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Chapter 43

Jane AustenAug 15, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched
for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some
perturbation; and when at length they turned in at
the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.

The park was very large, and contained
great variety of ground.  They entered it in one
of its lowest points, and drove for some time through
a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent.

Elizabeth’s mind was too full
for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable
spot and point of view.  They gradually ascended
for half-a-mile, and then found themselves at the
top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased,
and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House,
situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which
the road with some abruptness wound.  It was a
large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising
ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills;
and in front, a stream of some natural importance was
swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. 
Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. 
Elizabeth was delighted.  She had never seen a
place for which nature had done more, or where natural
beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward
taste.  They were all of them warm in their admiration;
and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of
Pemberley might be something!

They descended the hill, crossed the
bridge, and drove to the door; and, while examining
the nearer aspect of the house, all her apprehension
of meeting its owner returned.  She dreaded lest
the chambermaid had been mistaken.  On applying
to see the place, they were admitted into the hall;
and Elizabeth, as they waited for the housekeeper,
had leisure to wonder at her being where she was.

The housekeeper came; a respectable-looking
elderly woman, much less fine, and more civil, than
she had any notion of finding her.  They followed
her into the dining-parlour.  It was a large, well
proportioned room, handsomely fitted up.  Elizabeth,
after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy
its prospect.  The hill, crowned with wood, which
they had descended, receiving increased abruptness
from the distance, was a beautiful object.  Every
disposition of the ground was good; and she looked
on the whole scene, the river, the trees scattered
on its banks and the winding of the valley, as far
as she could trace it, with delight.  As they
passed into other rooms these objects were taking
different positions; but from every window there were
beauties to be seen.  The rooms were lofty and
handsome, and their furniture suitable to the fortune
of its proprietor; but Elizabeth saw, with admiration
of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly
fine; with less of splendour, and more real elegance,
than the furniture of Rosings.

“And of this place,” thought
she, “I might have been mistress!  With
these rooms I might now have been familiarly acquainted! 
Instead of viewing them as a stranger, I might have
rejoiced in them as my own, and welcomed to them as
visitors my uncle and aunt.  But no,” ­recollecting
herself ­“that could never be; my uncle
and aunt would have been lost to me; I should not
have been allowed to invite them.”

This was a lucky recollection ­it
saved her from something very like regret.

She longed to inquire of the housekeeper
whether her master was really absent, but had not
the courage for it.  At length however, the question
was asked by her uncle; and she turned away with alarm,
while Mrs. Reynolds replied that he was, adding, “But
we expect him to-morrow, with a large party of friends.” 
How rejoiced was Elizabeth that their own journey
had not by any circumstance been delayed a day!

Her aunt now called her to look at
a picture.  She approached and saw the likeness
of Mr. Wickham, suspended, amongst several other miniatures,
over the mantelpiece.  Her aunt asked her, smilingly,
how she liked it.  The housekeeper came forward,
and told them it was a picture of a young gentleman,
the son of her late master’s steward, who had
been brought up by him at his own expense.  “He
is now gone into the army,” she added; “but
I am afraid he has turned out very wild.”

Mrs. Gardiner looked at her niece
with a smile, but Elizabeth could not return it.

“And that,” said Mrs.
Reynolds, pointing to another of the miniatures, “is
my master ­and very like him.  It was
drawn at the same time as the other ­about
eight years ago.”

“I have heard much of your master’s
fine person,” said Mrs. Gardiner, looking at
the picture; “it is a handsome face.  But,
Lizzy, you can tell us whether it is like or not.”

Mrs. Reynolds respect for Elizabeth
seemed to increase on this intimation of her knowing
her master.

“Does that young lady know Mr. Darcy?”

Elizabeth coloured, and said:  “A little.”

“And do not you think him a very handsome gentleman,
ma’am?”

“Yes, very handsome.”

