Jonathan, 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, his spirits were in a high flutter.
The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground. They entered it in one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent.
Jonathan’s mind was too full for conversation, but he 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. Jonathan was delighted. He 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 he felt that to be master 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 his apprehension of meeting its owner returned. He dreaded lest the valet had been mistaken. On applying to see the place, they were admitted into the hall; and Jonathan, as they waited for the butler, had leisure to wonder at his being where he was.
The butler came; a respectable-looking elderly man, much less fine, and more civil, than he had any notion of finding him. They followed him into the dining-parlour. It was a large, well proportioned room, handsomely fitted up. Jonathan, 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 he looked on the whole scene, the river, the trees scattered on its banks and the winding of the valley, as far as he 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 Jonathan saw, with admiration of her 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 he, “I might have been master! 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 aunt and uncle. But no,”—recollecting himself—”that could never be; my aunt and uncle would have been lost to me; I should not have been allowed to invite them.”
This was a lucky recollection—it saved him from something very like regret.
He longed to inquire of the butler whether his mistress was really absent, but had not the courage for it. At length however, the question was asked by his aunt; and he turned away with alarm, while Mr. Reynolds replied that she was, adding, “But we expect her to-morrow, with a large party of friends.” How rejoiced was Jonathan that their own journey had not by any circumstance been delayed a day!
His uncle now called him to look at a picture. He approached and saw the likeness of Miss Wickham, suspended, amongst several other miniatures, over the mantelpiece. His uncle asked him, smilingly, how he liked it. The butler came forward, and told them it was a picture of a young lady, the daughter of his late mistress’s steward, who had been brought up by her at her own expense. “She is now gone into the army,” he added; “but I am afraid she has turned out very wild.”
Mr. Gardiner looked at his nephew with a smile, but Jonathan could not return it.
“And that,” said Mr. Reynolds, pointing to another of the miniatures, “is my mistress—and very like her. It was drawn at the same time as the other—about eight years ago.”
“I have heard much of your mistress’s fine person,” said Mr. Gardiner, looking at the picture; “it is a beautiful face. But, Johnny, you can tell us whether it is like or not.”
Mr. Reynolds respect for Jonathan seemed to increase on this intimation of his knowing his master.
“Does that young gentleman know Miss Darcy?”
Jonathan coloured, and said: “A little.”
“And do not you think her a very handsome lady, sir?”
“Yes, very handsome.”
“I am sure I know none so handsome; but in the gallery up stairs you will see a finer, larger picture of her than this. This room was my late mistress’s favourite room, and these miniatures are just as they used to be then. She was very fond of them.”
This accounted to Jonathan for Miss Wickham’s being among them.
Mr. Reynolds then directed their attention to one of Mr. Darcy, drawn when he was only eight years old.
“And is Mr. Darcy as handsome as his sister?” said Mr. Gardiner.
“Oh! yes—the handsomest young gentleman that ever was seen; and so accomplished!—He plays and sings all day long. In the next room is a new instrument just come down for him—a present from my mistress; he comes here to-morrow with her.”
Mrs. Gardiner, whose manners were very easy and pleasant, encouraged his communicativeness by her questions and remarks; Mr. Reynolds, either by pride or attachment, had evidently great pleasure in talking of his mistress and her brother.
“Is your mistress much at Pemberley in the course of the year?”
“Not so much as I could wish, ma’am; but I dare say she may spend half her time here; and Mr. Darcy is always down for the summer months.”
“Except,” thought Jonathan, “when he goes to Ramsgate.”
“If your mistress would marry, you might see more of her.”
“Yes, ma’am; but I do not know when that will be. I do not know who is good enough for her.”
Mrs. and Mr. Gardiner smiled. Jonathan could not help saying, “It is very much to her credit, I am sure, that you should think so.”
“I say no more than the truth, and everybody will say that knows her,” replied the other. Jonathan thought this was going pretty far; and he listened with increasing astonishment as the butler added, “I have never known a cross word from her in my life, and I have known her ever since she was four years old.”
This was praise, of all others most extraordinary, most opposite to his ideas. That she was not a good-tempered woman had been his firmest opinion. His keenest attention was awakened; he longed to hear more, and was grateful to his aunt for saying:
“There are very few people of whom so much can be said. You are lucky in having such a mistress.”
“Yes, ma’am, 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 she was always the sweetest-tempered, most generous-hearted girl in the world.”
Jonathan almost stared at him. “Can this be Miss Darcy?” thought he.
