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Chapter 44

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

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Elizabeth had settled it that Mr.
Darcy would bring his sister to visit her the very
day after her reaching Pemberley; and was consequently
resolved not to be out of sight of the inn the whole
of that morning.  But her conclusion was false;
for on the very morning after their arrival at Lambton,
these visitors came.  They had been walking about
the place with some of their new friends, and were
just returning to the inn to dress themselves for
dining with the same family, when the sound of a carriage
drew them to a window, and they saw a gentleman and
a lady in a curricle driving up the street.  Elizabeth
immediately recognizing the livery, guessed what it
meant, and imparted no small degree of her surprise
to her relations by acquainting them with the honour
which she expected.  Her uncle and aunt were all
amazement; and the embarrassment of her manner as
she spoke, joined to the circumstance itself, and many
of the circumstances of the preceding day, opened to
them a new idea on the business.  Nothing had
ever suggested it before, but they felt that there
was no other way of accounting for such attentions
from such a quarter than by supposing a partiality
for their niece.  While these newly-born notions
were passing in their heads, the perturbation of Elizabeth’s
feelings was at every moment increasing.  She was
quite amazed at her own discomposure; but amongst
other causes of disquiet, she dreaded lest the partiality
of the brother should have said too much in her favour;
and, more than commonly anxious to please, she naturally
suspected that every power of pleasing would fail her.

She retreated from the window, fearful
of being seen; and as she walked up and down the room,
endeavouring to compose herself, saw such looks of
inquiring surprise in her uncle and aunt as made everything
worse.

Miss Darcy and her brother appeared,
and this formidable introduction took place. 
With astonishment did Elizabeth see that her new acquaintance
was at least as much embarrassed as herself.  Since
her being at Lambton, she had heard that Miss Darcy
was exceedingly proud; but the observation of a very
few minutes convinced her that she was only exceedingly
shy.  She found it difficult to obtain even a word
from her beyond a monosyllable.

Miss Darcy was tall, and on a larger
scale than Elizabeth; and, though little more than
sixteen, her figure was formed, and her appearance
womanly and graceful.  She was less handsome than
her brother; but there was sense and good humour in
her face, and her manners were perfectly unassuming
and gentle.  Elizabeth, who had expected to find
in her as acute and unembarrassed an observer as ever
Mr. Darcy had been, was much relieved by discerning
such different feelings.

They had not long been together before
Mr. Darcy told her that Bingley was also coming to
wait on her; and she had barely time to express her
satisfaction, and prepare for such a visitor, when
Bingley’s quick step was heard on the stairs,
and in a moment he entered the room.  All Elizabeth’s
anger against him had been long done away; but had
she still felt any, it could hardly have stood its
ground against the unaffected cordiality with which
he expressed himself on seeing her again.  He
inquired in a friendly, though general way, after her
family, and looked and spoke with the same good-humoured
ease that he had ever done.

To Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner he was scarcely
a less interesting personage than to herself. 
They had long wished to see him.  The whole party
before them, indeed, excited a lively attention. 
The suspicions which had just arisen of Mr. Darcy
and their niece directed their observation towards
each with an earnest though guarded inquiry; and they
soon drew from those inquiries the full conviction
that one of them at least knew what it was to love. 
Of the lady’s sensations they remained a little
in doubt; but that the gentleman was overflowing with
admiration was evident enough.

Elizabeth, on her side, had much to
do.  She wanted to ascertain the feelings of each
of her visitors; she wanted to compose her own, and
to make herself agreeable to all; and in the latter
object, where she feared most to fail, she was most
sure of success, for those to whom she endeavoured
to give pleasure were prepossessed in her favour. 
Bingley was ready, Georgiana was eager, and Darcy
determined, to be pleased.

In seeing Bingley, her thoughts naturally
flew to her sister; and, oh! how ardently did she
long to know whether any of his were directed in a
like manner.  Sometimes she could fancy that he
talked less than on former occasions, and once or
twice pleased herself with the notion that, as he
looked at her, he was trying to trace a resemblance. 
But, though this might be imaginary, she could not
be deceived as to his behaviour to Miss Darcy, who
had been set up as a rival to Jane.  No look appeared
on either side that spoke particular regard.  Nothing
occurred between them that could justify the hopes
of his sister.  On this point she was soon satisfied;
and two or three little circumstances occurred ere
they parted, which, in her anxious interpretation,
denoted a recollection of Jane not untinctured by
tenderness, and a wish of saying more that might lead
to the mention of her, had he dared.  He observed
to her, at a moment when the others were talking together,
and in a tone which had something of real regret,
that it “was a very long time since he had had
the pleasure of seeing her;” and, before she
could reply, he added, “It is above eight months. 
We have not met since the 26th of November, when we
were all dancing together at Netherfield.”

Elizabeth was pleased to find his
memory so exact; and he afterwards took occasion to
ask her, when unattended to by any of the rest, whether
all her sisters were at Longbourn.  There
was not much in the question, nor in the preceding
remark; but there was a look and a manner which gave
them meaning.

It was not often that she could turn
her eyes on Mr. Darcy himself; but, whenever she did
catch a glimpse, she saw an expression of general
complaisance, and in all that he said she heard an
accent so removed from hauteur or disdain of
his companions, as convinced her that the improvement
of manners which she had yesterday witnessed however
temporary its existence might prove, had at least outlived
one day.  When she saw him thus seeking the acquaintance
and courting the good opinion of people with whom
any intercourse a few months ago would have been a
disgrace ­when she saw him thus civil, not
only to herself, but to the very relations whom he
had openly disdained, and recollected their last lively
scene in Hunsford Parsonage ­the difference,
the change was so great, and struck so forcibly on
her mind, that she could hardly restrain her astonishment
from being visible.  Never, even in the company
of his dear friends at Netherfield, or his dignified
relations at Rosings, had she seen him so desirous
to please, so free from self-consequence or unbending
reserve, as now, when no importance could result from
the success of his endeavours, and when even the acquaintance
of those to whom his attentions were addressed would
draw down the ridicule and censure of the ladies both
of Netherfield and Rosings.