“I am sure I know none so handsome;
but in the gallery upstairs you will see a finer,
larger picture of him than this.  This room was
my late master’s favourite room, and these miniatures
are just as they used to be then.  He was very
fond of them.”

This accounted to Elizabeth for Mr. Wickham’s
being among them.

Mrs. Reynolds then directed their
attention to one of Miss Darcy, drawn when she was
only eight years old.

“And is Miss Darcy as handsome as her brother?”
said Mrs. Gardiner.

“Oh! yes ­the handsomest
young lady that ever was seen; and so accomplished! ­She
plays and sings all day long.  In the next room
is a new instrument just come down for her ­a
present from my master; she comes here to-morrow with
him.”

Mr. Gardiner, whose manners were very
easy and pleasant, encouraged her communicativeness
by his questions and remarks; Mrs. Reynolds, either
by pride or attachment, had evidently great pleasure
in talking of her master and his sister.

“Is your master much at Pemberley
in the course of the year?”

“Not so much as I could wish,
sir; but I dare say he may spend half his time here;
and Miss Darcy is always down for the summer months.”

“Except,” thought Elizabeth, “when
she goes to Ramsgate.”

“If your master would marry, you might see more
of him.”

“Yes, sir; but I do not know
when that will be.  I do not know who is
good enough for him.”

Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner smiled. 
Elizabeth could not help saying, “It is very
much to his credit, I am sure, that you should think
so.”

“I say no more than the truth,
and everybody will say that knows him,” replied
the other.  Elizabeth thought this was going pretty
far; and she listened with increasing astonishment
as the housekeeper added, “I have never known
a cross word from him in my life, and I have known
him ever since he was four years old.”

This was praise, of all others most
extraordinary, most opposite to her ideas.  That
he was not a good-tempered man had been her firmest
opinion.  Her keenest attention was awakened;
she longed to hear more, and was grateful to her uncle
for saying: 

“There are very few people of
whom so much can be said.  You are lucky in having
such a master.”

“Yes, sir, I know I am. 
If I were to go through the world, I could not meet
with a better.  But I have always observed, that
they who are good-natured when children, are good-natured
when they grow up; and he was always the sweetest-tempered,
most generous-hearted boy in the world.”

Elizabeth almost stared at her. 
“Can this be Mr. Darcy?” thought she.

“His father was an excellent man,” said
Mrs. Gardiner.

“Yes, ma’am, that he was
indeed; and his son will be just like him ­just
as affable to the poor.”

Elizabeth listened, wondered, doubted,
and was impatient for more.  Mrs. Reynolds could
interest her on no other point.  She related the
subjects of the pictures, the dimensions of the rooms,
and the price of the furniture, in vain.  Mr.
Gardiner, highly amused by the kind of family prejudice
to which he attributed her excessive commendation of
her master, soon led again to the subject; and she
dwelt with energy on his many merits as they proceeded
together up the great staircase.

“He is the best landlord, and
the best master,” said she, “that ever
lived; not like the wild young men nowadays, who think
of nothing but themselves.  There is not one of
his tenants or servants but will give him a good name. 
Some people call him proud; but I am sure I never saw
anything of it.  To my fancy, it is only because
he does not rattle away like other young men.”

“In what an amiable light does
this place him!” thought Elizabeth.

“This fine account of him,”
whispered her aunt as they walked, “is not quite
consistent with his behaviour to our poor friend.”

“Perhaps we might be deceived.”

“That is not very likely; our authority was
too good.”

On reaching the spacious lobby above
they were shown into a very pretty sitting-room, lately
fitted up with greater elegance and lightness than
the apartments below; and were informed that it was
but just done to give pleasure to Miss Darcy, who
had taken a liking to the room when last at Pemberley.

“He is certainly a good brother,”
said Elizabeth, as she walked towards one of the windows.

