Part 5 out of 8
made the men suspect something, and then they soon found out
what was the matter."
With such kinds of histories of their parties and good jokes, did
Lydia, assisted by Kitty's hints and additions, endeavour 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 that occupied them: Lady Lucas was inquiring
of Maria, 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
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 I drew up 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
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 to see how everybody went on; but
Elizabeth steadily opposed the scheme. It should not be said
that the Miss Bennets could not be at home half a day before
they were in pursuit of the officers. There was another reason
too for her opposition. She dreaded seeing Mr. Wickham again,
and was resolved to avoid it as long as possible. The comfort
to HER of the regiment's approaching removal was indeed beyond
expression. In a fortnight they were to go--and once gone, she
hoped there could be nothing more to plague her on his account.
She had not been many hours at home before she found that the
Brighton scheme, of which Lydia had given them a hint at the inn,
was under frequent discussion between her parents. Elizabeth
saw directly that her father had not the smallest intention of
yielding; but his answers were at the same time so vague and
equivocal, that her mother, though often disheartened, had never
yet despaired of succeeding at last.
Elizabeth's impatience to acquaint Jane with what had happened
could no longer be overcome; and at length, resolving to
suppress every particular in which her sister was concerned,
and preparing her to be surprised, she related to her the next
morning the chief of the scene between Mr. Darcy and herself.
Miss Bennet's astonishment was soon lessened by the strong
sisterly partiality which made any admiration of Elizabeth appear
perfectly natural; and all surprise was shortly lost in other
feelings. She was sorry that Mr. Darcy should have delivered his
sentiments in a manner so little suited to recommend them; but
still more was she grieved for the unhappiness which her sister's
refusal must have given him.
"His being so sure of succeeding was wrong," said she, "and
certainly ought not to have appeared; but consider how much it
must increase his disappointment!"
"Indeed," replied Elizabeth, "I am heartily sorry for him; but he
has other feelings, which will probably soon drive away his
regard for me. You do not blame me, however, for refusing him?"
"Blame you! Oh, no."
"But you blame me for having spoken so warmly of Wickham?"
"No--I do not know that you were wrong in saying what you
"But you WILL know it, when I tell you what happened the very
She then spoke of the letter, repeating the whole of its contents
as far as they concerned George Wickham. What a stroke was
this for poor Jane! who would willingly have gone through the
world without believing that so much wickedness existed in the
whole race of mankind, as was here collected in one individual.
Nor was Darcy's vindication, though grateful to her feelings,
capable of consoling her for such discovery. Most earnestly did
she labour to prove the probability of error, and seek to clear the
one without involving the other.
"This will not do," said Elizabeth; "you never will be able to
make both of them good for anything. Take your choice, but
you must be satisfied with only one. There is but such a quantity
of merit between them; just enough to make one good sort of
man; and of late it has been shifting about pretty much. For my
part, I am inclined to believe it all Darcy's; but you shall do
as you choose."
It was some time, however, before a smile could be extorted
"I do not know when I have been more shocked," said she.
"Wickham so very bad! It is almost past belief. And poor Mr.
Darcy! Dear Lizzy, only consider what he must have suffered.
Such a disappointment! and with the knowledge of your ill
opinion, too! and having to relate such a thing of his sister!
It is really too distressing. I am sure you must feel it so."
"Oh! no, my regret and compassion are all done away by seeing
you so full of both. I know you will do him such ample justice,
that I am growing every moment more unconcerned and indifferent.
Your profusion makes me saving; and if you lament over him much
longer, my heart will be as light as a feather."
"Poor Wickham! there is such an expression of goodness in his
countenance! such an openness and gentleness in his manner!"
"There certainly was some great mismanagement in the education
of those two young men. One has got all the goodness, and the
other all the appearance of it."
"I never thought Mr. Darcy so deficient in the APPEARANCE
of it as you used to do."
"And yet I meant to be uncommonly clever in taking so decided
a dislike to him, without any reason. It is such a spur to one's
genius, such an opening for wit, to have a dislike of that kind.
One may be continually abusive without saying anything just; but
one cannot always be laughing at a man without now and then
stumbling on something witty."
"Lizzy, when you first read that letter, I am sure you could not
treat the matter as you do now."
"Indeed, I could not. I was uncomfortable enough, I may say
unhappy. And with no one to speak to about what I felt, no
Jane to comfort me and say that I had not been so very weak and
vain and nonsensical as I knew I had! Oh! how I wanted you!"
"How unfortunate that you should have used such very strong
expressions in speaking of Wickham to Mr. Darcy, for now they
DO appear wholly undeserved."
"Certainly. But the misfortune of speaking with bitterness
is a most natural consequence of the prejudices I had been
encouraging. There is one point on which I want your advice.
I want to be told whether I ought, or ought not, to make our
acquaintances in general understand Wickham's character."
Miss Bennet paused a little, and then replied, "Surely there can
be no occasion for exposing him so dreadfully. What is your
"That it ought not to be attempted. Mr. Darcy has not
authorised me to make his communication public. On the
contrary, every particular relative to his sister was meant to
be kept as much as possible to myself; and if I endeavour to
undeceive people as to the rest of his conduct, who will believe
me? The general prejudice against Mr. Darcy is so violent, that
it would be the death of half the good people in Meryton to
attempt to place him in an amiable light. I am not equal to it.
Wickham will soon be gone; and therefore it will not signify to
anyone here what he really is. Some time hence it will be all
found out, and then we may laugh at their stupidity in not
knowing it before. At present I will say nothing about it."
"You are quite right. To have his errors made public might ruin
him for ever. He is now, perhaps, sorry for what he has done,
and anxious to re-establish a character. We must not make him
The tumult of Elizabeth's mind was allayed by this conversation.
