HAPPY FOR ALL HER MATERNAL feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters. With what delighted pride she afterwards visited the new Mrs. Bingley, and talked of the new Mrs. Darcy, may be guessed. I wish I could say, for the sake of her family, that the accomplishment of seeing so many of her children happily settled made her a sensible, amiable, well-informed woman for the rest of her life; though perhaps it was lucky for her husband, who took such pleasure in teasing her, that she still was occasionally nervous and invariably silly.
Mr. Bennet missed his second daughter exceedingly; his affection for her drew him oftener from home than anything else could do. He delighted in going to Pemberley, especially when he was least expected.
As Mr. Bennet had predicted, Hertfordshire also longed for the company of its two fiercest protectors. In the days and months proceeding, with only two of the younger Bennet sisters to ward them off, the zombies descended in ever greater numbers, until Colonel Forster returned with the militia and set the burning grounds afire once more.
Mr. Bingley and Jane remained at Netherfield only a twelvemonth. Jane could not bear to be so close to Longbourn as a married woman; for every unmentionable attack made her long for her sword. The darling wish of Mr. Bingley’s sisters was then gratified; he bought an estate in a neighbouring county to Derbyshire, and Jane and Elizabeth, in addition to every other source of happiness, were within thirty miles of each other. Determined that they should keep their skills sharp, though His Majesty no longer required them to do so, their husbands built them a sparring cottage precisely between the two estates, in which the sisters met joyously and often.
Kitty, to her very material advantage, spent the chief of her time with her two elder sisters. In society so superior to what she had generally known, her improvement was great. She was not of so ungovernable a temper as Lydia; and, removed from the influence of Lydia’s example, she became, by proper attention and management, less irritable, less ignorant, and less insipid. When she announced that she should like to return to Shaolin, for two or three years, in hopes of becoming as fine a warrior as Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy was only too happy to pay for the whole.
Mary was the only daughter who remained at home; both by the necessity of there being at least one warrior to protect Hertfordshire, and Mrs. Bennet’s being quite unable to sit alone. As she was no longer mortified by comparisons between her sisters’ beauty and her own, Mary began to mix more with the world, eventually taking up rather intimate, infrequent, friendships with several soldiers of the returned militia.
As for Wickham and Lydia, their characters suffered no revolution from the marriage of her sisters. In spite of every thing, they were not wholly without hope that Darcy might yet be prevailed on to make Wickham’s fortune. The congratulatory letter which Elizabeth received from Lydia on her marriage, explained to her that, by his wife at least, if not by himself, such a hope was cherished. The letter was to this effect:
MY DEAR LIZZY,
I wish you joy. If you love Mr. Darcy half as well as I do my Dear, lame Wickham, you must be very happy. It is a great comfort to have you so rich, and when you have nothing else to do, I hope you will think of us. I am sure Wickham would like a parsonage very much when he is finished at seminary, and I do not think we shall have quite money enough to live upon without some help. Any parsonage would do, of about three or four hundred a year; but however, do not speak to Mr. Darcy about it, if you had rather not. I must be off, as my beloved has soiled himself anew.
Elizabeth endeavoured in her answer to put an end to every entreaty and expectation of the kind. Such relief, however, as it was in her power to afford, in the form of fresh linens and salted beef, she frequently sent them. It had always been evident to her that such an income as theirs, under the direction of two persons so extravagant in their wants, and heedless of the future, must be very insufficient to their support; and whenever Wickham’s studies required the purchase of a new hymnal for the lame, or lectern for the lame, or altar for the lame; either Jane or herself were sure of being applied to for some little assistance towards discharging their bills.
Though Darcy could never receive him at Pemberley, for Elizabeth’s sake, he assisted him further in his profession. Lydia was occasionally a visitor there, when her husband was gone to minister in the asylums of London; and with the Bingleys they both of them frequently stayed so long, that even Bingley’s good humour was overcome, and he proceeded so far as to talk of giving them a hint to be gone.
Miss Bingley was very deeply mortified by Darcy’s marriage; but as she thought it advisable to retain the right of visiting at Pemberley, she dropt all her resentment; was fonder than ever of Georgiana, almost as attentive to Darcy as heretofore, and paid off every arrear of civility to Elizabeth.
Pemberley was now Georgiana’s home; and the attachment of the sisters was exactly what Darcy had hoped to see. They were able to love each other even as well as they intended. Georgiana had the highest opinion in the world of Elizabeth; though at first she often listened with an astonishment bordering on alarm at her lively, sportive, manner of talking to her brother, and cringed at her tales of ripping the beating hearts from the chests of untold enemies. Through Elizabeth’s instructions, Miss Darcy became a finer warrior than she ever dared hope-for beyond improving her musketry and bladesmanship, she also began to comprehend that a woman may take liberties with her husband which a brother will not always allow in a sister more than ten years younger than himself.
Lady Catherine was extremely indignant on the marriage of her nephew; and her reply to the letter which announced its arrangement came not in written form, but in the form of an attack on Pemberley by five-and-ten of her ladyship’s ninjas. For some time after this was thwarted, all intercourse was at an end. But at length, by Elizabeth’s persuasion, he was prevailed on to seek a reconciliation; and, after a little further resistance on the part of his aunt, her resentment gave way, either to her affection for him, or her curiosity to see how his wife conducted herself; and she condescended to wait on them at Pemberley, in spite of that pollution which its woods had received, not merely from the presence of such a mistress, but the visits of her uncle and aunt-with whom Darcy and Elizabeth were always on the most intimate terms.
Like so many before it, her ladyship’s serum proved folly, for while it slowed some effects of the strange plague, it was helpless to stop them all. England remained in the shadow of Satan. The dead continued to claw their way through crypt and coffin alike, feasting on British brains. Victories were celebrated, defeats lamented. And the sisters Bennet-servants of His Majesty, protectors of Hertfordshire, beholders of the secrets of Shaolin, and brides of death-were now, three of them, brides of man, their swords quieted by that only force more powerful than any warrior.