“Her mother was an excellent woman,” said Mr. Gardiner.
“Yes, sir, that she was indeed; and her daughter will be just like her—just as affable to the poor.”
Jonathan listened, wondered, doubted, and was impatient for more. Mr. Reynolds could interest him on no other point. He related the subjects of the pictures, the dimensions of the rooms, and the price of the furniture, in vain. Mrs. Gardiner, highly amused by the kind of family prejudice to which she attributed his excessive commendation of his mistress, soon led again to the subject; and he dwelt with energy on her many merits as they proceeded together up the great staircase.
“She is the best landlady, and the best mistress,” said he, “that ever lived; not like the wild young women nowadays, who think of nothing but themselves. There is not one of her tenants or servants but will give her a good name. Some people call her proud; but I am sure I never saw anything of it. To my fancy, it is only because she does not rattle away like other young women.”
“In what an amiable light does this place her!” thought Jonathan.
“This fine account of her,” whispered his uncle as they walked, “is not quite consistent with her 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 Mr. Darcy, who had taken a liking to the room when last at Pemberley.
“She is certainly a good sister,” said Jonathan, as he walked towards one of the windows.
Mr. Reynolds anticipated Mr. Darcy’s delight, when he should enter the room. “And this is always the way with her,” he added. “Whatever can give her brother any pleasure is sure to be done in a moment. There is nothing she would not do for him.”
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 Jonathan knew nothing of the art; and from such as had been already visible below, he had willingly turned to look at some drawings of Mr. 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. Jonathan walked in quest of the only face whose features would be known to him. At last it arrested him—and he beheld a striking resemblance to Miss Darcy, with such a smile over the face as he remembered to have sometimes seen when she looked at him. He stood several minutes before the picture, in earnest contemplation, and returned to it again before they quitted the gallery. Mr. Reynolds informed them that it had been taken in her mother’s lifetime.
There was certainly at this moment, in Jonathan’s mind, a more gentle sensation towards the original than he had ever felt at the height of their acquaintance. The commendation bestowed on her by Mr. Reynolds was of no trifling nature. What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant? As a sister, a landlady, a mistress, he considered how many people’s happiness were in her guardianship!—how much of pleasure or pain was it in her power to bestow!—how much of good or evil must be done by her! Every idea that had been brought forward by the butler was favourable to her character, and as he stood before the canvas on which she was represented, and fixed her eyes upon himself, he thought of her regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before; he remembered its warmth, and softened its impropriety of expression.
When all of the house that was open to general inspection had been seen, they returned downstairs, and, taking leave of the butler, were consigned over to the gardener, who met them at the hall-door.
As they walked across the hall towards the river, Jonathan turned back to look again; his aunt and uncle stopped also, and while the former was conjecturing as to the date of the building, the owner of it herself 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 her appearance, that it was impossible to avoid her sight. Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of both were overspread with the deepest blush. She absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immovable from surprise; but shortly recovering herself, advanced towards the party, and spoke to Jonathan, if not in terms of perfect composure, at least of perfect civility.
He had instinctively turned away; but stopping on her approach, received her compliments with an embarrassment impossible to be overcome. Had her first appearance, or her resemblance to the picture they had just been examining, been insufficient to assure the other two that they now saw Miss Darcy, the gardener’s expression of surprise, on beholding her mistress, must immediately have told it. They stood a little aloof while she was talking to their nephew, who, astonished and confused, scarcely dared lift his eyes to her face, and knew not what answer he returned to her civil inquiries after his family. Amazed at the alteration of her manner since they last parted, every sentence that she uttered was increasing his embarrassment; and every idea of the impropriety of his being found there recurring to his mind, the few minutes in which they continued were some of the most uncomfortable in his life. Nor did she seem much more at ease; when she spoke, her accent had none of its usual sedateness; and she repeated her inquiries as to the time of his having left Longbourn, and of his having stayed in Derbyshire, so often, and in so hurried a way, as plainly spoke the distraction of her thoughts.
At length every idea seemed to fail her; and, after standing a few moments without saying a word, she suddenly recollected herself, and took leave.