She had got rid of two of the secrets which had weighed on her
for a fortnight, and was certain of a willing listener in Jane,
whenever she might wish to talk again of either. But there was
still something lurking behind, of which prudence forbade the
disclosure. She dared not relate the other half of Mr. Darcy's
letter, nor explain to her sister how sincerely she had been
valued by her friend. Here was knowledge in which no one
could partake; and she was sensible that nothing less than a
perfect understanding between the parties could justify her in
throwing off this last encumbrance of mystery. "And then," said
she, "if that very improbable event should ever take place, I
shall merely be able to tell what Bingley may tell in a much more
agreeable manner himself. The liberty of communication cannot
be mine till it has lost all its value!"
She was now, on being settled at home, at leisure to observe the
real state of her sister's spirits. Jane was not happy. She still
cherished a very tender affection for Bingley. Having never even
fancied herself in love before, her regard had all the warmth of
first attachment, and, from her age and disposition, greater
steadiness than most first attachments often boast; and so
fervently did she value his remembrance, and prefer him to every
other man, that all her good sense, and all her attention to the
feelings of her friends, were requisite to check the indulgence of
those regrets which must have been injurious to her own health
and their tranquillity.
"Well, Lizzy," said Mrs. Bennet one day, "what is your opinion
NOW of this sad business of Jane's? For my part, I am
determined never to speak of it again to anybody. I told my
sister Phillips so the other day. But I cannot find out that Jane
saw anything of him in London. Well, he is a very undeserving
young man--and I do not suppose there's the least chance in the
world of her ever getting him now. There is no talk of his
coming to Netherfield again in the summer; and I have inquired
of everybody, too, who is likely to know."
"I do not believe he will ever live at Netherfield any more."
"Oh well! it is just as he chooses. Nobody wants him to come.
Though I shall always say he used my daughter extremely ill; and
if I was her, I would not have put up with it. Well, my comfort
is, I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart; and then he will
be sorry for what he has done."
But as Elizabeth could not receive comfort from any such
expectation, she made no answer.
"Well, Lizzy," continued her mother, soon afterwards, "and so
the Collinses live very comfortable, do they? Well, well, I only
hope it will last. And what sort of table do they keep? Charlotte
is an excellent manager, I dare say. If she is half as sharp as
her mother, she is saving enough. There is nothing extravagant in
THEIR housekeeping, I dare say."
"No, nothing at all."
"A great deal of good management, depend upon it. Yes, yes.
THEY will take care not to outrun their income. THEY will
never be distressed for money. Well, much good may it do
them! And so, I suppose, they often talk of having Longbourn
when your father is dead. They look upon it as quite their own,
I dare say, whenever that happens."
"It was a subject which they could not mention before me."
"No; it would have been strange if they had; but I make no
doubt they often talk of it between themselves. Well, if they
can be easy with an estate that is not lawfully their own, so
much the better. I should be ashamed of having one that was
only entailed on me."
The first week of their return was soon gone. The second began.
It was the last of the regiment's stay in Meryton, and all the
young ladies in the neighbourhood were drooping apace. The
dejection was almost universal. The elder Miss Bennets alone
were still able to eat, drink, and sleep, and pursue the usual
course of their employments. Very frequently were they
reproached for this insensibility by Kitty and Lydia, whose
own misery was extreme, and who could not comprehend such
hard-heartedness in any of the family.
"Good Heaven! what is to become of us? What are we to do?"
would they often exclaiming the bitterness of woe. "How can
you be smiling so, Lizzy?"
Their affectionate mother shared all their grief; she remembered
what she had herself endured on a similar occasion, five-and-twenty
"I am sure," said she, "I cried for two days together when
Colonel Miller's regiment went away. I thought I should have
broken my heart."
"I am sure I shall break MINE," said Lydia.
"If one could but go to Brighton!" observed Mrs. Bennet.
"Oh, yes!--if one could but go to Brighton! But papa is so
"A little sea-bathing would set me up forever."
"And my aunt Phillips is sure it would do ME a great deal of
good," added Kitty.
Such were the kind of lamentations resounding perpetually
through Longbourn House. Elizabeth tried to be diverted by
them; but all sense of pleasure was lost in shame. She felt anew
the justice of Mr. Darcy's objections; and never had she been so
much disposed to pardon his interference in the views of his
But the gloom of Lydia's prospect was shortly cleared away; for
she received an invitation from Mrs. Forster, the wife of the
colonel of the regiment, to accompany her to Brighton. This
invaluable friend was a very young woman, and very lately
married. A resemblance in good humour and good spirits had
recommended her and Lydia to each other, and out of their
THREE months' acquaintance they had been intimate TWO.
The rapture of Lydia on this occasion, her adoration of Mrs.
Forster, the delight of Mrs. Bennet, and the mortification of
Kitty, are scarcely to be described. Wholly inattentive to her
sister's feelings, Lydia flew about the house in restless ecstasy,
calling for everyone's congratulations, and laughing and talking
with more violence than ever; whilst the luckless Kitty continued
in the parlour repined at her fate in terms as unreasonable as her
accent was peevish.
"I cannot see why Mrs. Forster should not ask ME as well as
Lydia," said she, "Though I am NOT her particular friend. I
have just as much right to be asked as she has, and more too,
for I am two years older."
In vain did Elizabeth attempt to make her reasonable, and Jane
to make her resigned. As for Elizabeth herself, this invitation
was so far from exciting in her the same feelings as in her mother
and Lydia, that she considered it as the death warrant of all
possibility of common sense for the latter; and detestable as such
a step must make her were it known, she could not help secretly
advising her father not to let her go. She represented to him all
the improprieties of Lydia's general behaviour, the little
advantage she could derive from the friendship of such a woman
as Mrs. Forster, and the probability of her being yet more
imprudent with such a companion at Brighton, where the
temptations must be greater than at home. He heard her
attentively, and then said:
"Lydia will never be easy until she has exposed herself in some
public place or other, and we can never expect her to do it with
so little expense or inconvenience to her family as under the
"If you were aware," said Elizabeth, "of the very great
disadvantage to us all which must arise from the public notice
of Lydia's unguarded and imprudent manner--nay, which has
already arisen from it, I am sure you would judge differently in
"Already arisen?" repeated Mr. Bennet. "What, has she
frightened away some of your lovers? Poor little Lizzy! But do
not be cast down. Such squeamish youths as cannot bear to be
connected with a little absurdity are not worth a regret. Come,
let me see the list of pitiful fellows who have been kept aloof
by Lydia's folly."
