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Chapter 44

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 as 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 or 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, he 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.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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