Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberle_oods with some perturbation; and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.
The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground. They entere_t in one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautifu_ood stretching over a wide extent.
Elizabeth's mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired ever_emarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for half-a-mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where th_ood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated o_he 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, an_acked by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natura_mportance 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 natura_eauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all o_hem warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistres_f Pemberley might be something!
They descended the hill, crossed the bridge, and drove to the door; and, whil_xamining the nearer aspect of the house, all her apprehension of meeting it_wner returned. She dreaded lest the chambermaid had been mistaken. O_pplying to see the place, they were admitted into the hall; and Elizabeth, a_hey waited for the housekeeper, had leisure to wonder at her being where sh_as.
The housekeeper came; a respectable-looking elderly woman, much less fine, an_ore civil, than she had any notion of finding her. They followed her into th_ining-parlour. It was a large, well proportioned room, handsomely fitted up.
Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy it_rospect. The hill, crowned with wood, which they had descended, receivin_ncreased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object. Ever_isposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene, th_iver, the trees scattered on its banks and the winding of the valley, as fa_s she could trace it, with delight. As they passed into other rooms thes_bjects were taking different positions; but from every window there wer_eauties to be seen. The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furnitur_uitable to the fortune of its proprietor; but Elizabeth saw, with admiratio_f his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less o_plendour, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings.
"And of this place," thought she, "I might have been mistress! With thes_ooms I might now have been familiarly acquainted! Instead of viewing them a_ stranger, I might have rejoiced in them as my own, and welcomed to them a_isitors my uncle and aunt. But no,"—recollecting herself—"that could neve_e; my uncle and aunt would have been lost to me; I should not have bee_llowed 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 b_er uncle; and she turned away with alarm, while Mrs. Reynolds replied that h_as, adding, "But we expect him to-morrow, with a large party of friends." Ho_ejoiced was Elizabeth that their own journey had not by any circumstance bee_elayed a day!
Her aunt now called her to look at a picture. She approached and saw th_ikeness of Mr. Wickham, suspended, amongst several other miniatures, over th_antelpiece. Her aunt asked her, smilingly, how she liked it. The housekeepe_ame forward, and told them it was a picture of a young gentleman, the son o_er 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 ou_ery wild."
Mrs. Gardiner looked at her niece with a smile, but Elizabeth could not retur_t.
"And that," said Mrs. Reynolds, pointing to another of the miniatures, "is m_aster—and very like him. It was drawn at the same time as the other—abou_ight years ago."
"I have heard much of your master's fine person," said Mrs. Gardiner, lookin_t the picture; "it is a handsome face. But, Lizzy, you can tell us whether i_s like or not."
Mrs. Reynolds respect for Elizabeth seemed to increase on this intimation o_er 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 _iner, larger picture of him than this. This room was my late master'_avourite room, and these miniatures are just as they used to be then. He wa_ery fond of them."
This accounted to Elizabeth for Mr. Wickham's being among them.
Mrs. Reynolds then directed their attention to one of Miss Darcy, drawn whe_he 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 s_ccomplished!—She plays and sings all day long. In the next room is a ne_nstrument 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 he_ommunicativeness by his questions and remarks; Mrs. Reynolds, either by prid_r attachment, had evidently great pleasure in talking of her master and hi_ister.
"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 tim_ere; and Miss Darcy is always down for the summer months."
"Except," thought Elizabeth, "when she goes to Ramsgate."
"If your master would marry, you might see more of him."
"Yes, sir; but I do not know when _that_ will be. I do not know who is goo_nough for him."
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner smiled. Elizabeth could not help saying, "It is ver_uch to his credit, I am sure, that you should think so."
"I say no more than the truth, and everybody will say that knows him," replie_he other. Elizabeth thought this was going pretty far; and she listened wit_ncreasing astonishment as the housekeeper added, "I have never known a cros_ord from him in my life, and I have known him ever since he was four year_ld."
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 keenes_ttention was awakened; she longed to hear more, and was grateful to her uncl_or saying:
"There are very few people of whom so much can be said. You are lucky i_aving such a master."
"Yes, sir, I know I am. If I were to go through the world, I could not mee_ith a better. But I have always observed, that they who are good-natured whe_hildren, are good-natured when they grow up; and he was always the sweetest- tempered, most generous-hearted boy in the world."
Elizabeth almost stared at her. "Can this be Mr. Darcy?" thought she.
"His father was an excellent man," said Mrs. Gardiner.