Mrs. Reynolds anticipated Miss Darcy’s
delight, when she should enter the room.  “And
this is always the way with him,” she added. 
“Whatever can give his sister any pleasure is
sure to be done in a moment.  There is nothing
he would not do for her.”

The picture-gallery, and two or three
of the principal bedrooms, were all that remained
to be shown.  In the former were many good paintings;
but Elizabeth knew nothing of the art; and from such
as had been already visible below, she had willingly
turned to look at some drawings of Miss Darcy’s,
in crayons, whose subjects were usually more interesting,
and also more intelligible.

In the gallery there were many family
portraits, but they could have little to fix the attention
of a stranger.  Elizabeth walked in quest of the
only face whose features would be known to her. 
At last it arrested her ­and she beheld
a striking resemblance to Mr. Darcy, with such a smile
over the face as she remembered to have sometimes seen
when he looked at her.  She stood several minutes
before the picture, in earnest contemplation, and
returned to it again before they quitted the gallery. 
Mrs. Reynolds informed them that it had been taken
in his father’s lifetime.

There was certainly at this moment,
in Elizabeth’s mind, a more gentle sensation
towards the original than she had ever felt at the
height of their acquaintance.  The commendation
bestowed on him by Mrs. Reynolds was of no trifling
nature.  What praise is more valuable than the
praise of an intelligent servant?  As a brother,
a landlord, a master, she considered how many people’s
happiness were in his guardianship! ­how
much of pleasure or pain was it in his power to bestow! ­how
much of good or evil must be done by him!  Every
idea that had been brought forward by the housekeeper
was favourable to his character, and as she stood
before the canvas on which he was represented, and
fixed his eyes upon herself, she thought of his regard
with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever
raised before; she remembered its warmth, and softened
its impropriety of expression.

When all of the house that was open
to general inspection had been seen, they returned
downstairs, and, taking leave of the housekeeper, were
consigned over to the gardener, who met them at the
hall-door.

As they walked across the hall towards
the river, Elizabeth turned back to look again; her
uncle and aunt stopped also, and while the former
was conjecturing as to the date of the building, the
owner of it himself suddenly came forward from the
road, which led behind it to the stables.

They were within twenty yards of each
other, and so abrupt was his appearance, that it was
impossible to avoid his sight.  Their eyes instantly
met, and the cheeks of both were overspread with the
deepest blush.  He absolutely started, and for
a moment seemed immovable from surprise; but shortly
recovering himself, advanced towards the party, and
spoke to Elizabeth, if not in terms of perfect composure,
at least of perfect civility.

She had instinctively turned away;
but stopping on his approach, received his compliments
with an embarrassment impossible to be overcome. 
Had his first appearance, or his resemblance to the
picture they had just been examining, been insufficient
to assure the other two that they now saw Mr. Darcy,
the gardener’s expression of surprise, on beholding
his master, must immediately have told it.  They
stood a little aloof while he was talking to their
niece, who, astonished and confused, scarcely dared
lift her eyes to his face, and knew not what answer
she returned to his civil inquiries after her family. 
Amazed at the alteration of his manner since they
last parted, every sentence that he uttered was increasing
her embarrassment; and every idea of the impropriety
of her being found there recurring to her mind, the
few minutes in which they continued were some of the
most uncomfortable in her life.  Nor did he seem
much more at ease; when he spoke, his accent had none
of its usual sedateness; and he repeated his inquiries
as to the time of her having left Longbourn, and of
her having stayed in Derbyshire, so often, and in
so hurried a way, as plainly spoke the distraction
of his thoughts.

At length every idea seemed to fail
him; and, after standing a few moments without saying
a word, he suddenly recollected himself, and took
leave.

