Chapter forty-seven brings Elizabeth back to Longbourn, where we find the residence unchanged by their disgrace. Mary still moralizes, Kitty is even more peevish, Jane is just as self-sacrificing, and Mrs. Bennet, still completely absurd. Even amidst such tragedy, the persistant follies of the family provide moments of black comedy, like in Mary's famous lines:
"This is a most unfortunate affair; and will probably be much talked of. But we must stem the tide of malice, and pour into the wounded bosoms of each other the balm of sisterly consolation."Lydia's note reflects particularly badly on her character, as it reveals her so selfishly oblivious to the repercussions of her actions, and so lacking in all semblance of proper feeling:
Then, perceiving in Elizabeth no inclination of replying, she added, "Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson: that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable -- that one false step involves her in endless ruin -- that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful, -- and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex."
You will laugh when you know where I am gone, and I cannot help laughing myself at your surprise to-morrow 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.Chapter forty-eight returns Mr. Bennet to Longbourn. He too, though temporarily sobered by events is largely unchanged and can already laugh at his predicament. His flippant nature, despite knowing better, perhaps renders him the most blamable of the entire family, including Lydia:
It was not till the afternoon, when he joined them at tea, that Elizabeth ventured to introduce the subject; and then, on her briefly expressing her sorrow for what he must have endured, he replied,Some mention must be made of how dreadful Mr. Collins' letter is - perhaps the worst we ever see of him (and there is a good deal of competition for that honor). Most abominable is when he congratulates himself on escaping any share in the Bennet's disgrace.
"Say nothing of that. Who would suffer but myself? It has been my own doing, and I ought to feel it."
"You must not be too severe upon yourself," replied Elizabeth.
"You may well warn me against such an evil. Human nature is so prone to fall into it! No, Lizzy, let me once in my life feel how much I have been to blame. I am not afraid of being overpowered by the impression. It will pass away soon enough."
"Do you suppose them to be in London?"
"Yes; where else can they be so well concealed?"
"And Lydia used to want to go to London," added Kitty.
"She is happy, then," said her father, drily; "and her residence there will probably be of some duration."
Then, after a short silence, he continued, "Lizzy, I bear you no ill-will for being justified in your advice to me last May, which, considering the event, shews some greatness of mind."
They were interrupted by Miss Bennet, who came to fetch her mother's tea.
"This is a parade," cried he, "which does one good; it gives such an elegance to misfortune! Another day I will do the same; I will sit in my library, in my night cap and powdering gown, and give as much trouble as I can, -- or, perhaps, I may defer it till Kitty runs away."
"I am not going to run away, Papa," said Kitty, fretfully; "if I should ever go to Brighton, I would behave better than Lydia."
"You go to Brighton! -- I would not trust you so near it as East-Bourne, for fifty pounds! No, Kitty, I have at last learnt to be cautious, and you will feel the effects of it. No officer is ever to enter my house again, nor even to pass through the village. Balls will be absolutely prohibited, unless you stand up with one of your sisters. And you are never to stir out of doors till you can prove that you have spent ten minutes of every day in a rational manner."
Kitty, who took all these threats in a serious light, began to cry.
"Well, well," said he, "do not make yourself unhappy. If you are a good girl for the next ten years, I will take you to a review at the end of them."
Chapter forty-nine brings a tempered form of good news. As Elizabeth wisely reflects: "And for this we are to be thankful. That they should marry, small as is their chance of happiness, and wretched as is his character, we are forced to rejoice! Oh, Lydia!" We see Mr. Bennet in a humbler mood: more self-deprecating than he is ever appears elsewhere. But Mrs. Bennet, if possible is proven even more ridiculous than previously supposed, as all her anguish converts to instant glee. It will be hard for any member of the household to ever again pay credence to her nerves.