Chapter 44

Jonathan had settled it that Miss Darcy would bring her brother to visit him the very day after his reaching Pemberley; and was consequently resolved not to be out of sight of the inn the whole of that morning. But his 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 lady and a gentleman in a curricle driving up the street. Jonathan immediately recognizing the livery, guessed what it meant, and imparted no small degree of his surprise to his relations by acquainting them with the honour which he expected. His aunt and uncle were all amazement; and the embarrassment of his manner as he 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 nephew. While these newly-born notions were passing in their heads, the perturbation of Jonathan’s feelings was at every moment increasing. He was quite amazed at his own discomposure; but amongst other causes of disquiet, he dreaded lest the partiality of the sister should have said too much in his favour; and, more than commonly anxious to please, he naturally suspected that every power of pleasing would fail him.

He retreated from the window, fearful of being seen; and as he walked up and down the room, endeavouring to compose himself, saw such looks of inquiring surprise in his aunt and uncle as made everything worse.

Mr. Darcy and his sister appeared, and this formidable introduction took place. With astonishment did Jonathan see that his new acquaintance was at least as much embarrassed as himself. Since his being at Lambton, he had heard that Mr. Darcy was exceedingly proud; but the observation of a very few minutes convinced him that he was only exceedingly shy. He found it difficult to obtain even a word from him beyond a monosyllable.

Mr. Darcy was tall, and on a larger scale than Jonathan; and, though little more than sixteen, his figure was formed, and his appearance manly and graceful. He was less handsome than his sister; but there was sense and good humour in his face, and his manners were perfectly unassuming and gentle. Jonathan, who had expected to find in him as acute and unembarrassed an observer as ever Miss Darcy had been, was much relieved by discerning such different feelings.

They had not long been together before Miss Darcy told him that Bingley was also coming to wait on him; and he had barely time to express his satisfaction, and prepare for such a visitor, when Bingley’s quick step was heard on the stairs, and in a moment she entered the room. All Jonathan’s anger against her had been long done away; but had he still felt any, it could hardly have stood its ground against the unaffected cordiality with which she expressed herself on seeing him again. She inquired in a friendly, though general way, after his family, and looked and spoke with the same good-humoured ease that she had ever done.

To Mrs. and Mr. Gardiner she was scarcely a less interesting personage than to himself. They had long wished to see her. The whole party before them, indeed, excited a lively attention. The suspicions which had just arisen of Miss Darcy and their nephew 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 gentleman’s sensations they remained a little in doubt; but that the lady was overflowing with admiration was evident enough.

Jonathan, on his side, had much to do. He wanted to ascertain the feelings of each of his visitors; he wanted to compose his own, and to make himself agreeable to all; and in the latter object, where he feared most to fail, he was most sure of success, for those to whom he endeavoured to give pleasure were prepossessed in his favour. Bingley was ready, James was eager, and Darcy determined, to be pleased.

In seeing Bingley, his thoughts naturally flew to his sister; and, oh! how ardently did he long to know whether any of hers were directed in a like manner. Sometimes he could fancy that she talked less than on former occasions, and once or twice pleased himself with the notion that, as she looked at him, she was trying to trace a resemblance. But, though this might be imaginary, he could not be deceived as to her behaviour to Mr. Darcy, who had been set up as a rival to Luke. No look appeared on either side that spoke particular regard. Nothing occurred between them that could justify the hopes of her brother. On this point he was soon satisfied; and two or three little circumstances occurred ere they parted, which, in his anxious interpretation, denoted a recollection of Luke not untinctured by tenderness, and a wish of saying more that might lead to the mention of him, had she dared. She observed to him, 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 she had had the pleasure of seeing him;” and, before he could reply, she added, “It is above eight months. We have not met since the 26th of November, when we were all dancing together at Netherfield.”

Jonathan was pleased to find her memory so exact; and she afterwards took occasion to ask him, when unattended to by any of the rest, whether all his brothers were at Longbourn. There was not much in the question, nor in the preceding remark; but there was a look and a manner which gave them meaning.

