It’s our anniversary, and we’re in the mood to celebrate! Throughout February, we’re commemorating the success of Austen Variations‘ first year by dropping in on some of our favorite Austen couples on their anniversaries. We started with the Darcys and the Bingleys on the 2nd. Today, we’re visiting Lydia and Wickham. I wonder how they’re doing after twelve months together. Does connubial bliss live on, or is the honeymoon definitely over?
Mrs. Bennet was busy making herself a new cap when Hill appeared in the doorway.
“Mrs. Wickham is here, madam,” said Hill.
“Oh,” said Mrs. Bennet. “Oh, what a surprise! You should have written to tell me you were coming!” She put out her arms and Lydia launched herself into them. After a tight squeeze she set her daughter before her at arm’s length and examined her. “Let me look at you! To see you again so soon after your delivery! Where is little Charles? I cannot wait to see him.”
Mrs. Bennet looked towards the carriage expectantly.
“La, mama, you surely did not expect me to bring Charles on such a lengthy journey, though it breaks my heart to part with the little poppet. I have left him with the wet-nurse. If only you could have seen him! He has become so very handsome! I am sure he is the handsomest boy in Newcastle, but then of course with such good-looking parents, it is only to be expected. Wickham thinks he favors him, but I can assure you, he has my eyes and eyes are the most important thing, are they not, mama? Well, apart from other things, of course.”
“You get your eyes from me, my dear, and I can tell you, I had a few admirers in my day. But let us not linger. Let us go inside and you can give me all the latest news. But make haste, because we must call on Mrs. Philips to let her know you are here. She will be so jealous! Her daughters hardly ever visit her. How long are you staying? Sit down. Let me ring for refreshments. Mr. Bennet is out but he will be delighted you have come and I believe Mary has gone to consult with the curate about some church matter. I cannot believe you are here again. It has been so quiet lately. Your father disappears into the library for hours at a time, Kitty is always off visiting one of her sisters, and Mary is so very dull.”
Lydia gave out a little giggle. “Nothing has changed, then. You should go and stay with Lizzy, mama. If I could, that is what I would do. But Mr. Darcy does not like dear Wickham, so I cannot stay long. I cannot bear to be parted from my dear husband. You know, today is the first anniversary of our wedding.”
Mrs. Bennet beamed. “Is it indeed? I remember that day as if it was yesterday. Such joy! Such jubilation! You cannot conceive how pleased I was for you. The only blotch on my happiness was that I was not able to be with you when you chose your wedding clothes. But why did you not come with Wickham. If Wickham were here, I would have had a dinner party with dancing afterwards.”
Lydia sighed. “As to that, I am sure it does not matter if Wickham is here or not. Wickham is growing quite tiresome. He does not like dancing half as much as he used to. Every time we go to a ball, he disappears into the card room and I scarcely see him all evening. You must set up a few entertainments, mama, for I am dying to dance.”
The door opened and Hill appeared with tea and cake. “I see Cook is still making the same old Portugal Cake. I must ask her for a recipe. Dear Wickham has a sweet tooth.” She took a big bit and sighed contentedly. “Oh, it is good to be home.”
Mrs. Bennet bit into a piece of cake. “Yes, yes, I grant you that Cook makes a good cake, but why did Wickham not come with you? Then you would have been saved the effort of copying the recipe and we may have had a dance. Meryton may not be as big as Newcastle, but we know how to entertain ourselves. You should not have left Wickham behind.”
“La, I did not leave him behind,” said Lydia. “Wickham is always somewhere or the other, he is never still. He has so many friends and they are always inviting him to house parties.” She pouted. “I used to accompany him, but all they did all day was hunt and play cards, so I stopped.”
“So where is he now?” Mrs. Bennet was determined to satisfy her curiosity.
“He is in Town,” said Lydia, pouring herself another cup of tea. “He said he was going up to London to prepare a surprise for me for our anniversary. He was supposed to send for me, but the letter must have gone astray because I did not receive anything. The post is becoming more unreliable by the day. I plan to surprise him by going up myself. La, I shall have such a laugh when I see his face! He will be so happy to see me!”
“And so he will,” said Mrs. Bennet, smiling indulgently, “However, there is no hurry, I am sure, now that you are here. We will do very well together. You must give him time to miss you.”
Lydia considered her mother’s words. “I do believe you are right, mama. He has only been gone a month, and you know how things are in Town. There are so many distractions. Besides, he has had to look for lodgings, which is very difficult because we have limited resources. I have asked Lizzy repeatedly to approach her Mr. Darcy for funds, but she only sends me a small amounts which are scarcely more than pocket-money. I must admit, I am not very impressed with her Mr. Darcy after all. He is very miserly. I feel quite sorry for Lizzy, in fact. I am certain she has to beg for every penny. My Wickham is very generous when he has the money. Why, the other day he gave me his whole quarter’s officer’s pay. ‘Take it,’ he said, ‘or I will spend it on cards.’ Can you imagine anyone more generous? However, one of the servants must have stolen it because the next day when I looked in the drawer where I had hidden it, it was gone. I am sure I have no idea what we will live on, so I wrote to Lizzy, then, but she did not reply. I suspect she is too afraid to ask Mr. Darcy.”
“You need not say anything further, for I declare I am quite terrified of Mr. Darcy myself,” she said, patting Lydia’s hand, her voice descending into a loud whisper. “I say this to you in confidence because I would not want to offend Lizzy, but I do not believe she chose wisely. I have never liked the man. He puts on such airs and struts about as if he owned the world, I cannot feel comfortable around him. I prefer your Wickham by far. Now there is someone who is a sight for sore eyes, especially when he is in uniform. He does not fancy himself something important. And such charming manners. As for Mr. Darcy…”
I’ve always loved writing about Mrs. Bennet, and though it isn’t her anniversary, I was happy to bring her in to the story. I could not resist the little ironic touch.
Sadly, it is the end of February and the end of our Anniversary series. I hope you enjoyed our look at what the various Jane Austen couples were doing a year later.