mrs Gardiner seems only relieved to have done with the whole affair. She comforts herself that she has carried out the task for the benefit of Jane and Elizabeth, if not for Lydia. She finishes by repeating her approbation of Darcy and pleading with her unhappy niece not to be terribly put out with her teasing; “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.”
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.”
After the close of this charming and awe-inspiring letter, the reader becomes witness to yet another change in Elizabeth. The beginning of the book saw her always ready to laugh and to rise to any challenge. Darcy’s letter at Hunsford produced in her the first signs of self-examination and regret, but for some while she is still equally vexed with him as with herself. The visit to Derbyshire assured her that he was, indeed, a gracious and forgiving man without his equal, but no man, not even Mr Perfect Darcy, could love her after her family’s disgrace. Add to that her previous rejection of him and her new familial relationship to Darcy’s least favorite man, and she feels him quite justified in never speaking to her again.
Now, at last, Elizabeth understands the whole truth. He does love her; he always had, and he continued to love her even in his absence. Though he might never show his face in Hertfordshire again, he had demonstrated a love for her which she could hardly understand, and could scarcely believe. She begins to learn that love can take many forms, and cannot decide which is the more noble.
Her heart did whisper that he had done it for her.”
There is an unspoken hope that perhaps he might renew his attentions, and it is a delirious flight of fancy for the woman who is only now coming to know his worth. There is still deeper a profound respect for his actions, and an admiration for a man who could behave so nobly toward those who were so “wholly unconnected” with himself.
If Longbourn still had any wildflowers in September, Elizabeth plucked them all. I can almost hear her plundering the garden and mumbling over and over to herself, “He loves me, he loves me not….” For the first time in her life, she becomes more broody and thoughtful even than Darcy. Which is the better manthe one who would take on the mortification of orchestrating the salvation of his beloved’s family so that he might attempt to court her, or the one who would act with unparalleled honour and humility despite the renowned dislike held for him by all parties concerned? She cannot decide which circumstance would make her the proudest of him, but one thing she does know for certain: she does not deserve him.
Austen proves herself the queen of subtle angst here. No plane collisions or hostage scenarios are necessary, because the reader is on the edge of her seat and flying through the pages. For the whole of the book, we have become more and more convinced that Darcy is the perfect man for Elizabeth, but now when she is also finally assured of this fact is when it seems least likely for him to reappear. How could he return, when Elizabeth knows how unworthy she is, and when Darcy justly fears that Elizabeth would accept him only out of obligation? And thus, the fingernails of bookworms the world over have been nibbled to the quick for over two hundred years.
I am afraid I interrupt your solitary ramble, my dear sister?”
Poor Elizabeth! She cannot even wallow half an hour in self-pity before the scoundrel himself appears. For the reader, the ensuing conversation is a pure delight, and nicely rounds out a chapter which had begun with such a mixture of agony and hope. The sharp-tongued Lizzy we all know and love emerges once more, but this time she has the advantage of good information. Oh, what a put-down she delivers, and all with a smile on her face! Let us simply sit back and enjoy some of her repartees, shall we?
We were always good friends; and now we are better.”
“True. Are the others coming out?”
Ah, the opening salvo. The cheek of the man, to assume they can now pick up where he believes they left off! Elizabeth immediately retaliates with a not-so-subtle hint: “I would rather talk to anyone but you, and if another soul, even the gardener walks by, I’m going to ditch you.”
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.
Translation: “Oh, yes, I heard all about you. She thinks you are a bounder and a cad, but you know, she could have been joking.”
Nice, but he’s not smart enough to leave it alone.
I was surprised to see Darcy in town last month. We passed each other several times. I wonder what he can be doing there.”
“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.”
In other words: “London is hot and stinky in August, so it had to be important. You and I both know the last thing he intends to do is marry his cousin, so, hmmm, what could it be, George?”
Ooh, good one.
I have heard, indeed, that she (Georgiana Darcy) is uncommonly improved within this year or two. When I last saw her she was not very promising. I am very glad you like her. I hope she will turn out well.”
“I dare say she will; she has got over the most trying age.”
Now she has him backpedaling.
“Uh, so that Darcy girl I insulted? Forget what I said. Maybe she’s not so bad anymore, because it sounds like you liked her.”
“Oh, yes, she is past the age of fifteen now- you know, the age when you seem to like to impose yourself on naïve girls?”
Burn. But that’s not enough, he has to try to remind her of why she once took his side. Let’s see how well that works out for him.
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 in Kent?”
“I have heard, from authority which I thought as good, that it was left you conditionally only, and at the will of the present patron.”
“You have! — Yes, there was something in that; I told you so from the first, you may remember.”
“Uh…” (gulp) “…you heard about that?”
“Do you still think I’m stupid, Wickham?”
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.”
“Thank God you’re not a clergyman. By the way, where did you blow all that money?”
You did! — and it was not wholly without foundation. You may remember what I told you on that point, when first we talked of it.
“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.”
“Wickham, you are so full of it there is steam coming out of your ears.”
To the victor, the spoils.
I hope you have enjoyed re-reading this delightful chapter with me. I’m looking forward to the rest of the book with Claudine!
Wasn’t that a fun chapter? I told Nicole my new nickname for her is “The Queen of Snark!” I was so amused by her thoughtful and clever comments, I hope you were too!
Thank you so much, Nicole, for your wonderful efforts with hosting this chapter!