Their visitors stayed with them above
half-an-hour; and when they arose to depart, Mr. Darcy
called on his sister to join him in expressing their
wish of seeing Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, and Miss Bennet,
to dinner at Pemberley, before they left the country. 
Miss Darcy, though with a diffidence which marked
her little in the habit of giving invitations, readily
obeyed.  Mrs. Gardiner looked at her niece, desirous
of knowing how she, whom the invitation most
concerned, felt disposed as to its acceptance, but
Elizabeth had turned away her head.  Presuming
however, that this studied avoidance spoke rather
a momentary embarrassment than any dislike of the
proposal, and seeing in her husband, who was fond of
society, a perfect willingness to accept it, she ventured
to engage for her attendance, and the day after the
next was fixed on.

Bingley expressed great pleasure in
the certainty of seeing Elizabeth again, having still
a great deal to say to her, and many inquiries to
make after all their Hertfordshire friends.  Elizabeth,
construing all this into a wish of hearing her speak
of her sister, was pleased, and on this account, as
well as some others, found herself, when their visitors
left them, capable of considering the last half-hour
with some satisfaction, though while it was passing,
the enjoyment of it had been little.  Eager to
be alone, and fearful of inquiries or hints from her
uncle and aunt, she stayed with them only long enough
to hear their favourable opinion of Bingley, and then
hurried away to dress.

But she had no reason to fear Mr.
and Mrs. Gardiner’s curiosity; it was not their
wish to force her communication.  It was evident
that she was much better acquainted with Mr. Darcy
than they had before any idea of; it was evident that
he was very much in love with her.  They saw much
to interest, but nothing to justify inquiry.

Of Mr. Darcy it was now a matter of
anxiety to think well; and, as far as their acquaintance
reached, there was no fault to find.  They could
not be untouched by his politeness; and had they drawn
his character from their own feelings and his servant’s
report, without any reference to any other account,
the circle in Hertfordshire to which he was known
would not have recognized it for Mr. Darcy.  There
was now an interest, however, in believing the housekeeper;
and they soon became sensible that the authority of
a servant who had known him since he was four years
old, and whose own manners indicated respectability,
was not to be hastily rejected.  Neither had anything
occurred in the intelligence of their Lambton friends
that could materially lessen its weight.  They
had nothing to accuse him of but pride; pride he probably
had, and if not, it would certainly be imputed by
the inhabitants of a small market-town where the family
did not visit.  It was acknowledged, however, that
he was a liberal man, and did much good among the
poor.

With respect to Wickham, the travellers
soon found that he was not held there in much estimation;
for though the chief of his concerns with the son
of his patron were imperfectly understood, it was yet
a well-known fact that, on his quitting Derbyshire,
he had left many debts behind him, which Mr. Darcy
afterwards discharged.

As for Elizabeth, her thoughts were
at Pemberley this evening more than the last; and
the evening, though as it passed it seemed long, was
not long enough to determine her feelings towards
one in that mansion; and she lay awake two
whole hours endeavouring to make them out.  She
certainly did not hate him.  No; hatred had vanished
long ago, and she had almost as long been ashamed
of ever feeling a dislike against him, that could
be so called.  The respect created by the conviction
of his valuable qualities, though at first unwillingly
admitted, had for some time ceased to be repugnant
to her feeling; and it was now heightened into somewhat
of a friendlier nature, by the testimony so highly
in his favour, and bringing forward his disposition
in so amiable a light, which yesterday had produced. 
But above all, above respect and esteem, there was
a motive within her of goodwill which could not be
overlooked.  It was gratitude; gratitude, not
merely for having once loved her, but for loving her
still well enough to forgive all the petulance and
acrimony of her manner in rejecting him, and all the
unjust accusations accompanying her rejection. 
He who, she had been persuaded, would avoid her as
his greatest enemy, seemed, on this accidental meeting,
most eager to preserve the acquaintance, and without
any indelicate display of regard, or any peculiarity
of manner, where their two selves only were concerned,
was soliciting the good opinion of her friends, and
bent on making her known to his sister.  Such
a change in a man of so much pride exciting not only
astonishment but gratitude ­for to love,
ardent love, it must be attributed; and as such its
impression on her was of a sort to be encouraged,
as by no means unpleasing, though it could not be
exactly defined.  She respected, she esteemed,
she was grateful to him, she felt a real interest
in his welfare; and she only wanted to know how far
she wished that welfare to depend upon herself, and
how far it would be for the happiness of both that
she should employ the power, which her fancy told
her she still possessed, of bringing on her the renewal
of his addresses.

It had been settled in the evening
between the aunt and the niece, that such a striking
civility as Miss Darcy’s in coming to see them
on the very day of her arrival at Pemberley, for she
had reached it only to a late breakfast, ought to
be imitated, though it could not be equalled, by some
exertion of politeness on their side; and, consequently,
that it would be highly expedient to wait on her at
Pemberley the following morning.  They were, therefore,
to go.  Elizabeth was pleased; though when she
asked herself the reason, she had very little to say
in reply.

Mr. Gardiner left them soon after
breakfast.  The fishing scheme had been renewed
the day before, and a positive engagement made of his
meeting some of the gentlemen at Pemberley before
noon.

 

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