The others then joined her, and expressed
admiration of his figure; but Elizabeth heard not
a word, and wholly engrossed by her own feelings,
followed them in silence.  She was overpowered
by shame and vexation.  Her coming there was the
most unfortunate, the most ill-judged thing in the
world!  How strange it must appear to him! 
In what a disgraceful light might it not strike so
vain a man!  It might seem as if she had purposely
thrown herself in his way again!  Oh! why did she
come?  Or, why did he thus come a day before he
was expected?  Had they been only ten minutes
sooner, they should have been beyond the reach of his
discrimination; for it was plain that he was that
moment arrived ­that moment alighted from
his horse or his carriage.  She blushed again and
again over the perverseness of the meeting.  And
his behaviour, so strikingly altered ­what
could it mean?  That he should even speak to her
was amazing! ­but to speak with such civility,
to inquire after her family!  Never in her life
had she seen his manners so little dignified, never
had he spoken with such gentleness as on this unexpected
meeting.  What a contrast did it offer to his
last address in Rosings Park, when he put his letter
into her hand!  She knew not what to think, or
how to account for it.

They had now entered a beautiful walk
by the side of the water, and every step was bringing
forward a nobler fall of ground, or a finer reach
of the woods to which they were approaching; but it
was some time before Elizabeth was sensible of any
of it; and, though she answered mechanically to the
repeated appeals of her uncle and aunt, and seemed
to direct her eyes to such objects as they pointed
out, she distinguished no part of the scene. 
Her thoughts were all fixed on that one spot of Pemberley
House, whichever it might be, where Mr. Darcy then
was.  She longed to know what at the moment was
passing in his mind ­in what manner he thought
of her, and whether, in defiance of everything, she
was still dear to him.  Perhaps he had been civil
only because he felt himself at ease; yet there had
been that in his voice which was not like ease. 
Whether he had felt more of pain or of pleasure in
seeing her she could not tell, but he certainly had
not seen her with composure.

At length, however, the remarks of
her companions on her absence of mind aroused her,
and she felt the necessity of appearing more like herself.

They entered the woods, and bidding
adieu to the river for a while, ascended some of the
higher grounds; when, in spots where the opening of
the trees gave the eye power to wander, were many charming
views of the valley, the opposite hills, with the
long range of woods overspreading many, and occasionally
part of the stream.  Mr. Gardiner expressed a wish
of going round the whole park, but feared it might
be beyond a walk.  With a triumphant smile they
were told that it was ten miles round.  It settled
the matter; and they pursued the accustomed circuit;
which brought them again, after some time, in a descent
among hanging woods, to the edge of the water, and
one of its narrowest parts.  They crossed it by
a simple bridge, in character with the general air
of the scene; it was a spot less adorned than any
they had yet visited; and the valley, here contracted
into a glen, allowed room only for the stream, and
a narrow walk amidst the rough coppice-wood which bordered
it.  Elizabeth longed to explore its windings;
but when they had crossed the bridge, and perceived
their distance from the house, Mrs. Gardiner, who
was not a great walker, could go no farther, and thought
only of returning to the carriage as quickly as possible. 
Her niece was, therefore, obliged to submit, and they
took their way towards the house on the opposite side
of the river, in the nearest direction; but their
progress was slow, for Mr. Gardiner, though seldom
able to indulge the taste, was very fond of fishing,
and was so much engaged in watching the occasional
appearance of some trout in the water, and talking
to the man about them, that he advanced but little. 
Whilst wandering on in this slow manner, they were
again surprised, and Elizabeth’s astonishment
was quite equal to what it had been at first, by the
sight of Mr. Darcy approaching them, and at no great
distance.  The walk being here less sheltered
than on the other side, allowed them to see him before
they met.  Elizabeth, however astonished, was at
least more prepared for an interview than before,
and resolved to appear and to speak with calmness,
if he really intended to meet them.  For a few
moments, indeed, she felt that he would probably strike
into some other path.  The idea lasted while a
turning in the walk concealed him from their view;
the turning past, he was immediately before them. 
With a glance, she saw that he had lost none of his
recent civility; and, to imitate his politeness, she
began, as they met, to admire the beauty of the place;
but she had not got beyond the words “delightful,”
and “charming,” when some unlucky recollections
obtruded, and she fancied that praise of Pemberley
from her might be mischievously construed.  Her
colour changed, and she said no more.

