The Bennet family receives word from Colonel Forster informing them that Lydia has run off with Wickham.
August 2, 1812
Loud voices and repeated pounding awakened Jane from a deep sleep. It took her a few moments to realize that someone was knocking on the front door. She could distinguish someone speaking from outside as well as her mother’s raised voice from inside the house.
Jane’s heart thundered as she tried to comprehend what could be happening, but whatever it was, she was certain it could not be good.
She peered out her bedroom door to see Kitty scurrying down the stairs. Mary followed close behind, saying, “Oh, dear! I wonder what has happened.”
Jane trembled as she pondered what may have occurred. She put her ear to the door of the room in which the Gardiners’ children were sleeping, and when she was assured they had not been awakened by the disturbance, she followed her sisters downstairs.
The door was closing as they arrived in the hall, and they watched their father hurriedly open the letter that had just come by express.
“Oh, Mr. Bennet! Something dreadful has happened! I am certain of it!”
Jane felt a surge of alarm at the thought that something may have happened to her dear sister. She held her breath, as did the others, while they watched and waited. It seemed an eternity as they awaited Mr. Bennet’s account of the urgent letter or for some sign in his features that might reassure them nothing was terribly wrong.
At length Jane noticed his jaw tighten and face redden. It was a certain sign that he was more angry than grief-stricken. This left Jane somewhat reassured, but confused as to what news the letter contained.
He crumpled the letter in his hand. “Foolish Lydia! What was she thinking?”
Mrs. Bennet drew back. “Lydia? Oh, my heart!” she said, patting her chest. “What has happened to my dear, sweet Lydia?”
Mr. Bennet looked down at his wife. The glow from the candle Mrs. Bennet held painted his face with an eerie distortion. “It is not what happened to her, Mrs. Bennet! It is what she has done!”
“What is it, Papa?” Jane asked, feeling her heart begin to race.
“Imprudent girl! She has run off with Wickham! They stole away together at midnight, leaving behind only a note, which was discovered this morning.” Mr. Bennet shook his head. “Colonel Forster is trying to determine if anyone knew about this. He believes they have gone to Scotland, but…”
“Oh, thank goodness,” Mrs. Bennet clasped her hands together. “They plan to marry. He always liked Lydia so much. He was so attentive to her.”
“My dear Mrs. Bennet, I am certain he has likely been most attentive to her, but I would not wish that sort of attention thrust upon any of my daughters!”
“I know Lydia must be delighted. He was always one of her favourites,” Kitty said meekly.
Jane stepped back, remembering the discussion she and Elizabeth had about the man after Mr. Darcy informed her of his true nature. Her stomach churned as she considered the possibilities, none of which were reassuring. She stole a glance at Kitty, who did not at all seem surprised by the news.
“I do not like the sound of this!” Mr. Bennet said grimly. “There is no guarantee they are to be married, no chaperone for her, and no way to know for certain.”
“But if anything is amiss, the Forsters must be at fault for not protecting her. We must hold them accountable! They must ensure they marry!” Mrs. Bennet’s hands began to shake, and Kitty reached over and took the candle from her.
“Until we know more details, I shall hold Lydia accountable!” Mr. Bennet waved everyone away. “There is nothing we can do about this now. Everyone go back to your beds and try to get some sleep.”
“But how shall I sleep, not knowing what has happened to her?” Mrs. Bennet sobbed. “But they will marry! Certainly they shall marry!”
As they all turned to walk away, Kitty and Mary each took one of their mother’s arms to help her back up to her room. Jane stayed back and took her father’s hand. “Perhaps this is all a misunderstanding.”
Mr. Bennet gave her a half-hearted smile. “Yes, or perhaps we shall all wake up in the morning and find out it was just a terrible dream!” He let out a huff. “But I doubt either of those will prove to be the case!”
Jane gave her father a quick hug and turned to climb the stairs, leaving her father alone. A short while later she heard his study door close.
A tear slipped down Jane’s face as she walked into her room. “Oh, Lizzy!” Jane said in a fervent whisper. “How I wish you were here! There is no one I want by my side at this moment more than you!”
She sat down on the bed and saw the full moon shine onto the letter she had begun earlier to her sister. She rose and lit the candle on her desk and sat down. The next best thing to having Lizzy by her side to talk about all that had happened – all that might have happened – would be to put down her thoughts in a letter to her.
She began writing again, continuing where she left off earlier today.
Since writing the above, dearest Lizzy, something has occurred of a most unexpected and serious nature…