Read & Download Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen ebook, pdf, epub txt

Read & Download Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen ebook, pdf, epub txt

Chapter 42

Had Elizabeth’s opinion been all drawn from her own family,
she could not have formed a very pleasing opinion of conjugal
felicity or domestic comfort. Her father, captivated by youth
and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which youth
and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak
understanding and illiberal mind had very early in their marriage
put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and
confidence had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic
happiness were overthrown. But Mr. Bennet was not of a
disposition to seek comfort for the disappointment which his
own imprudence had brought on, in any of those pleasures which
too often console the unfortunate for their folly or their vice.
He was fond of the country and of books; and from these tastes had
arisen his principal enjoyments. To his wife he was very little
otherwise indebted, than as her ignorance and folly had
contributed to his amusement. This is not the sort of happiness
which a man would in general wish to owe to his wife; but
where other powers of entertainment are wanting, the true
philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given.

Elizabeth, however, had never been blind to the impropriety of
her father’s behaviour as a husband. She had always seen it with
pain; but respecting his abilities, and grateful for his affectionate
treatment of herself, she endeavoured to forget what she could
not overlook, and to banish from her thoughts that continual
breach of conjugal obligation and decorum which, in exposing
his wife to the contempt of her own children, was so highly
reprehensible. But she had never felt so strongly as now the
disadvantages which must attend the children of so unsuitable a
marriage, nor ever been so fully aware of the evils arising from
so ill-judged a direction of talents; talents, which, rightly used,
might at least have preserved the respectability of his daughters,
even if incapable of enlarging the mind of his wife.

When Elizabeth had rejoiced over Wickham’s departure she
found little other cause for satisfaction in the loss of the
regiment. Their parties abroad were less varied than before, and
at home she had a mother and sister whose constant repinings at
the dullness of everything around them threw a real gloom over
their domestic circle; and, though Kitty might in time regain her
natural degree of sense, since the disturbers of her brain were
removed, her other sister, from whose disposition greater evil
might be apprehended, was likely to be hardened in all her
folly and assurance by a situation of such double danger as a
watering-place and a camp. Upon the whole, therefore, she
found, what has been sometimes found before, that an event
to which she had been looking with impatient desire did not,
in taking place, bring all the satisfaction she had promised
herself. It was consequently necessary to name some other
period for the commencement of actual felicity–to have some
other point on which her wishes and hopes might be fixed, and
by again enjoying the pleasure of anticipation, console herself for
the present, and prepare for another disappointment. Her tour
to the Lakes was now the object of her happiest thoughts; it was
her best consolation for all the uncomfortable hours which the
discontentedness of her mother and Kitty made inevitable; and
could she have included Jane in the scheme, every part of it
would have been perfect.

“But it is fortunate,” thought she, “that I have something to wish
for. Were the whole arrangement complete, my disappointment
would be certain. But here, by carrying with me one ceaseless
source of regret in my sister’s absence, I may reasonably hope to
have all my expectations of pleasure realised. A scheme of
which every part promises delight can never be successful; and
general disappointment is only warded off by the defence of
some little peculiar vexation.”

When Lydia went away she promised to write very often and
very minutely to her mother and Kitty; but her letters were
always long expected, and always very short. Those to her
mother contained little else than that they were just returned
from the library, where such and such officers had attended
them, and where she had seen such beautiful ornaments as made
her quite wild; that she had a new gown, or a new parasol, which
she would have described more fully, but was obliged to leave
off in a violent hurry, as Mrs. Forster called her, and they were
going off to the camp; and from her correspondence with her
sister, there was still less to be learnt–for her letters to
Kitty, though rather longer, were much too full of lines under the
words to be made public.

After the first fortnight or three weeks of her absence, health,
good humour, and cheerfulness began to reappear at Longbourn.
Everything wore a happier aspect. The families who had been in
town for the winter came back again, and summer finery and
summer engagements arose. Mrs. Bennet was restored to her
usual querulous serenity; and, by the middle of June, Kitty was
so much recovered as to be able to enter Meryton without tears;
an event of such happy promise as to make Elizabeth hope that
by the following Christmas she might be so tolerably reasonable
as not to mention an officer above once a day, unless, by some
cruel and malicious arrangement at the War Office, another
regiment should be quartered in Meryton.