Mrs. Gardiner was standing a little
behind; and on her pausing, he asked her if she would
do him the honour of introducing him to her friends. 
This was a stroke of civility for which she was quite
unprepared; and she could hardly suppress a smile
at his being now seeking the acquaintance of some
of those very people against whom his pride had revolted
in his offer to herself.  “What will be his
surprise,” thought she, “when he knows
who they are?  He takes them now for people of
fashion.”

The introduction, however, was immediately
made; and as she named their relationship to herself,
she stole a sly look at him, to see how he bore it,
and was not without the expectation of his decamping
as fast as he could from such disgraceful companions. 
That he was surprised by the connection was
evident; he sustained it, however, with fortitude,
and so far from going away, turned his back with them,
and entered into conversation with Mr. Gardiner. 
Elizabeth could not but be pleased, could not but
triumph.  It was consoling that he should know
she had some relations for whom there was no need
to blush.  She listened most attentively to all
that passed between them, and gloried in every expression,
every sentence of her uncle, which marked his intelligence,
his taste, or his good manners.

The conversation soon turned upon
fishing; and she heard Mr. Darcy invite him, with
the greatest civility, to fish there as often as he
chose while he continued in the neighbourhood, offering
at the same time to supply him with fishing tackle,
and pointing out those parts of the stream where there
was usually most sport.  Mrs. Gardiner, who was
walking arm-in-arm with Elizabeth, gave her a look
expressive of wonder.  Elizabeth said nothing,
but it gratified her exceedingly; the compliment must
be all for herself.  Her astonishment, however,
was extreme, and continually was she repeating, “Why
is he so altered?  From what can it proceed? 
It cannot be for me ­it cannot be
for my sake that his manners are thus softened. 
My reproofs at Hunsford could not work such a change
as this.  It is impossible that he should still
love me.”

After walking some time in this way,
the two ladies in front, the two gentlemen behind,
on resuming their places, after descending to the
brink of the river for the better inspection of some
curious water-plant, there chanced to be a little
alteration.  It originated in Mrs. Gardiner, who,
fatigued by the exercise of the morning, found Elizabeth’s
arm inadequate to her support, and consequently preferred
her husband’s.  Mr. Darcy took her place
by her niece, and they walked on together.  After
a short silence, the lady first spoke.  She wished
him to know that she had been assured of his absence
before she came to the place, and accordingly began
by observing, that his arrival had been very unexpected ­“for
your housekeeper,” she added, “informed
us that you would certainly not be here till to-morrow;
and indeed, before we left Bakewell, we understood
that you were not immediately expected in the country.” 
He acknowledged the truth of it all, and said that
business with his steward had occasioned his coming
forward a few hours before the rest of the party with
whom he had been travelling.  “They will
join me early to-morrow,” he continued, “and
among them are some who will claim an acquaintance
with you ­Mr. Bingley and his sisters.”

Elizabeth answered only by a slight
bow.  Her thoughts were instantly driven back
to the time when Mr. Bingley’s name had been
the last mentioned between them; and, if she might
judge by his complexion, his mind was not very
differently engaged.

“There is also one other person
in the party,” he continued after a pause, “who
more particularly wishes to be known to you.  Will
you allow me, or do I ask too much, to introduce my
sister to your acquaintance during your stay at Lambton?”

The surprise of such an application
was great indeed; it was too great for her to know
in what manner she acceded to it.  She immediately
felt that whatever desire Miss Darcy might have of
being acquainted with her must be the work of her
brother, and, without looking farther, it was satisfactory;
it was gratifying to know that his resentment had not
made him think really ill of her.

