"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 any thing of their plan, 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."
"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! 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. Kitty then owned, with a very natural triumph
on knowing more than the rest of us, 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 ill 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!"
"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."
"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 tomorrow 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, LYDIA BENNET."