"Indeed you are mistaken. I have no such injuries to resent.
It is not of particular, but of general evils, which I am now
complaining. Our importance, our respectability in the world must
be affected by the wild volatility, the assurance and disdain of
all restraint which mark Lydia's character. Excuse me, for I must
speak plainly. If you, my dear father, will not take the trouble
of checking her exuberant spirits, and of teaching her that her
present pursuits are not to be the business of her life, she will
soon be beyond the reach of amendment. Her character will be
fixed, and she will, at sixteen, be the most determined flirt that
ever made herself or her family ridiculous; a flirt, too, in the
worst and meanest degree of flirtation; without any attraction
beyond youth and a tolerable person; and, from the ignorance and
emptiness of her mind, wholly unable to ward off any portion of
that universal contempt which her rage for admiration will excite.
In this danger Kitty also is comprehended. She will follow wherever
Lydia leads. Vain, ignorant, idle, and absolutely uncontrolled!
Oh! my dear father, can you suppose it possible that they will not
be censured and despised wherever they are known, and that their
sisters will not be often involved in the disgrace?"
Mr. Bennet saw that her whole heart was in the subject, and
affectionately taking her hand said in reply:
"Do not make yourself uneasy, my love. Wherever you and Jane
are known you must be respected and valued; and you will not
appear to less advantage for having a couple of--or I may say,
three--very silly sisters. We shall have no peace at Longbourn
if Lydia does not go to Brighton. Let her go, then. Colonel
Forster is a sensible man, and will keep her out of any real
mischief; and she is luckily too poor to be an object of prey
to anybody. At Brighton she will be of less importance even as
a common flirt than she has been here. The officers will find
women better worth their notice. Let us hope, therefore, that
her being there may teach her her own insignificance. At any
rate, she cannot grow many degrees worse, without authorising
us to lock her up for the rest of her life."
With this answer Elizabeth was forced to be content; but her
own opinion continued the same, and she left him disappointed
and sorry. It was not in her nature, however, to increase her
vexations by dwelling on them. She was confident of having
performed her duty, and to fret over unavoidable evils, or
augment them by anxiety, was no part of her disposition.
Had Lydia and her mother known the substance of her conference
with her father, their indignation would hardly have found
expression in their united volubility. In Lydia's imagination,
a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly
happiness. She saw, with the creative eye of fancy, the streets
of that gay bathing-place covered with officers. She saw
herself the object of attention, to tens and to scores of them
at present unknown. She saw all the glories of the camp--its
tents stretched forth in beauteous uniformity of lines, crowded
with the young and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet; and, to
complete the view, she saw herself seated beneath a tent, tenderly
flirting with at least six officers at once.
Had she known her sister sought to tear her from such prospects
and such realities as these, what would have been her sensations?
They could have been understood only by her mother, who might
have felt nearly the same. Lydia's going to Brighton was all
that consoled her for her melancholy conviction of her husband's
never intending to go there himself.
But they were entirely ignorant of what had passed; and their
raptures continued, with little intermission, to the very day of
Lydia's leaving home.
Elizabeth was now to see Mr. Wickham for the last time.
Having been frequently in company with him since her return,
agitation was pretty well over; the agitations of formal partiality
entirely so. She had even learnt to detect, in the very gentleness
which had first delighted her, an affectation and a sameness to
disgust and weary. In his present behaviour to herself,
moreover, she had a fresh source of displeasure, for the
inclination he soon testified of renewing those intentions which
had marked the early part of their acquaintance could only serve,
after what had since passed, to provoke her. She lost all concern
for him in finding herself thus selected as the object of such idle
and frivolous gallantry; and while she steadily repressed it, could
not but feel the reproof contained in his believing, that however
long, and for whatever cause, his attentions had been withdrawn,
her vanity would be gratified, and her preference secured at any
time by their renewal.
On the very last day of the regiment's remaining at Meryton, he
dined, with other of the officers, at Longbourn; and so little
was Elizabeth disposed to part from him in good humour, that on
his making some inquiry as to the manner in which her time had
passed at Hunsford, she mentioned Colonel Fitzwilliam's and
Mr. Darcy's having both spent three weeks at Rosings, and
asked him, if he was acquainted with the former.
He looked surprised, displeased, alarmed; but with a moment's
recollection and a returning smile, replied, that he had formerly
seen him often; and, after observing that he was a very
gentlemanlike man, asked her how she had liked him. Her
answer was warmly in his favour. With an air of indifference he
soon afterwards added:
"How long did you say he was at Rosings?"
"Nearly three weeks."
"And you saw him frequently?"
"Yes, almost every day."
"His manners are very different from his cousin's."
"Yes, very different. But I think Mr. Darcy improves upon
"Indeed!" cried Mr. Wickham with a look which did not escape
her. "And pray, may I ask?--" But checking himself, he added,
in a gayer tone, "Is it in address that he improves? Has he
deigned to add aught of civility to his ordinary style?--for I
dare not hope," he continued in a lower and more serious tone,
"that he is improved in essentials."
"Oh, no!" said Elizabeth. "In essentials, I believe, he is very
much what he ever was."
While she spoke, Wickham looked as if scarcely knowing
whether to rejoice over her words, or to distrust their meaning.
There was a something in her countenance which made him listen
with an apprehensive and anxious attention, while she added:
"When I said that he improved on acquaintance, I did not mean
that his mind or his manners were in a state of improvement, but
that, from knowing him better, his disposition was better
Wickham's alarm now appeared in a heightened complexion and
agitated look; for a few minuted he was silent, till, shaking
off his embarrassment, he turned to her again, and said in the
gentlest of accents:
"You, who so well know my feeling towards Mr. Darcy, will
readily comprehend how sincerely I must rejoice that he is
wise enough to assume even the APPEARANCE of what is right.
