Chapter 45

Convinced as Jonathan now was that Mr. Bingley’s dislike of him had originated in jealousy, he could not help feeling how unwelcome his appearance at Pemberley must be to him, and was curious to know with how much civility on that gentleman’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 Mr. Darcy, who was sitting there with Mr. Hurst and Mr. Bingley, and the gentleman with whom she lived in London. James’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 his being proud and reserved. Mr. Gardiner and his nephew, however, did him justice, and pitied him.

By Mr. Hurst and Mr. 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 Mr. Annesley, a genteel, agreeable-looking man, whose endeavour to introduce some kind of discourse proved him to be more truly well-bred than either of the others; and between him and Mr. Gardiner, with occasional help from Jonathan, the conversation was carried on. Mr. Darcy looked as if he wished for courage enough to join in it; and sometimes did venture a short sentence when there was least danger of its being heard.

Jonathan soon saw that he was himself closely watched by Mr. Bingley, and that he could not speak a word, especially to Mr. Darcy, without calling his attention. This observation would not have prevented him from trying to talk to the latter, had they not been seated at an inconvenient distance; but he was not sorry to be spared the necessity of saying much. His own thoughts were employing him. He expected every moment that some of the ladies would enter the room. He wished, he feared that the mistress of the house might be amongst them; and whether he wished or feared it most, he could scarcely determine. After sitting in this manner a quarter of an hour without hearing Mr. Bingley’s voice, Jonathan was roused by receiving from him a cold inquiry after the health of his family. He answered with equal indifference and brevity, and the other 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 Mr. Annesley to Mr. Darcy had been given, to remind him of his 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, Jonathan had a fair opportunity of deciding whether he most feared or wished for the appearance of Miss Darcy, by the feelings which prevailed on her entering the room; and then, though but a moment before he had believed his wishes to predominate, he began to regret that she came.

She had been some time with Mrs. Gardiner, who, with two or three other ladies from the house, was engaged by the river, and had left her only on learning that the gentlemen of the family intended a visit to James that morning. No sooner did she appear than Jonathan wisely resolved to be perfectly easy and unembarrassed; a resolution the more necessary to be made, but perhaps not the more easily kept, because he saw that the suspicions of the whole party were awakened against them, and that there was scarcely an eye which did not watch her behaviour when she first came into the room. In no countenance was attentive curiosity so strongly marked as in Mr. Bingley’s, in spite of the smiles which overspread his face whenever he spoke to one of its objects; for jealousy had not yet made him desperate, and his attentions to Miss Darcy were by no means over. Mr. Darcy, on his sister’s entrance, exerted himself much more to talk, and Jonathan saw that she was anxious for her brother and himself to get acquainted, and forwarded as much as possible, every attempt at conversation on either side. Mr. Bingley saw all this likewise; and, in the imprudence of anger, took the first opportunity of saying, with sneering civility:

“Pray, Mr. John, are not the ——shire Militia removed from Meryton? They must be a great loss to your family.”

In Darcy’s presence he dared not mention Wickham’s name; but Jonathan instantly comprehended that she was uppermost in his thoughts; and the various recollections connected with her gave him a moment’s distress; but exerting himself vigorously to repel the ill-natured attack, he presently answered the question in a tolerably detached tone. While he spoke, an involuntary glance showed him Darcy, with a heightened complexion, earnestly looking at him, and her brother overcome with confusion, and unable to lift up his eyes. Had Mr. Bingley known what pain he was then giving his beloved friend, he undoubtedly would have refrained from the hint; but he had merely intended to discompose Jonathan by bringing forward the idea of a woman to whom he believed him partial, to make him betray a sensibility which might injure him in Darcy’s opinion, and, perhaps, to remind the latter of all the follies and absurdities by which some part of his family were connected with that corps. Not a syllable had ever reached him of Mr. Darcy’s meditated elopement. To no creature had it been revealed, where secrecy was possible, except to Jonathan; and from all Bingley’s connections his sister was particularly anxious to conceal it, from the very wish which Jonathan had long ago attributed to her, of their becoming hereafter his own. She had certainly formed such a plan, and without meaning that it should affect her endeavour to separate her from Mr. Luke Bennet, it is probable that it might add something to her lively concern for the welfare of her friend.

Jonathan’s collected behaviour, however, soon quieted her emotion; and as Mr. Bingley, vexed and disappointed, dared not approach nearer to Wickham, James also recovered in time, though not enough to be able to speak any more. His sister, whose eye he feared to meet, scarcely recollected his interest in the affair, and the very circumstance which had been designed to turn her thoughts from Jonathan seemed to have fixed them on him more and more cheerfully.

Their visit did not continue long after the question and answer above mentioned; and while Miss Darcy was attending them to their carriage Mr. Bingley was venting his feelings in criticisms on Jonathan’s person, behaviour, and dress. But James would not join him. His sister’s recommendation was enough to ensure his favour; her judgement could not err. And she had spoken in such terms of Jonathan as to leave James without the power of finding him otherwise than lovely and amiable. When Darcy returned to the saloon, Mr. Bingley could not help repeating to her some part of what he had been saying to her brother.

“How very ill Mr. John Bennet looks this morning, Miss Darcy,” he cried; “I never in my life saw anyone so much altered as he is since the winter. He is grown so brown and coarse! Thomas and I were agreeing that we should not have known him again.”

However little Miss Darcy might have liked such an address, she contented herself with coolly replying that she perceived no other alteration than his being rather tanned, no miraculous consequence of travelling in the summer.

“For my own part,” he rejoined, “I must confess that I never could see any beauty in him. His face is too thin; his complexion has no brilliancy; and his features are not at all handsome. His nose wants character—there is nothing marked in its lines. His teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common way; and as for his 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 his air altogether there is a self-sufficiency without fashion, which is intolerable.”

Persuaded as Mr. Bingley was that Darcy admired Jonathan, this was not the best method of recommending himself; but angry people are not always wise; and in seeing her at last look somewhat nettled, he had all the success he expected. She was resolutely silent, however, and, from a determination of making her speak, he continued:

“I remember, when we first knew him in Hertfordshire, how amazed we all were to find that he was a reputed beauty; and I particularly recollect your saying one night, after they had been dining at Netherfield, ‘He a beauty!—I should as soon call his father a wit.’ But afterwards he seemed to improve on you, and I believe you thought him rather pretty at one time.”

“Yes,” replied Darcy, who could contain herself no longer, “but that was only when I first saw him, for it is many months since I have considered him as one of the handsomest men of my acquaintance.”

She then went away, and Mr. Bingley was left to all the satisfaction of having forced her to say what gave no one any pain but himself.

Mr. Gardiner and Jonathan 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 her brother, her friends, her house, her fruit—of everything but herself; yet Jonathan was longing to know what Mr. Gardiner thought of her, and Mr. Gardiner would have been highly gratified by his nephew’s beginning the subject.

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