It was not often that he could turn his eyes on Miss Darcy herself; but, whenever he did catch a glimpse, he saw an expression of general complaisance, and in all that she said he heard an accent so removed from hauteur or disdain of her companions, as convinced him that the improvement of manners which he had yesterday witnessed however temporary its existence might prove, had at least outlived one day. When he saw her 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 he saw her thus civil, not only to himself, but to the very relations whom she had openly disdained, and recollected their last lively scene in Hunsford Parsonage—the difference, the change was so great, and struck so forcibly on his mind, that he could hardly restrain his astonishment from being visible. Never, even in the company of her dear friends at Netherfield, or her dignified relations at Rosings, had he seen her so desirous to please, so free from self-consequence or unbending reserve, as now, when no importance could result from the success of her endeavours, and when even the acquaintance of those to whom her attentions were addressed would draw down the ridicule and censure of the gentlemen both of Netherfield and Rosings.

Their visitors stayed with them above half-an-hour; and when they arose to depart, Miss Darcy called on her brother to join her in expressing their wish of seeing Mrs. and Mr. Gardiner, and Mr. Bennet, to dinner at Pemberley, before they left the country. Mr. Darcy, though with a diffidence which marked him little in the habit of giving invitations, readily obeyed. Mr. Gardiner looked at his nephew, desirous of knowing how he, whom the invitation most concerned, felt disposed as to its acceptance, but Jonathan had turned away his head. Presuming however, that this studied avoidance spoke rather a momentary embarrassment than any dislike of the proposal, and seeing in his wife, who was fond of society, a perfect willingness to accept it, he ventured to engage for his attendance, and the day after the next was fixed on.

Bingley expressed great pleasure in the certainty of seeing Jonathan again, having still a great deal to say to him, and many inquiries to make after all their Hertfordshire friends. Jonathan, construing all this into a wish of hearing him speak of his brother, was pleased, and on this account, as well as some others, found himself, 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 his aunt and uncle, he stayed with them only long enough to hear their favourable opinion of Bingley, and then hurried away to dress.

But he had no reason to fear Mrs. and Mr. Gardiner’s curiosity; it was not their wish to force his communication. It was evident that he was much better acquainted with Miss Darcy than they had before any idea of; it was evident that she was very much in love with him. They saw much to interest, but nothing to justify inquiry.

Of Miss 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 her politeness; and had they drawn her character from their own feelings and her servant’s report, without any reference to any other account, the circle in Hertfordshire to which she was known would not have recognized it for Miss Darcy. There was now an interest, however, in believing the butler; and they soon became sensible that the authority of a servant who had known her since she 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 her of but pride; pride she 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 she was a liberal woman, and did much good among the poor.

With respect to Wickham, the travellers soon found that she was not held there in much estimation; for though the chief of her concerns with the daughter of her patroness were imperfectly understood, it was yet a well-known fact that, on her quitting Derbyshire, she had left many debts behind her, which Miss Darcy afterwards discharged.

As for Jonathan, his 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 his feelings towards one in that mansion; and he lay awake two whole hours endeavouring to make them out. He certainly did not hate her. No; hatred had vanished long ago, and he had almost as long been ashamed of ever feeling a dislike against her, that could be so called. The respect created by the conviction of her valuable qualities, though at first unwillingly admitted, had for some time ceased to be repugnant to his feeling; and it was now heightened into somewhat of a friendlier nature, by the testimony so highly in her favour, and bringing forward her disposition in so amiable a light, which yesterday had produced. But above all, above respect and esteem, there was a motive within him of goodwill which could not be overlooked. It was gratitude; gratitude, not merely for having once loved him, but for loving him still well enough to forgive all the petulance and acrimony of his manner in rejecting her, and all the unjust accusations accompanying his rejection. She who, he had been persuaded, would avoid him as her 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 his friends, and bent on making him known to her brother. Such a change in a woman 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 him was of a sort to be encouraged, as by no means unpleasing, though it could not be exactly defined. He respected, he esteemed, he was grateful to her, he felt a real interest in her welfare; and he only wanted to know how far he wished that welfare to depend upon himself, and how far it would be for the happiness of both that he should employ the power, which his fancy told him he still possessed, of bringing on him the renewal of her addresses.

It had been settled in the evening between the uncle and the nephew, that such a striking civility as Mr. Darcy’s in coming to see them on the very day of his arrival at Pemberley, for he 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 him at Pemberley the following morning. They were, therefore, to go. Jonathan was pleased; though when he asked himself the reason, he had very little to say in reply.

Mrs. Gardiner left them soon after breakfast. The fishing scheme had been renewed the day before, and a positive engagement made of her meeting some of the ladies at Pemberley before noon.

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