His pride, in that direction, may be of service, if not to himself,
to many others, for it must only deter him from such foul
misconduct as I have suffered by. I only fear that the sort of
cautiousness to which you, I imagine, have been alluding, is
merely adopted on his visits to his aunt, of whose good opinion
and judgement he stands much in awe. His fear of her has
always operated, I know, when they were together; and a good
deal is to be imputed to his wish of forwarding the match with
Miss de Bourgh, which I am certain he has very much at heart."
Elizabeth could not repress a smile at this, but she answered only
by a slight inclination of the head. She saw that he wanted to
engage her on the old subject of his grievances, and she was in
no humour to indulge him. The rest of the evening passed with
the APPEARANCE, on his side, of usual cheerfulness, but with
no further attempt to distinguish Elizabeth; and they parted at
last with mutual civility, and possibly a mutual desire of never
When the party broke up, Lydia returned with Mrs. Forster to
Meryton, from whence they were to set out early the next
morning. The separation between her and her family was rather
noisy than pathetic. Kitty was the only one who shed tears; but
she did weep from vexation and envy. Mrs. Bennet was diffuse
in her good wishes for the felicity of her daughter, and
impressive in her injunctions that she should not miss the
opportunity of enjoying herself as much as possible--advice
which there was every reason to believe would be well attended
to; and in the clamorous happiness of Lydia herself in bidding
farewell, the more gentle adieus of her sisters were uttered
without being heard.
Had Elizabeth's opinion been all drawn from her own family,
she could not have formed a very pleasing opinion of conjugal
felicity or domestic comfort. Her father, captivated by youth
and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which youth
and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak
understanding and illiberal mind had very early in their marriage
put and end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and
confidence had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic
happiness were overthrown. But Mr. Bennet was not of a
disposition to seek comfort for the disappointment which his
own imprudence had brought on, in any of those pleasures which
too often console the unfortunate for their folly of their vice.
He was fond of the country and of books; and from these tastes had
arisen his principal enjoyments. To his wife he was very little
otherwise indebted, than as her ignorance and folly had
contributed to his amusement. This is not the sort of happiness
which a man would in general wish to owe to his wife; but
where other powers of entertainment are wanting, the true
philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given.
Elizabeth, however, had never been blind to the impropriety of
her father's behaviour as a husband. She had always seen it with
pain; but respecting his abilities, and grateful for his affectionate
treatment of herself, she endeavoured to forget what she could
not overlook, and to banish from her thoughts that continual
breach of conjugal obligation and decorum which, in exposing
his wife to the contempt of her own children, was so highly
reprehensible. But she had never felt so strongly as now the
disadvantages which must attend the children of so unsuitable a
marriage, nor ever been so fully aware of the evils arising from
so ill-judged a direction of talents; talents, which, rightly used,
might at least have preserved the respectability of his daughters,
even if incapable of enlarging the mind of his wife.
When Elizabeth had rejoiced over Wickham's departure she
found little other cause for satisfaction in the loss of the
regiment. Their parties abroad were less varied than before, and
at home she had a mother and sister whose constant repinings at
the dullness of everything around them threw a real gloom over
their domestic circle; and, though Kitty might in time regain her
natural degree of sense, since the disturbers of her brain were
removed, her other sister, from whose disposition greater evil
might be apprehended, was likely to be hardened in all her
folly and assurance by a situation of such double danger as a
watering-place and a camp. Upon the whole, therefore, she
found, what has been sometimes been found before, that an
event to which she had been looking with impatient desire did
not, in taking place, bring all the satisfaction she had promised
herself. It was consequently necessary to name some other
period for the commencement of actual felicity--to have some
other point on which her wishes and hopes might be fixed, and
by again enjoying the pleasure of anticipation, console herself for
the present, and prepare for another disappointment. Her tour
to the Lakes was now the object of her happiest thoughts; it was
her best consolation for all the uncomfortable hours which the
discontentedness of her mother and Kitty made inevitable; and
could she have included Jane in the scheme, every part of it
would have been perfect.
"But it is fortunate," thought she, "that I have something to wish
for. Were the whole arrangement complete, my disappointment
would be certain. But here, by carrying with me one ceaseless
source of regret in my sister's absence, I may reasonably hope to
have all my expectations of pleasure realised. A scheme of
which every part promises delight can never be successful; and
general disappointment is only warded off by the defence of
some little peculiar vexation."
When Lydia went away she promised to write very often and
very minutely to her mother and Kitty; but her letters were
always long expected, and always very short. Those to her
mother contained little else than that they were just returned
from the library, where such and such officers had attended
them, and where she had seen such beautiful ornaments as made
her quite wild; that she had a new gown, or a new parasol, which
she would have described more fully, but was obliged to leave
off in a violent hurry, as Mrs. Forster called her, and they were
going off to the camp; and from her correspondence with her
sister, there was still less to be learnt--for her letters to
Kitty, though rather longer, were much too full of lines under the
words to be made public.
After the first fortnight or three weeks of her absence, health,
good humour, and cheerfulness began to reappear at Longbourn.
Everything wore a happier aspect. The families who had been in
town for the winter came back again, and summer finery and
summer engagements arose. Mrs. Bennet was restored to her
usual querulous serenity; and, by the middle of June, Kitty was
so much recovered as to be able to enter Meryton without tears;
an event of such happy promise as to make Elizabeth hope that
by the following Christmas she might be so tolerably reasonable
as not to mention an officer above once a day, unless, by some
cruel and malicious arrangement at the War Office, another
regiment should be quartered in Meryton.
