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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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CHAPTER FIFTY-ONE

The newly married pair arrive. Lydia is her exuberant, uncontrolled self. She shows off her wedding ring. She boasts that she will get all her sisters husbands when they visit her: an army encampment is the very place for finding husbands, she says. Wickham is also his usual smiling, socially agreeable self. He shows no more embarrassment than Lydia does in front of the family, no shame over their affair before they were married. He sits beside Elizabeth, casually chatting about mutual acquaintances in the neighborhood.

Elizabeth sees that, as she had imagined, Lydia is far more attached to Wickham than he is to her, and that he fled from Brighton to escape his debts, not out of love for Lydia. The elopement can be explained by two circumstances: his financial distress and Lydia's infatuation.

Lydia boisterously recounts for Jane and Elizabeth the details of her wedding. She was annoyed by aunt Gardiner's preaching, and by the fact that she wasn't allowed to leave the house for parties or anything before the wedding. She was worried when uncle Gardiner, who was to give her away, was called away to business just before they were to go to the church. But then she remembered that Darcy would do just as well. "Darcy!" her sisters exclaim. Oh yes, he was to bring Wickham to the church. But it was a secret. No one was supposed to know about Darcy.

In that case, says Jane, Lydia must say nothing more. But Elizabeth has to know the rest. She sits down at once and writes to her aunt, begging to know what Darcy had to do with the event.



CHAPTER FIFTY-TWO

Mrs. Gardiner answers promptly and fully: Darcy, knowing something of Wickham's past associations, was able to trace the couple. After he found them, he sought out Mr. Gardiner and informed him of what he had accomplished: he had paid Wickham's debts, paid Lydia's dowry, and bought Wickham his army commission. In return he got Wickham to agree to the marriage. All this, says Mrs. Gardiner, he insisted on doing himself. She surmises that obstinacy may be, after all, the chief defect in his character. The reason he gave for taking all this responsibility upon himself was that he held himself to blame for keeping Wickham's true character a secret from the world in general.

Elizabeth is sitting in the garden, thinking over all this, her mind in a flutter, when Wickham joins her. He mentions that he passed Darcy several times in London and wondered what he was doing there. To this outright lie Elizabeth does not respond. He asks her about her visit to Pemberley. From her careful answers he finally realizes that his lies are useless: she now knows the truth about him. She tells him that they need not quarrel about the past.

Elizabeth now has a new trouble on her mind: her family owes so much to Darcy, and she is unable to thank him for it. She can hardly even hope she will ever see him again.

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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
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