They now walked on in silence, each
of them deep in thought.  Elizabeth was not comfortable;
that was impossible; but she was flattered and pleased. 
His wish of introducing his sister to her was a compliment
of the highest kind.  They soon outstripped the
others, and when they had reached the carriage, Mr.
and Mrs. Gardiner were half a quarter of a mile behind.

He then asked her to walk into the
house ­but she declared herself not tired,
and they stood together on the lawn.  At such a
time much might have been said, and silence was very
awkward.  She wanted to talk, but there seemed
to be an embargo on every subject.  At last she
recollected that she had been travelling, and they
talked of Matlock and Dove Dale with great perseverance. 
Yet time and her aunt moved slowly ­and her
patience and her ideas were nearly worn our before
the tete-a-tete was over.  On Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner’s
coming up they were all pressed to go into the house
and take some refreshment; but this was declined, and
they parted on each side with utmost politeness. 
Mr. Darcy handed the ladies into the carriage; and
when it drove off, Elizabeth saw him walking slowly
towards the house.

The observations of her uncle and
aunt now began; and each of them pronounced him to
be infinitely superior to anything they had expected. 
“He is perfectly well behaved, polite, and unassuming,”
said her uncle.

“There is something a
little stately in him, to be sure,” replied her
aunt, “but it is confined to his air, and is
not unbecoming.  I can now say with the housekeeper,
that though some people may call him proud, I have
seen nothing of it.”

“I was never more surprised
than by his behaviour to us.  It was more than
civil; it was really attentive; and there was no necessity
for such attention.  His acquaintance with Elizabeth
was very trifling.”

“To be sure, Lizzy,” said
her aunt, “he is not so handsome as Wickham;
or, rather, he has not Wickham’s countenance,
for his features are perfectly good.  But how
came you to tell me that he was so disagreeable?”

Elizabeth excused herself as well
as she could; said that she had liked him better when
they had met in Kent than before, and that she had
never seen him so pleasant as this morning.

“But perhaps he may be a little
whimsical in his civilities,” replied her uncle. 
“Your great men often are; and therefore I shall
not take him at his word, as he might change his mind
another day, and warn me off his grounds.”

Elizabeth felt that they had entirely
misunderstood his character, but said nothing.

“From what we have seen of him,”
continued Mrs. Gardiner, “I really should not
have thought that he could have behaved in so cruel
a way by anybody as he has done by poor Wickham. 
He has not an ill-natured look.  On the contrary,
there is something pleasing about his mouth when he
speaks.  And there is something of dignity in his
countenance that would not give one an unfavourable
idea of his heart.  But, to be sure, the good
lady who showed us his house did give him a most flaming
character!  I could hardly help laughing aloud
sometimes.  But he is a liberal master, I suppose,
and that in the eye of a servant comprehends
every virtue.”

Elizabeth here felt herself called
on to say something in vindication of his behaviour
to Wickham; and therefore gave them to understand,
in as guarded a manner as she could, that by what
she had heard from his relations in Kent, his actions
were capable of a very different construction; and
that his character was by no means so faulty, nor
Wickham’s so amiable, as they had been considered
in Hertfordshire.  In confirmation of this, she
related the particulars of all the pecuniary transactions
in which they had been connected, without actually
naming her authority, but stating it to be such as
might be relied on.

Mrs. Gardiner was surprised and concerned;
but as they were now approaching the scene of her
former pleasures, every idea gave way to the charm
of recollection; and she was too much engaged in pointing
out to her husband all the interesting spots in its
environs to think of anything else.  Fatigued
as she had been by the morning’s walk they had
no sooner dined than she set off again in quest of
her former acquaintance, and the evening was spent
in the satisfactions of a intercourse renewed after
many years’ discontinuance.

The occurrences of the day were too
full of interest to leave Elizabeth much attention
for any of these new friends; and she could do nothing
but think, and think with wonder, of Mr. Darcy’s
civility, and, above all, of his wishing her to be
acquainted with his sister.

 

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