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 that moment was passing in his mind; in what manner he thought of
her, and whether, in defiance of every thing, 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 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, ascended
some of the higher grounds; whence, 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, in 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 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. This 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 connexion was evident; he sustained it however with
fortitude, and so far from going away, turned 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 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 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 her 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
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 tomorrow," 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 last mentioned between them; and if
she might judge from 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
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 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 out before the te^te-a`-te^te
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 the 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 any thing they had expected. "He is perfectly well
behaved, polite, and unassuming," said her uncle.