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Chapter 43

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 here 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 we 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 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 is 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 Dovedale 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 as 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.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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