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and Wickham, and Pratt, and two or three more of the men came
in, they did not know him in the least. Lord! how I laughed! and so
did Mrs. Forster. I thought I should have died. And that made the
men suspect something, and then they soon found out what was
the matter.” With such kind of histories of their parties and good
jokes, did Lydia, assisted by Kitty’s hints and additions, endeavor
to amuse her companions all the way to Longbourn. Elizabeth
listened as little as she could, but there was no escaping the
frequent mention of Wickham’s name.

Their reception at home was most kind. Mrs. Bennet rejoiced to see
Jane in undiminished beauty; and more than once during dinner
did Mr. Bennet say voluntarily to Elizabeth-
“I am glad you are come back, Lizzy.” Their party in the dining-
room was large, for almost all the Lucases came to meet Maria and
hear the news; and various were the subjects which occupied them:
Lady Lucas was inquiring of Maria, across the table, after the
welfare and poultry of her eldest daughter; Mrs. Bennet was
doubly engaged, on one hand collecting an account of the present
fashions from Jane, who sat some way below her, and, on the
other, retailing them all to the younger Miss Lucases; and Lydia, in
a voice rather louder than any other person’s, was enumerating the
various pleasures of the morning to anybody who would hear her.
“Oh! Mary,” said she, “I wish you had gone with us, for we had
such fun! As we went along, Kitty and me drew up all the blinds,
and pretended there was nobody in the coach; and I should have
gone so all the way, if Kitty had not been sick; and when we got to
the George, I do think we behaved very handsomely, for we
treated the other three with the nicest cold luncheon in the world,
and if you would have gone, we would have treated you too. And
then when we came away it was such fun! I thought we never
should have got into the coach. I was ready to die of laughter. And
then we were so merry all the way home! we talked and laughed
so loud, that anybody might have heard us ten miles off!” To this
Mary very gravely replied, “Far be it from me, my dear sister, to
depreciate such pleasures! They would doubtless be congenial with
the generality of female minds. But I confess they would have no
charms for me-I should infinitely prefer a book.”

But of this answer Lydia heard not a word. She seldom listened to
anybody for more than half a minute, and never attended to Mary
at all.

In the afternoon Lydia was urgent with the rest of the girls to walk
to Meryton, and see how everybody went on; but Elizabeth
steadily opposed the scheme.
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