In this last of the three-part story about Lydia and Wickham, Lydia is brought to her wedding, but not to reason, by Mrs. Gardiner.
It was after breakfast that Mr. Gardiner was called away to consult with his man of business, Mr. Stone, and Lydia was wild with fear that he would take so long, that they would not reach St. Clement’s by eleven o’clock, when the wedding was to take place.
Wait, they were forced to do, however; and Lydia in her agitation was changing her finery and tossing things into her satchel with such abandon that her tumbled undergarments were spilling out.
“Oh! Aunt. I declare I wanted to be married in blue, you know they say marry in blue your love’s so true, but my blue muslin has that horrid nasty stain on it, one of the officers spilled something white…eggnog I believe, all over me and I could not stop to have it washed, though it was so sticky. This muslin gown is so limp it is positively insipid. I want to look beautiful for my dear Wickham, and I shan’t. It is a shame.”
“Lydia, I must talk to you,” began her aunt with energy. “How can you think of your finery, rather than the wickedness of what you have done!”
“Oh Aunt, don’t start that again,” Lydia pleaded. “What have I done that thousands of girls have not. I’m getting married, any way, and I’m sure that is nothing to be ashamed of. Oh, if only I had some coral beads for this white thing. You wouldn’t think white could fade, but this is absolutely dingy. Can’t I borrow your corals?”
“The gown would remain white if you ever washed it Lydia,” said Mrs. Gardiner with tight lips. “And I think I would never see my corals again if I lent them, for you are going home to Meryton from the church door.”
“Yes, won’t it be fun? I can’t wait to show myself to my sisters, and Mama, and all the servants, as a married woman! Only think, me being married first, though I’m only sixteen, and the youngest. This makes old maids of all of them. Oh! What a joke.”
“But Lydia, you must be brought to a sense of the shame you have given your whole family. Do you not know that it is wrong, it is wicked, to – to live with a man before you are wed? It makes you a fallen woman, and if Mr. Darcy and your uncle had not taken matters in hand, you would have remained one, for Mr. Wickham was in no hurry to marry you.”
“What difference does it make?” Lydia shrugged carelessly. “I could wear my darling little red spencer jacket that I had made up at one of the shops in Brighton. I had no money for it, but Mrs. Forster lent me some. Just see what a compliment to the military it is! All corded, with braids, and frogging just like Wickham’s, and see the gold tassels? I do think I ought to shake some gold tassels on my wedding-day, don’t you?”
Mrs. Gardiner crossed the bedroom, took the spencer out of Lydia’s hands, and put it firmly into Lydia’s carpet-bag. “Certainly no gold tassels,” she said with emphasis.
Lydia tossed her head. “Well, it isn’t the colours of Wickham’s new regiment anyhow,” she said pertly. “I’m sorry he should lose his red uniform; that is why I always would have little touches of red about me, though it is too mean of you not to lend me your corals. But now he is to wear blue. To tell the truth, he will look handsomer than ever in blue.” She thought a moment. “You do have jasper earrings, aunt; couldn’t I borrow those.”
“You may not,” snapped Mrs. Gardiner. “Lydia, once and for all, I want you to understand that if Wickham had continued to refuse to marry you – and I believe he never intended such a thing – you would be, to speak plainly, ruined. Not only would you be ruined, but all your sisters! Do you not realize that? No one would ever marry Jane, or Elizabeth, or Mary, or Kitty. No decent gentleman would attach himself to the family, one of whose daughters was – “
“Never mind, Aunt, I will be married in half an hour, and then I will be quite as respectable as you,” Lydia said pertly. “Hark! Do I not hear the gentlemen leaving the study?” She ran to the door. “It is them, uncle and the other gentlemen. Now we can go to the carriage. Do hurry, Aunt. If I can’t have the jaspers, how about your blue silk handkerchief? Then I would have something blue. Oh! Wickham will look so handsome in blue. I cannot wait to see him! And only think, he will be waiting at the church, with Mr. Darcy, for me, his bride!”
“Lydia! Before we leave – do you, do you understand that you have broken God’s commandments, and must repent? Even if you are to be married, if you are not penitent, you still carry the sin. Surely you regret the trouble and misery you have brought on your family. Mr. Darcy, a stranger, is having to pay for it all – “
“Well, and why should he not? He is very rich, and like a brother to Wickham, they say. Besides, you know, I think he likes Lizzy. When I asked which he thought prettiest, he got quite red. I said, I am sure you think Jane the best looking, and I teased him until he would answer, and he said, ‘No, your next sister.’ So there’s for you, Aunt – unless Lizzy is a fool she will marry him and be rich. Though I don’t think she will have as much fun as me. Mr. Darcy is such a stick, and not half as handsome as my dear Wickham.”
Mrs. Gardiner blushed angrily in spite of herself. “Lydia, Lydia, you must not talk of such things. On your way to church to be married, you ought to think of sacred subjects, repent your sins, and vow that you will reform and lead a pure, quiet, useful, holy life.”
“But I shan’t,” said Lydia with an impish grin. “How can you think it? Me and Wickham are going to have as much fun as possible. Indeed, we already have. He is so passionate!” She sighed and closed her eyes. “I don’t suppose you know anything about passion, Aunt Gardiner, but I assure you it didn’t take long for me to learn. And I think Lizzy knows, because she had quite a fancy for Wickham you know. Too bad! It’s I who have him now!”
As Mr. Gardiner came to fetch them and the coachman picked up Lydia’s satchel, Lydia put on her red gloves with complacency, and walked out to the carriage singing a camp song, which despite all Mrs. Gardener’s efforts to get her to hush, she did not stop humming all the way to her wedding.
“O ne’er shall I forget that night,
The stars were bright above me,
And gently lent their silvery light
When first she vowed to love me.
But now I’m bound to Brighton camp –
Kind heaven then pray guide me,
And send me safely back again,
To the girl I left behind me…”