The time fixed for the beginning of their northern tour was now
fast approaching, and a fortnight only was wanting of it, when
a letter arrived from Mrs. Gardiner, which at once delayed its
commencement and curtailed its extent. Mr. Gardiner would be
prevented by business from setting out till a fortnight later in
July, and must be in London again within a month, and as that
left too short a period for them to go so far, and see so much
as they had proposed, or at least to see it with the leisure and
comfort they had built on, they were obliged to give up the
Lakes, and substitute a more contracted tour, and, according
to the present plan, were to go no farther northwards than
Derbyshire. In that county there was enough to be seen to
occupy the chief of their three weeks; and to Mrs. Gardiner it
had a peculiarly strong attraction. The town where she had
formerly passed some years of her life, and where they were now
to spend a few days, was probably as great an object of her
curiosity as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth,
Dovedale, or the Peak.
Elizabeth was excessively disappointed; she had set her heart on
seeing the Lakes, and still thought there might have been time
enough. But it was her business to be satisfied--and certainly
her temper to be happy; and all was soon right again.
With the mention of Derbyshire there were many ideas connected.
It was impossible for her to see the word without thinking of
Pemberley and its owner. "But surely," said she, "I may enter
his county without impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars
without his perceiving me."
The period of expectation was now doubled. Four weeks were to
pass away before her uncle and aunt's arrival. But they did pass
away, and Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, with their four children, did
at length appear at Longbourn. The children, two girls of six
and eight years old, and two younger boys, were to be left under
the particular care of their cousin Jane, who was the general
favourite, and whose steady sense and sweetness of temper exactly
adapted her for attending to them in every way--teaching them,
playing with them, and loving them.
The Gardiners stayed only one night at Longbourn, and set off
the next morning with Elizabeth in pursuit of novelty and
amusement. One enjoyment was certain--that of suitableness
of companions; a suitableness which comprehended health and
temper to bear inconveniences--cheerfulness to enhance every
pleasure--and affection and intelligence, which might supply
it among themselves if there were disappointments abroad.
It is not the object of this work to give a description of
Derbyshire, nor of any of the remarkable places through which
their route thither lay; Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenilworth,
Birmingham, etc. are sufficiently known. A small part of
Derbyshire is all the present concern. To the little town of
Lambton, the scene of Mrs. Gardiner's former residence, and
where she had lately learned some acquaintance still remained,
they bent their steps, after having seen all the principal wonders
of the country; and within five miles of Lambton, Elizabeth
found from her aunt that Pemberley was situated. It was not in
their direct road, nor more than a mile or two out of it. In
talking over their route the evening before, Mrs. Gardiner
expressed an inclination to see the place again. Mr. Gardiner
declared his willingness, and Elizabeth was applied to for her
"My love, should not you like to see a place of which you have
heard so much?" said her aunt; "a place, too, with which so
many of your acquaintances are connected. Wickham passed all
his youth there, you know."
Elizabeth was distressed. She felt that she had no business at
Pemberley, and was obliged to assume a disinclination for seeing
it. She must own that she was tired of seeing great houses; after
going over so many, she really had no pleasure in fine carpets or
Mrs. Gardiner abused her stupidity. "If it were merely a fine
house richly furnished," said she, "I should not care about it
myself; but the grounds are delightful. They have some of the
finest woods in the country."
Elizabeth said no more--but her mind could not acquiesce.
The possibility of meeting Mr. Darcy, while viewing the place,
instantly occurred. It would be dreadful! She blushed at the
very idea, and thought it would be better to speak openly to
her aunt than to run such a risk. But against this there were
objections; and she finally resolved that it could be the last
resource, if her private inquiries to the absence of the family
were unfavourably answered.
Accordingly, when she retired at night, she asked the chambermaid
whether Pemberley were not a very fine place? what was the name
of its proprietor? and, with no little alarm, whether the family
were down for the summer? A most welcome negative followed the
last question--and her alarms now being removed, she was at
leisure to feel a great deal of curiosity to see the house herself;
and when the subject was revived the next morning, and she was
again applied to, could readily answer, and with a proper air of
indifference, that she had not really any dislike to the scheme.
To Pemberley, therefore, they were to go.
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
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
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
"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
"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?"
"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
"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
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
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
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 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
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 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.
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
Convinced as Elizabeth now was that Miss Bingley's dislike of
her had originated in jealousy, she could not help feeling how
unwelcome her appearance at Pemberley must be to her, and
was curious to know with how much civility on that lady's side
the acquaintance would now be renewed.
On reaching the house, they were shown through the hall into
the saloon, whose northern aspect rendered it delightful for
summer. Its windows opening to the ground, admitted a most
refreshing view of the high woody hills behind the house,
and of the beautiful oaks and Spanish chestnuts which were
scattered over the intermediate lawn.
In this house they were received by Miss Darcy, who was
sitting there with Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, and the lady
with whom she lived in London. Georgiana's reception of them
was very civil, but attended with all the embarrassment which,
though proceeding from shyness and the fear of doing wrong,
would easily give to those who felt themselves inferior the
belief of her being proud and reserved. Mrs. Gardiner and her
niece, however, did her justice, and pitied her.
By Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley they were noticed only by a
curtsey; and, on their being seated, a pause, awkward as such
pauses must always be, succeeded for a few moments. It was
first broken by Mrs. Annesley, a genteel, agreeable-looking
woman, whose endeavour to introduce some kind of discourse
proved her to be more truly well-bred than either of the others;
and between her and Mrs. Gardiner, with occasional help from
Elizabeth, the conversation was carried on. Miss Darcy looked
as if she wished for courage enough to join in it; and sometimes
did venture a short sentence when there was least danger of its
Elizabeth soon saw that she was herself closely watched by Miss
Bingley, and that she could not speak a word, especially to Miss
Darcy, without calling her attention. This observation would not
have prevented her from trying to talk to the latter, had they
not been seated at an inconvenient distance; but she was not sorry
to be spared the necessity of saying much. Her own thoughts
were employing her. She expected every moment that some of the
gentlemen would enter the room. She wished, she feared that
the master of the house might be amongst them; and whether
she wished or feared it most, she could scarcely determine.
