The morning post brought a letter from Longbourn to Gracechurch Street. Mrs. Gardiner was delighted to recognize Lizzy’s handwriting on the outside. Jane’s letter reporting the arrival of the newlyweds at Longbourn had satisfied her basic curiosity on the subject, but she knew she could count on Lizzy to provide a more amusing version. She settled herself in her favorite chair to enjoy it.
She was disappointed to see how brief it was, but as she began to peruse it, those thoughts were replaced by astonishment. By the time she reached the last line, she was already on her feet and hurrying to her husband’s study, where Mr. Gardiner peered at her over his ledger with an inquiring look.
Mrs. Gardiner waved the letter. “Oh, my dear, I have just received the most startling intelligence from Lizzy! It seems she had no knowledge of Mr. Darcy’s involvement in Lydia’s marriage, and she writes to me asking for an explanation after Lydia let something slip about his presence at the wedding.”
Mr. Gardiner’s brows drew together. “She was not aware of it? How can that be? She herself admitted in Lambton that she had told Darcy of their elopement. Of course, he never told me directly that she was aware of his involvement, but I would never have allowed him to act as he did but for the belief of her being a concerned party!”
“I know, my dear. Everything pointed to Lizzy’s involvement – his ability to find our house in London, his detailed knowledge of the situation; and of course his admiration of her at Pemberley could not be denied!” She handed him the letter.
He scanned it with a frown. “I assumed that he would be a member of the family very soon. What must he have thought of me, to accept such a sum from a man wholly unconnected to us?”
Mrs. Gardiner laughed. “Do you suppose it would have made any difference, had you refused his assistance? I have never met any gentleman so determined on following his own course. If you had declined his offer, he would simply have gone ahead with it on his own.”
“But why has he not made Lizzy an offer? Everything points in that direction.”
“Perhaps he wished the matter of Lydia to be resolved before he spoke to her?” Mrs. Gardiner suggested.
“Perhaps so. After all, it would be better to allow this scandal to die down before tying the proud Darcy name to the Bennet family.”
“Well, I for one hope he does not wait long! Poor Lizzy must be in such suspense. I will have to send her a reply without delay.” She turned to go, then looked back over her shoulder with an arch smile. “Oh, how I will tease her about her great conquest!”