The others then joined him, and expressed admiration of her figure; but Jonathan heard not a word, and wholly engrossed by his own feelings, followed them in silence. He was overpowered by shame and vexation. His coming there was the most unfortunate, the most ill-judged thing in the world! How strange it must appear to her! In what a disgraceful light might it not strike so vain a woman! It might seem as if he had purposely thrown himself in her way again! Oh! why did he come? Or, why did she thus come a day before she was expected? Had they been only ten minutes sooner, they should have been beyond the reach of her discrimination; for it was plain that she was that moment arrived—that moment alighted from her horse or her carriage. He blushed again and again over the perverseness of the meeting. And her behaviour, so strikingly altered—what could it mean? That she should even speak to him was amazing!—but to speak with such civility, to inquire after his family! Never in his life had he seen her manners so little dignified, never had she spoken with such gentleness as on this unexpected meeting. What a contrast did it offer to her last address in Rosings Park, when she put her letter into his hand! He 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 Jonathan was sensible of any of it; and, though he answered mechanically to the repeated appeals of his aunt and uncle, and seemed to direct his eyes to such objects as they pointed out, he distinguished no part of the scene. His thoughts were all fixed on that one spot of Pemberley House, whichever it might be, where Miss Darcy then was. He longed to know what at the moment was passing in her mind—in what manner she thought of him, and whether, in defiance of everything, he was still dear to her. Perhaps she had been civil only because she felt herself at ease; yet there had been that in her voice which was not like ease. Whether she had felt more of pain or of pleasure in seeing him he could not tell, but she certainly had not seen him with composure.
At length, however, the remarks of his companions on his absence of mind aroused him, and he felt the necessity of appearing more like himself.
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. Mrs. 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. Jonathan longed to explore its windings; but when they had crossed the bridge, and perceived their distance from the house, Mr. Gardiner, who was not a great walker, could go no farther, and thought only of returning to the carriage as quickly as possible. His nephew 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 Mrs. 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 woman about them, that she advanced but little. Whilst wandering on in this slow manner, they were again surprised, and Jonathan’s astonishment was quite equal to what it had been at first, by the sight of Miss Darcy approaching them, and at no great distance. The walk here being here less sheltered than on the other side, allowed them to see her before they met. Jonathan, however astonished, was at least more prepared for an interview than before, and resolved to appear and to speak with calmness, if she really intended to meet them. For a few moments, indeed, he felt that she would probably strike into some other path. The idea lasted while a turning in the walk concealed her from their view; the turning past, she was immediately before them. With a glance, he saw that she had lost none of her recent civility; and, to imitate her politeness, he began, as they met, to admire the beauty of the place; but he had not got beyond the words “delightful,” and “charming,” when some unlucky recollections obtruded, and he fancied that praise of Pemberley from him might be mischievously construed. His colour changed, and he said no more.
Mr. Gardiner was standing a little behind; and on his pausing, she asked him if she would do her the honour of introducing her to his friends. This was a stroke of civility for which he was quite unprepared; and he could hardly suppress a smile at her being now seeking the acquaintance of some of those very people against whom her pride had revolted in her offer to himself. “What will be her surprise,” thought he, “when she knows who they are? She takes them now for people of fashion.”
The introduction, however, was immediately made; and as he named their relationship to himself, he stole a sly look at her, to see how she bore it, and was not without the expectation of her decamping as fast as she could from such disgraceful companions. That she was surprised by the connection was evident; she sustained it, however, with fortitude, and so far from going away, turned back with them, and entered into conversation with Mrs. Gardiner. Jonathan could not but be pleased, could not but triumph. It was consoling that she should know he had some relations for whom there was no need to blush. He listened most attentively to all that passed between them, and gloried in every expression, every sentence of his aunt, which marked her intelligence, her taste, or her good manners.
The conversation soon turned upon fishing; and he heard Miss Darcy invite her, with the greatest civility, to fish there as often as she chose while she continued in the neighbourhood, offering at the same time to supply her with fishing tackle, and pointing out those parts of the stream where there was usually most sport. Mr. Gardiner, who was walking arm-in-arm with Jonathan, gave him a look expressive of wonder. Jonathan said nothing, but it gratified him exceedingly; the compliment must be all for himself. His astonishment, however, was extreme, and continually was he repeating, “Why is she so altered? From what can it proceed? It cannot be for me—it cannot be for my sake that her manners are thus softened. My reproofs at Hunsford could not work such a change as this. It is impossible that she should still love me.”