After sitting in this manner a quarter of an hour without hearing
Miss Bingley's voice, Elizabeth was roused by receiving from
her a cold inquiry after the health of her family. She answered
with equal indifference and brevity, and the others said no more.
The next variation which their visit afforded was produced by
the entrance of servants with cold meat, cake, and a variety of
all the finest fruits in season; but this did not take place till
after many a significant look and smile from Mrs. Annesley to
Miss Darcy had been given, to remind her of her post. There was
now employment for the whole party--for though they could not all
talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes,
nectarines, and peaches soon collected them round the table.
While thus engaged, Elizabeth had a fair opportunity of deciding
whether she most feared or wished for the appearance of Mr.
Darcy, by the feelings which prevailed on his entering the room;
and then, though but a moment before she had believed her
wishes to predominate, she began to regret that he came.
He had been some time with Mr. Gardiner, who, with two or
three other gentlemen from the house, was engaged by the river,
and had left him only on learning that the ladies of the family
intended a visit to Georgiana that morning. No sooner did he
appear than Elizabeth wisely resolved to be perfectly easy and
unembarrassed; a resolution the more necessary to be made, but
perhaps not the more easily kept, because she saw that the
suspicions of the whole party were awakened against them, and
that there was scarcely an eye which did not watch his
behaviour when he first came into the room. In no countenance
was attentive curiosity so strongly marked as in Miss Bingley's,
in spite of the smiles which overspread her face whenever she
spoke to one of its objects; for jealousy had not yet made her
desperate, and her attentions to Mr. Darcy were by no means
over. Miss Darcy, on her brother's entrance, exerted herself
much more to talk, and Elizabeth saw that he was anxious for
his sister and herself to get acquainted, and forwarded as much
as possible, every attempt at conversation on either side. Miss
Bingley saw all this likewise; and, in the imprudence of anger,
took the first opportunity of saying, with sneering civility:
"Pray, Miss Eliza, are not the ----shire Militia removed from
Meryton? They must be a great loss to YOUR family."
In Darcy's presence she dared not mention Wickham's name;
but Elizabeth instantly comprehended that he was uppermost in
her thoughts; and the various recollections connected with him
gave her a moment's distress; but exerting herself vigorously to
repel the ill-natured attack, she presently answered the question
in a tolerably detached tone. While she spoke, an involuntary
glance showed her Darcy, with a heightened complexion,
earnestly looking at her, and his sister overcome with confusion,
and unable to lift up her eyes. Had Miss Bingley known what
pain she was then giving her beloved friend, she undoubtedly
would have refrained from the hint; but she had merely intended
to discompose Elizabeth by bringing forward the idea of a man
to whom she believed her partial, to make her betray a sensibility
which might injure her in Darcy's opinion, and, perhaps, to
remind the latter of all the follies and absurdities by which
some part of her family were connected with that corps. Not a
syllable had ever reached her of Miss Darcy's meditated
elopement. To no creature had it been revealed, where secrecy
was possible, except to Elizabeth; and from all Bingley's
connections her brother was particularly anxious to conceal it,
from the very wish which Elizabeth had long ago attributed to
him, of their becoming hereafter her own. He had certainly
formed such a plan, and without meaning that it should effect
his endeavour to separate him from Miss Bennet, it is probable
that it might add something to his lively concern for the welfare
of his friend.
Elizabeth's collected behaviour, however, soon quieted his
emotion; and as Miss Bingley, vexed and disappointed, dared
not approach nearer to Wickham, Georgiana also recovered in
time, though not enough to be able to speak any more. Her
brother, whose eye she feared to meet, scarcely recollected her
interest in the affair, and the very circumstance which had
been designed to turn his thoughts from Elizabeth seemed to
have fixed them on her more and more cheerfully.
Their visit did not continue long after the question and answer
above mentioned; and while Mr. Darcy was attending them to
their carriage Miss Bingley was venting her feelings in criticisms
on Elizabeth's person, behaviour, and dress. But Georgiana
would not join her. Her brother's recommendation was enough
to ensure her favour; his judgement could not err. And he had
spoken in such terms of Elizabeth as to leave Georgiana without
the power of finding her otherwise than lovely and amiable.
When Darcy returned to the saloon, Miss Bingley could not help
repeating to him some part of what she had been saying to his
"How very ill Miss Eliza Bennet looks this morning, Mr. Darcy,"
she cried; "I never in my life saw anyone so much altered as she
is since the winter. She is grown so brown and coarse! Louisa
and I were agreeing that we should not have known her again."
However little Mr. Darcy might have liked such an address, he
contented himself with coolly replying that he perceived no
other alteration than her being rather tanned, no miraculous
consequence of travelling in the summer.
"For my own part," she rejoined, "I must confess that I never
could see any beauty in her. Her face is too thin; her
complexion has no brilliancy; and her features are not at all
handsome. Her nose wants character--there is nothing marked
in its lines. Her teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common
way; and as for her eyes, which have sometimes been called so
fine, I could never see anything extraordinary in them. They
have a sharp, shrewish look, which I do not like at all; and in her
air altogether there is a self-sufficiency without fashion, which
Persuaded as Miss Bingley was that Darcy admired Elizabeth,
this was not the best method of recommending herself; but
angry people are not always wise; and in seeing him at last look
somewhat nettled, she had all the success she expected. He was
resolutely silent, however, and, from a determination of making
him speak, she continued:
"I remember, when we first knew her in Hertfordshire, how
amazed we all were to find that she was a reputed beauty; and I
particularly recollect your saying one night, after they had been
dining at Netherfield, 'SHE a beauty!--I should as soon call her
mother a wit.' But afterwards she seemed to improve on you,
and I believe you thought her rather pretty at one time."
"Yes," replied Darcy, who could contain himself no longer,
"but THAT was only when I first saw her, for it is many months
since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of
He then went away, and Miss Bingley was left to all the
satisfaction of having forced him to say what gave no one any
pain but herself.
Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth talked of all that had occurred during
their visit, as they returned, except what had particularly
interested them both. The look and behaviour of everybody they
had seen were discussed, except of the person who had mostly
engaged their attention. They talked of his sister, his friends,
his house, his fruit--of everything but himself; yet Elizabeth
was longing to know what Mrs. Gardiner thought of him, and Mrs.
Gardiner would have been highly gratified by her niece's beginning
Elizabeth had been a good deal disappointed in not finding a
letter from Jane on their first arrival at Lambton; and this
disappointment had been renewed on each of the mornings that
had now been spent there; but on the third her repining was
over, and her sister justified, by the receipt of two letters
from her at once, on one of which was marked that it had been
missent elsewhere. Elizabeth was not surprised at it, as Jane
had written the direction remarkably ill.
They had just been preparing to walk as the letters came in;
and her uncle and aunt, leaving her to enjoy them in quiet, set
off by themselves. The one missent must first be attended to;
it had been written five days ago. The beginning contained an
account of all their little parties and engagements, with such
news as the country afforded; but the latter half, which was
dated a day later, and written in evident agitation, gave more
important intelligence. It was to this effect:
"Since writing the above, dearest Lizzy, something has occurred
of a most unexpected and serious nature; but I am afraid of
alarming you--be assured that we are all well. What I have to
say relates to poor Lydia. An express came at twelve last night,
just as we were all gone to bed, from Colonel Forster, to
inform us that she was gone off to Scotland with one of his
officers; to own the truth, with Wickham! Imagine our surprise.
To Kitty, however, it does not seem so wholly unexpected. I
am very, very sorry. So imprudent a match on both sides! But
I am willing to hope the best, and that his character has been
misunderstood. Thoughtless and indiscreet I can easily believe
him, but this step (and let us rejoice over it) marks nothing bad
at heart. His choice is disinterested at least, for he must know
my father can give her nothing. Our poor mother is sadly
grieved. My father bears it better. How thankful am I that we
never let them know what has been said against him; we must
forget it ourselves. They were off Saturday night about twelve,
as is conjectured, but were not missed till yesterday morning at
eight. The express was sent off directly. My dear Lizzy, they
must have passed within ten miles of us. Colonel Forster gives
us reason to expect him here soon. Lydia left a few lines for
his wife, informing her of their intention. I must conclude, for
I cannot be long from my poor mother. I am afraid you will not
be able to make it out, but I hardly know what I have written."
Without allowing herself time for consideration, and scarcely
knowing what she felt, Elizabeth on finishing this letter instantly
seized the other, and opening it with the utmost impatience, read
as follows: it had been written a day later than the conclusion of
"By this time, my dearest sister, you have received my hurried
letter; I wish this may be more intelligible, but though not
confined for time, my head is so bewildered that I cannot answer
for being coherent. Dearest Lizzy, I hardly know what I would
write, but I have bad news for you, and it cannot be delayed.
Imprudent as the marriage between Mr. Wickham and our poor
Lydia would be, we are now anxious to be assured it has taken
place, for there is but too much reason to fear they are not gone
to Scotland. Colonel Forster came yesterday, having left
Brighton the day before, not many hours after the express.
Though Lydia's short letter to Mrs. F. gave them to understand
that they were going to Gretna Green, something was dropped
by Denny expressing his belief that W. never intended to go
there, or to marry Lydia at all, which was repeated to Colonel
F., who, instantly taking the alarm, set off from B. intending to
trace their route. He did trace them easily to Clapham, but no
further; for on entering that place, they removed into a hackney
coach, and dismissed the chaise that brought them from Epsom.
All that is known after this is, that they were seen to continue
the London road. I know not what to think. After making every
possible inquiry on that side London, Colonel F. came on into
Hertfordshire, anxiously renewing them at all the turnpikes, and
at the inns in Barnet and Hatfield, but without any success--no
such people had been seen to pass through. With the kindest
concern he came on to Longbourn, and broke his apprehensions
to us in a manner most creditable to his heart. I am sincerely
grieved for him and Mrs. F., but no one can throw any blame
on them. Our distress, my dear Lizzy, is very great. My father
and mother believe the worst, but I cannot think so ill of him.
Many circumstances might make it more eligible for them to be
married privately in town than to pursue their first plan;
and even if HE could form such a design against a young woman
of Lydia's connections, which is not likely, can I suppose her
so lost to everything? Impossible! I grieve to find, however,
that Colonel F. is not disposed to depend upon their marriage;
he shook his head when I expressed my hopes, and said he fear
W. was not a man to be trusted. My poor mother is really ill,
and keeps her room. Could she exert herself, it would be better;
but this is not to be expected. And as to my father, I never in
my life saw him so affected. Poor Kitty has anger for having
concealed their attachment; but as it was a matter of confidence,
one cannot wonder. I am truly glad, dearest Lizzy, that you
have been spared something of these distressing scenes; but
now, as the first shock is over, shall I own that I long for
your return? I am not so selfish, however, as to press for it,
if inconvenient. Adieu! I take up my pen again to do what I
have just told you I would not; but circumstances are such that
I cannot help earnestly begging you all to come here as soon as
possible. I know my dear uncle and aunt so well, that I am not
afraid of requesting it, though I have still something more to
ask of the former. My father is going to London with Colonel
Forster instantly, to try to discover her. What he means to do
I am sure I know not; but his excessive distress will not allow
him to pursue any measure in the best and safest way, and
Colonel Forster is obliged to be at Brighton again to-morrow
evening. In such and exigence, my uncle's advice and assistance
would be everything in the world; he will immediately comprehend
what I must feel, and I rely upon his goodness."
"Oh! where, where is my uncle?" cried Elizabeth, darting from
her seat as she finished the letter, in eagerness to follow him,
without losing a moment of the time so precious; but as she
reached the door it was opened by a servant, and Mr. Darcy
appeared. Her pale face and impetuous manner made him start,
and before he could recover himself to speak, she, in whose
mind every idea was superseded by Lydia's situation, hastily
exclaimed, "I beg your pardon, but I must leave you. I must
find Mr. Gardiner this moment, on business that cannot be
delayed; I have not an instant to lose."