The time fixed for the beginning of their northern tour was now
fast approaching, and a fortnight only was wanting of it, when
a letter arrived from Mrs. Gardiner, which at once delayed its
commencement and curtailed its extent. Mr. Gardiner would be
prevented by business from setting out till a fortnight later in
July, and must be in London again within a month, and as that
left too short a period for them to go so far, and see so much
as they had proposed, or at least to see it with the leisure and
comfort they had built on, they were obliged to give up the
Lakes, and substitute a more contracted tour, and, according
to the present plan, were to go no farther northwards than
Derbyshire. In that county there was enough to be seen to
occupy the chief of their three weeks; and to Mrs. Gardiner it
had a peculiarly strong attraction. The town where she had
formerly passed some years of her life, and where they were now
to spend a few days, was probably as great an object of her
curiosity as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth,
Dovedale, or the Peak.

Elizabeth was excessively disappointed; she had set her heart on
seeing the Lakes, and still thought there might have been time
enough. But it was her business to be satisfied–and certainly
her temper to be happy; and all was soon right again.

With the mention of Derbyshire there were many ideas connected.
It was impossible for her to see the word without thinking of
Pemberley and its owner. “But surely,” said she, “I may enter
his county without impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars
without his perceiving me.”

The period of expectation was now doubled. Four weeks were to
pass away before her uncle and aunt’s arrival. But they did pass
away, and Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, with their four children, did
at length appear at Longbourn. The children, two girls of six
and eight years old, and two younger boys, were to be left under
the particular care of their cousin Jane, who was the general
favourite, and whose steady sense and sweetness of temper exactly
adapted her for attending to them in every way–teaching them,
playing with them, and loving them.

The Gardiners stayed only one night at Longbourn, and set off
the next morning with Elizabeth in pursuit of novelty and
amusement. One enjoyment was certain–that of suitableness
of companions; a suitableness which comprehended health and
temper to bear inconveniences–cheerfulness to enhance every
pleasure–and affection and intelligence, which might supply
it among themselves if there were disappointments abroad.

It is not the object of this work to give a description of
Derbyshire, nor of any of the remarkable places through which
their route thither lay; Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenilworth,
Birmingham, etc. are sufficiently known. A small part of
Derbyshire is all the present concern. To the little town of
Lambton, the scene of Mrs. Gardiner’s former residence, and
where she had lately learned some acquaintance still remained,
they bent their steps, after having seen all the principal wonders
of the country; and within five miles of Lambton, Elizabeth
found from her aunt that Pemberley was situated. It was not in
their direct road, nor more than a mile or two out of it. In
talking over their route the evening before, Mrs. Gardiner
expressed an inclination to see the place again. Mr. Gardiner
declared his willingness, and Elizabeth was applied to for her

“My love, should not you like to see a place of which you have
heard so much?” said her aunt; “a place, too, with which so
many of your acquaintances are connected. Wickham passed all
his youth there, you know.”

Elizabeth was distressed. She felt that she had no business at
Pemberley, and was obliged to assume a disinclination for seeing
it. She must own that she was tired of seeing great houses; after
going over so many, she really had no pleasure in fine carpets or
satin curtains.

Mrs. Gardiner abused her stupidity. “If it were merely a fine
house richly furnished,” said she, “I should not care about it
myself; but the grounds are delightful. They have some of the
finest woods in the country.”

Elizabeth said no more–but her mind could not acquiesce.
The possibility of meeting Mr. Darcy, while viewing the place,
instantly occurred. It would be dreadful! She blushed at the
very idea, and thought it would be better to speak openly to
her aunt than to run such a risk. But against this there were
objections; and she finally resolved that it could be the last
resource, if her private inquiries to the absence of the family
were unfavourably answered.

Accordingly, when she retired at night, she asked the chambermaid
whether Pemberley were not a very fine place? what was the name
of its proprietor? and, with no little alarm, whether the family
were down for the summer? A most welcome negative followed the
last question–and her alarms now being removed, she was at
leisure to feel a great deal of curiosity to see the house herself;
and when the subject was revived the next morning, and she was
again applied to, could readily answer, and with a proper air of
indifference, that she had not really any dislike to the scheme.
To Pemberley, therefore, they were to go.

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