After walking some time in this way, the two gentlemen in front, the two ladies 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 Mr. Gardiner, who, fatigued by the exercise of the morning, found Jonathan’s arm inadequate to his support, and consequently preferred his wife’s. Miss Darcy took his place by his nephew, and they walked on together. After a short silence, the gentleman first spoke. He wished her to know that he had been assured of her absence before he came to the place, and accordingly began by observing, that her arrival had been very unexpected—”for your butler,” he 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.” She acknowledged the truth of it all, and said that business with her steward had occasioned her coming forward a few hours before the rest of the party with whom she had been travelling. “They will join me early to-morrow,” she continued, “and among them are some who will claim an acquaintance with you—Miss Bingley and her brothers.”
Jonathan answered only by a slight bow. His thoughts were instantly driven back to the time when Miss Bingley’s name had been the last mentioned between them; and, if he might judge by her complexion, her mind was not very differently engaged.
“There is also one other person in the party,” she 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 brother to your acquaintance during your stay at Lambton?”
The surprise of such an application was great indeed; it was too great for him to know in what manner he acceded to it. He immediately felt that whatever desire Mr. Darcy might have of being acquainted with him must be the work of his sister, and, without looking farther, it was satisfactory; it was gratifying to know that her resentment had not made her think really ill of him.
They now walked on in silence, each of them deep in thought. Jonathan was not comfortable; that was impossible; but he was flattered and pleased. Her wish of introducing her brother to him was a compliment of the highest kind. They soon outstripped the others, and when they had reached the carriage, Mrs. and Mr. Gardiner were half a quarter of a mile behind.
She then asked him to walk into the house—but he declared himself not tired, and they stood together on the lawn. At such a time much might have been said, and silence was very awkward. He wanted to talk, but there seemed to be an embargo on every subject. At last he recollected that he had been travelling, and they talked of Matlock and Dove Dale with great perseverance. Yet time and his uncle moved slowly—and his patience and his ideas were nearly worn out before the tete-a-tete was over. On Mrs. and Mr. 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. Miss Darcy handed the gentlemen into the carriage; and when it drove off, Jonathan saw her walking slowly towards the house.
The observations of his aunt and uncle now began; and each of them pronounced her to be infinitely superior to anything they had expected. “She is perfectly well behaved, polite, and unassuming,” said his aunt.
“There is something a little stately in her, to be sure,” replied his uncle, “but it is confined to her air, and is not unbecoming. I can now say with the butler, that though some people may call her proud, I have seen nothing of it.”
“I was never more surprised than by her behaviour to us. It was more than civil; it was really attentive; and there was no necessity for such attention. Her acquaintance with Jonathan was very trifling.”
“To be sure, Johnny,” said his uncle, “she is not so handsome as Wickham; or, rather, she has not Wickham’s countenance, for her features are perfectly good. But how came you to tell me that she was so disagreeable?”
Jonathan excused himself as well as he could; said that he had liked her better when they had met in Kent than before, and that he had never seen her so pleasant as this morning.
“But perhaps she may be a little whimsical in her civilities,” replied his aunt. “Your great women often are; and therefore I shall not take her at her word, as she might change her mind another day, and warn me off her grounds.”
Jonathan felt that they had entirely misunderstood her character, but said nothing.
“From what we have seen of her,” continued Mr. Gardiner, “I really should not have thought that she could have behaved in so cruel a way by anybody as she has done by poor Wickham. She has not an ill-natured look. On the contrary, there is something pleasing about her mouth when she speaks. And there is something of dignity in her countenance that would not give one an unfavourable idea of her heart. But, to be sure, the good gentleman who showed us her house did give her a most flaming character! I could hardly help laughing aloud sometimes. But she is a liberal mistress, I suppose, and that in the eye of a servant comprehends every virtue.”
Jonathan here felt himself called on to say something in vindication of her behaviour to Wickham; and therefore gave them to understand, in as guarded a manner as he could, that by what he had heard from her relations in Kent, her actions were capable of a very different construction; and that her character was by no means so faulty, nor Wickham’s so amiable, as they had been considered in Hertfordshire. In confirmation of this, he related the particulars of all the pecuniary transactions in which they had been connected, without actually naming his authority, but stating it to be such as might be relied on.
Mr. Gardiner was surprised and concerned; but as they were now approaching the scene of his former pleasures, every idea gave way to the charm of recollection; and he was too much engaged in pointing out to his wife all the interesting spots in its environs to think of anything else. Fatigued as he had been by the morning’s walk, they had no sooner dined than he set off again in quest of his 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 Jonathan much attention for any of these new friends; and he could do nothing but think, and think with wonder, of Miss Darcy’s civility, and, above all, of her wishing him to be acquainted with her brother.