"Good God! what is the matter?" cried he, with more feeling
than politeness; then recollecting himself, "I will not detain you
a minute; but let me, or let the servant go after Mr. and Mrs.
Gardiner. You are not well enough; you cannot go yourself."
Elizabeth hesitated, but her knees trembled under her and she
felt how little would be gained by her attempting to pursue them.
Calling back the servant, therefore, she commissioned him,
though in so breathless an accent as made her almost unintelligible,
to fetch his master and mistress home instantly.
On his quitting the room she sat down, unable to support
herself, and looking so miserably ill, that it was impossible
for Darcy to leave her, or to refrain from saying, in a tone
of gentleness and commiseration, "Let me call your maid. Is
there nothing you could take to give you present relief? A
glass of wine; shall I get you one? You are very ill."
"No, I thank you," she replied, endeavouring to recover herself.
"There is nothing the matter with me. I am quite well; I am
only distressed by some dreadful news which I have just
received from Longbourn."
She burst into tears as she alluded to it, and for a few minutes
could not speak another word. Darcy, in wretched suspense,
could only say something indistinctly of his concern, and
observe her in compassionate silence. At length she spoke
again. "I have just had a letter from Jane, with such dreadful
news. It cannot be concealed from anyone. My younger sister
has left all her friends--has eloped; has thrown herself into
the power of--of Mr. Wickham. They are gone off together from
Brighton. YOU know him too well to doubt the rest. She has
no money, no connections, nothing that can tempt him to--she
is lost for ever."
Darcy was fixed in astonishment. "When I consider," she added
in a yet more agitated voice, "that I might have prevented it!
I, who knew what he was. Had I but explained some part of
it only--some part of what I learnt, to my own family! Had his
character been known, this could not have happened. But it is
all--all too late now."
"I am grieved indeed," cried Darcy; "grieved--shocked. But is
it certain--absolutely certain?"
"Oh, yes! They left Brighton together on Sunday night, and
were traced almost to London, but not beyond; they are
certainly not gone to Scotland."
"And what has been done, what has been attempted, to recover
"My father is gone to London, and Jane has written to beg my
uncle's immediate assistance; and we shall be off, I hope, in
half-an-hour. But nothing can be done--I know very well that
nothing can be done. How is such a man to be worked on? How
are they even to be discovered? I have not the smallest hope.
It is every way horrible!"
Darcy shook his head in silent acquiescence.
"When MY eyes were opened to his real character--Oh! had I
known what I ought, what I dared to do! But I knew not--I
was afraid of doing too much. Wretched, wretched mistake!"
Darcy made no answer. He seemed scarcely to hear her, and
was walking up and down the room in earnest meditation, his
brow contracted, his air gloomy. Elizabeth soon observed, and
instantly understood it. Her power was sinking; everything
MUST sink under such a proof of family weakness, such an
assurance of the deepest disgrace. She could neither wonder
nor condemn, but the belief of his self-conquest brought nothing
to her consolatory to her bosom, afforded no palliation of her
distress. It was, on the contrary, exactly calculated to make
her understand her own wishes; and never had she so honestly felt
that she could have loved him, as now, when all love must be vain.
But self, though it would intrude, could not engross her.
Lydia--the humiliation, the misery she was bringing on them all,
soon swallowed up every private care; and covering her face with
her handkerchief, Elizabeth was soon lost to everything else;
and, after a pause of several minutes, was only recalled to a
sense of her situation by the voice of her companion, who, in a
manner which, though it spoke compassion, spoke likewise restraint,
said, "I am afraid you have been long desiring my absence, nor
have I anything to plead in excuse of my stay, but real, though
unavailing concern. Would to Heaven that anything could be
either said or done on my part that might offer consolation to
such distress! But I will not torment you with vain wishes, which
may seem purposely to ask for your thanks. This unfortunate
affair will, I fear, prevent my sister's having the pleasure of
seeing you at Pemberley to-day."
"Oh, yes. Be so kind as to apologise for us to Miss Darcy. Say
that urgent business calls us home immediately. Conceal the
unhappy truth as long as it is possible, I know it cannot be long."
He readily assured her of his secrecy; again expressed his sorrow
for her distress, wished it a happier conclusion than there was
at present reason to hope, and leaving his compliments for her
relations, with only one serious, parting look, went away.
As he quitted the room, Elizabeth felt how improbable it was
that they should ever see each other again on such terms of
cordiality as had marked their several meetings in Derbyshire;
and as she threw a retrospective glance over the whole of their
acquaintance, so full of contradictions and varieties, sighed
at the perverseness of those feelings which would now have
promoted its continuance, and would formerly have rejoiced in
If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection,
Elizabeth's change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor
faulty. But if otherwise--if regard springing from such sources
is unreasonable or unnatural, in comparison of what is so often
described as arising on a first interview with its object, and even
before two words have been exchanged, nothing can be said in
her defence, except that she had given somewhat of a trial to the
latter method in her partiality for Wickham, and that its ill
success might, perhaps, authorise her to seek the other less
interesting mode of attachment. Be that as it may, she saw him
go with regret; and in this early example of what Lydia's infamy
must produce, found additional anguish as she reflected on that
wretched business. Never, since reading Jane's second letter,
had she entertained a hope of Wickham's meaning to marry her.
No one but Jane, she thought, could flatter herself with such an
expectation. Surprise was the least of her feelings on this
development. While the contents of the first letter remained in
her mind, she was all surprise--all astonishment that Wickham
should marry a girl whom it was impossible he could marry
for money; and how Lydia could ever have attached him had
appeared incomprehensible. But now it was all too natural. For
such an attachment as this she might have sufficient charms; and
though she did not suppose Lydia to be deliberately engaging in
an elopement without the intention of marriage, she had no
difficulty in believing that neither her virtue nor her
understanding would preserve her from falling an easy prey.