"Yes, ma'am, that he was indeed; and his son will be just like him—just a_ffable 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 th_ictures, the dimensions of the rooms, and the price of the furniture, i_ain. Mr. Gardiner, highly amused by the kind of family prejudice to which h_ttributed her excessive commendation of her master, soon led again to th_ubject; and she dwelt with energy on his many merits as they proceede_ogether 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 m_ancy, it is only because he does not rattle away like other young men."
"In what an amiable light does this place him!" thought Elizabeth.
"This fine account of him," whispered her aunt as they walked, "is not quit_onsistent 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 prett_itting-room, lately fitted up with greater elegance and lightness than th_partments below; and were informed that it was but just done to give pleasur_o 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 o_he windows.
Mrs. Reynolds anticipated Miss Darcy's delight, when she should enter th_oom. "And this is always the way with him," she added. "Whatever can give hi_ister any pleasure is sure to be done in a moment. There is nothing he woul_ot do for her."
The picture-gallery, and two or three of the principal bedrooms, were all tha_emained to be shown. In the former were many good paintings; but Elizabet_new nothing of the art; and from such as had been already visible below, sh_ad 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 t_ix the attention of a stranger. Elizabeth walked in quest of the only fac_hose features would be known to her. At last it arrested her—and she beheld _triking resemblance to Mr. Darcy, with such a smile over the face as sh_emembered to have sometimes seen when he looked at her. She stood severa_inutes before the picture, in earnest contemplation, and returned to it agai_efore they quitted the gallery. Mrs. Reynolds informed them that it had bee_aken in his father's lifetime.
There was certainly at this moment, in Elizabeth's mind, a more gentl_ensation towards the original than she had ever felt at the height of thei_cquaintance. The commendation bestowed on him by Mrs. Reynolds was of n_rifling nature. What praise is more valuable than the praise of a_ntelligent servant? As a brother, a landlord, a master, she considered ho_any people's happiness were in his guardianship!—how much of pleasure or pai_as 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 t_is 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 deepe_entiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before; she remembered it_armth, and softened its impropriety of expression.
When all of the house that was open to general inspection had been seen, the_eturned downstairs, and, taking leave of the housekeeper, were consigned ove_o the gardener, who met them at the hall-door.
As they walked across the hall towards the river, Elizabeth turned back t_ook again; her uncle and aunt stopped also, and while the former wa_onjecturing as to the date of the building, the owner of it himself suddenl_ame 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 th_heeks of both were overspread with the deepest blush. He absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immovable from surprise; but shortly recoverin_imself, advanced towards the party, and spoke to Elizabeth, if not in term_f perfect composure, at least of perfect civility.
She had instinctively turned away; but stopping on his approach, received hi_ompliments with an embarrassment impossible to be overcome. Had his firs_ppearance, or his resemblance to the picture they had just been examining, been insufficient to assure the other two that they now saw Mr. Darcy, th_ardener's expression of surprise, on beholding his master, must immediatel_ave 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, an_new not what answer she returned to his civil inquiries after her family.
Amazed at the alteration of his manner since they last parted, every sentenc_hat he uttered was increasing her embarrassment; and every idea of th_mpropriety of her being found there recurring to her mind, the few minutes i_hich they continued were some of the most uncomfortable in her life. Nor di_e seem much more at ease; when he spoke, his accent had none of its usua_edateness; and he repeated his inquiries as to the time of her having lef_ongbourn, and of her having stayed in Derbyshire, so often, and in so hurrie_ way, as plainly spoke the distraction of his thoughts.
At length every idea seemed to fail him; and, after standing a few moment_ithout saying a word, he suddenly recollected himself, and took leave.
The others then joined her, and expressed admiration of his figure; bu_lizabeth heard not a word, and wholly engrossed by her own feelings, followe_hem in silence. She was overpowered by shame and vexation. Her coming ther_as the most unfortunate, the most ill-judged thing in the world! How strang_t must appear to him! In what a disgraceful light might it not strike so vai_ 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 reac_f his discrimination; for it was plain that he was that moment arrived—tha_oment alighted from his horse or his carriage. She blushed again and agai_ver the perverseness of the meeting. And his behaviour, so strikingl_ltered—what could it mean? That he should even speak to her was amazing!—bu_o speak with such civility, to inquire after her family! Never in her lif_ad she seen his manners so little dignified, never had he spoken with suc_entleness as on this unexpected meeting. What a contrast did it offer to hi_ast address in Rosings Park, when he put his letter into her hand! She kne_ot what to think, or how to account for it.
They had now entered a beautiful walk by the side of the water, and every ste_as bringing forward a nobler fall of ground, or a finer reach of the woods t_hich they were approaching; but it was some time before Elizabeth wa_ensible of any of it; and, though she answered mechanically to the repeate_ppeals of her uncle and aunt, and seemed to direct her eyes to such object_s they pointed out, she distinguished no part of the scene. Her thoughts wer_ll fixed on that one spot of Pemberley House, whichever it might be, wher_r. Darcy then was. She longed to know what at the moment was passing in hi_ind—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 fel_imself at ease; yet there had been _that_ in his voice which was not lik_ase. Whether he had felt more of pain or of pleasure in seeing her she coul_ot tell, but he certainly had not seen her with composure.
At length, however, the remarks of her companions on her absence of min_roused her, and she felt the necessity of appearing more like herself.
They entered the woods, and bidding adieu to the river for a while, ascende_ome of the higher grounds; when, in spots where the opening of the trees gav_he eye power to wander, were many charming views of the valley, the opposit_ills, with the long range of woods overspreading many, and occasionally par_f 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 tol_hat it was ten miles round. It settled the matter; and they pursued th_ccustomed circuit; which brought them again, after some time, in a descen_mong 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 th_cene; it was a spot less adorned than any they had yet visited; and th_alley, here contracted into a glen, allowed room only for the stream, and _arrow walk amidst the rough coppice-wood which bordered it. Elizabeth longe_o explore its windings; but when they had crossed the bridge, and perceive_heir 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 quickl_s possible. Her niece was, therefore, obliged to submit, and they took thei_ay towards the house on the opposite side of the river, in the neares_irection; but their progress was slow, for Mr. Gardiner, though seldom abl_o indulge the taste, was very fond of fishing, and was so much engaged i_atching the occasional appearance of some trout in the water, and talking t_he man about them, that he advanced but little. Whilst wandering on in thi_low manner, they were again surprised, and Elizabeth's astonishment was quit_qual to what it had been at first, by the sight of Mr. Darcy approachin_hem, and at no great distance. The walk here being here less sheltered tha_n the other side, allowed them to see him before they met. Elizabeth, howeve_stonished, was at least more prepared for an interview than before, an_esolved to appear and to speak with calmness, if he really intended to mee_hem. For a few moments, indeed, she felt that he would probably strike int_ome other path. The idea lasted while a turning in the walk concealed hi_rom their view; the turning past, he was immediately before them. With _lance, she saw that he had lost none of his recent civility; and, to imitat_is politeness, she began, as they met, to admire the beauty of the place; bu_he had not got beyond the words "delightful," and "charming," when som_nlucky recollections obtruded, and she fancied that praise of Pemberley fro_er might be mischievously construed. Her colour changed, and she said n_ore.
Mrs. Gardiner was standing a little behind; and on her pausing, he asked he_f she would do him the honour of introducing him to her friends. This was _troke of civility for which she was quite unprepared; and she could hardl_uppress a smile at his being now seeking the acquaintance of some of thos_ery people against whom his pride had revolted in his offer to herself. "Wha_ill be his surprise," thought she, "when he knows who they are? He takes the_ow for people of fashion."
The introduction, however, was immediately made; and as she named thei_elationship 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 fro_uch disgraceful companions. That he was _surprised_ by the connection wa_vident; 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 consolin_hat he should know she had some relations for whom there was no need t_lush. She listened most attentively to all that passed between them, an_loried in every expression, every sentence of her uncle, which marked hi_ntelligence, his taste, or his good manners.
The conversation soon turned upon fishing; and she heard Mr. Darcy invite him, with the greatest civility, to fish there as often as he chose while h_ontinued in the neighbourhood, offering at the same time to supply him wit_ishing tackle, and pointing out those parts of the stream where there wa_sually most sport. Mrs. Gardiner, who was walking arm-in-arm with Elizabeth, gave her a look expressive of wonder. Elizabeth said nothing, but it gratifie_er exceedingly; the compliment must be all for herself. Her astonishment, however, was extreme, and continually was she repeating, "Why is he s_ltered? From what can it proceed? It cannot be for _me_ —it cannot be fo_my_ sake that his manners are thus softened. My reproofs at Hunsford coul_ot work such a change as this. It is impossible that he should still lov_e."
After walking some time in this way, the two ladies in front, the tw_entlemen behind, on resuming their places, after descending to the brink o_he river for the better inspection of some curious water-plant, there chance_o be a little alteration. It originated in Mrs. Gardiner, who, fatigued b_he exercise of the morning, found Elizabeth's arm inadequate to her support, and consequently preferred her husband's. Mr. Darcy took her place by he_iece, and they walked on together. After a short silence, the lady firs_poke. She wished him to know that she had been assured of his absence befor_he came to the place, and accordingly began by observing, that his arriva_ad been very unexpected—"for your housekeeper," she added, "informed us tha_ou would certainly not be here till to-morrow; and indeed, before we lef_akewell, we understood that you were not immediately expected in th_ountry." He acknowledged the truth of it all, and said that business with hi_teward had occasioned his coming forward a few hours before the rest of th_arty 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 wit_ou—Mr. Bingley and his sisters."
Elizabeth answered only by a slight bow. Her thoughts were instantly drive_ack to the time when Mr. Bingley's name had been the last mentioned betwee_hem; and, if she might judge by his complexion, _his_ mind was not ver_ifferently 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 _sk too much, to introduce my sister to your acquaintance during your stay a_ambton?"
The surprise of such an application was great indeed; it was too great for he_o know in what manner she acceded to it. She immediately felt that whateve_esire Miss Darcy might have of being acquainted with her must be the work o_er brother, and, without looking farther, it was satisfactory; it wa_ratifying to know that his resentment had not made him think really ill o_er.
They now walked on in silence, each of them deep in thought. Elizabeth was no_omfortable; that was impossible; but she was flattered and pleased. His wis_f introducing his sister to her was a compliment of the highest kind. The_oon outstripped the others, and when they had reached the carriage, Mr. an_rs. 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 a_mbargo on every subject. At last she recollected that she had bee_ravelling, 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 nearl_orn our before the tete-a-tete was over. On Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner's coming u_hey were all pressed to go into the house and take some refreshment; but thi_as declined, and they parted on each side with utmost politeness. Mr. Darc_anded the ladies into the carriage; and when it drove off, Elizabeth saw hi_alking slowly towards the house.
The observations of her uncle and aunt now began; and each of them pronounce_im to be infinitely superior to anything they had expected. "He is perfectl_ell behaved, polite, and unassuming," said her uncle.
"There _is_ something a little stately in him, to be sure," replied he_unt, "but it is confined to his air, and is not unbecoming. I can now sa_ith the housekeeper, that though some people may call him proud, I have see_othing of it."
"I was never more surprised than by his behaviour to us. It was more tha_ivil; 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 hi_etter when they had met in Kent than before, and that she had never seen hi_o pleasant as this morning.
"But perhaps he may be a little whimsical in his civilities," replied he_ncle. "Your great men often are; and therefore I shall not take him at hi_ord, as he might change his mind another day, and warn me off his grounds."
Elizabeth felt that they had entirely misunderstood his character, but sai_othing.
"From what we have seen of him," continued Mrs. Gardiner, "I really should no_ave thought that he could have behaved in so cruel a way by anybody as he ha_one by poor Wickham. He has not an ill-natured look. On the contrary, ther_s something pleasing about his mouth when he speaks. And there is somethin_f dignity in his countenance that would not give one an unfavourable idea o_is heart. But, to be sure, the good lady who showed us his house did give hi_ most flaming character! I could hardly help laughing aloud sometimes. But h_s a liberal master, I suppose, and _that_ in the eye of a servan_omprehends every virtue."
Elizabeth here felt herself called on to say something in vindication of hi_ehaviour to Wickham; and therefore gave them to understand, in as guarded _anner 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 hi_haracter was by no means so faulty, nor Wickham's so amiable, as they ha_een considered in Hertfordshire. In confirmation of this, she related th_articulars of all the pecuniary transactions in which they had bee_onnected, without actually naming her authority, but stating it to be such a_ight be relied on.
Mrs. Gardiner was surprised and concerned; but as they were now approachin_he scene of her former pleasures, every idea gave way to the charm o_ecollection; and she was too much engaged in pointing out to her husband al_he interesting spots in its environs to think of anything else. Fatigued a_he had been by the morning's walk they had no sooner dined than she set of_gain in quest of her former acquaintance, and the evening was spent in th_atisfactions of a intercourse renewed after many years' discontinuance.
The occurrences of the day were too full of interest to leave Elizabeth muc_ttention 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 wishin_er to be acquainted with his sister.