The Passionate, Evocative Passages
in Jane Austen's Novels
The Fifth Page - Pride and Prejudice
December 16, 2000
Updated: May 30, 2001
By Linda with contributions
from Cheryl, Julie Grassi,
and Ashton Dennis
Many people will explain to you that Jane Austen wrote nothing about romance or passion; the worst examples of this view are the petty remarks of Charlotte Bronte. We disagree, we believe that there was a deeply passionate side to Jane Austen. Perhaps Jane Austen's oldest brother, James Austen, said it best when he wrote this about his sister:
On such subjects no wonder that she shou'd write well,
In whom so united those Qualities dwell;
Where 'dear Sensibility', Sterne's darling Maid,
With Sense so attemper'd is finely portray'd
Fair Elinor's self in that Mind is exprest,
And the Feelings of Marianne live in that Breast,
Everyone points to the humor in our Lady's novels - the humor and the intricate logic. These seem to fuel the enduring interest in Jane Austen's novels, but the passionate feelings and the range of emotions are important too. This sensibility is not noticed as often as the other qualities, but its pull is as strong because it is closer to our hearts, and so it controls our tides and provides the mixing so that the more obvious qualities are better blended. This web page is devoted to those passages in the novels that evoke our strongest feelings. We purposely allow the sensibilities to eclipse those other qualities, to shade our view from the extreme brightness of the humor and the good sense in order better to view the passion and the sensibility.
Two of the novels in particular, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, capture that part of courtship dealing with the anticipation of the sexual relationship. In Pride and Prejudice, it's less deliberate and less mature -- more of a function of the age and vitality of Elizabeth and Darcy. Re-read those passages that describe the dancing in particular, and think about what it must have been like for, say, Jane Bennet, clasping hands with Bingley, then Mr. Hurst, or Sir William, then a sister and back to Bingley. Or the brief moment after Bingley's proposal when Elizabeth surprises them as they're standing close together -- perhaps more closely than they have in the previous year.
You can move from here to the evocative passages of Pride and Prejudice, or advance to the "passionate passages" of
| Emma | Mansfield
Park | Northanger
| Persuasion | Sense and Sensibility |
Pride and Prejudice
We begin near the end - we start with this snippet from Chapter 58. Elizabeth had just expressed her gratitude to Darcy for his assistance to her family. She left little doubt that her feelings about him had completely changed. Darcy replies:
" 'If you will thank me,' he replied, 'let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.'
Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, 'you are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.'
Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eyes, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight diffused over his face became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.
They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects. ..."
But, things did not start out so sweetly did they?
Darcy's impression of Elizabeth evolved rather quickly away from his initial "... not handsome enough to tempt me." That evolution is detailed in Chapter 6:
"Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley's attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticize. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware;--to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with.
He began to wish to know more of her, and as a step towards conversing with her himself, attended to her conversation with others. His doing so drew her notice. ..."
A sexual tension between Elizabeth and Darcy dated from the time of Jane's illness, and Elizabeth's stay at Netherfield. One is struck forcibly by the way every conversation between Darcy and Elizabeth leaps from the page, positively vibrating with sexual tension. At no time, never, ever, are these two indifferent to each other. Even at the lowest point in their relationship, the least that could be said, as it was of Captain Wentworth, is that "they fancied themselves indifferent, when they were only angry." They always converse with each other at a different level than they do with others in the room - Miss Bingley, a very astute observer, senses the tension between them from the start, and never misses an opportunity to attack Elizabeth. Her jealousy is palpable, and quite justified. It is also striking that their language falls immediately into a kind of intimate shorthand - each catches the other's meaning immediately, and the conversation is conducted at an intimate level which tends to exclude others - for instance, there is this conversation at Netherfield; Miss Bingley addresses Elizabeth:
" 'Your examination of Mr Darcy is over, I presume', said Miss Bingley 'and pray what is the result?'
'I am perfectly convinced by it that Mr Darcy has no defect. He owns it himself without disguise'.
'No'--said Darcy, 'I have made no such pretension'. ... 'There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best of education can overcome'.
'And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody.'
'And yours', he replied with a smile, 'is willfully to misunderstand them'.
'Do let us have a little music', cried Miss Bingley, tired of a conversation in which she had no share."
One might describe the tension between Elizabeth and Darcy by likening it to some of the best work of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey. They many times played the parts of people who thought they hated each other on sight, only to find out that the reverse was true.
On the other hand, Jane Austen sets down Darcy's explicit understanding of his growing feelings for Elizabeth in Chapter 12. He understands and is uncomfortable about it. - The match would be too ill-advised, he has too many responsibilities. And besides, Mrs. Bennet has given ample evidence of her fortune-hunting ambitions for her daughters - one mustn't allow oneself to be bagged.
The passage opens with Bingley's dismay that Jane and Elizabeth Bennet were about to end their stay at Netherfield and return to their home.
"To Mr. Darcy it was welcome intelligence--Elizabeth had been at Netherfield long enough. She attracted him more than he liked--and Miss Bingley was uncivil to her, and more teasing than usual to himself. He wisely resolved to be particularly careful that no sign of admiration should now escape him, nothing that could elevate her with the hope of influencing his felicity; sensible that if such an idea had been suggested, his behavior during the last day must have material weight in confirming or crushing it. Steady to his purpose, he scarcely spoke ten words to her through the whole of Saturday, and though they were at one time left by themselves for half-an-hour, he adhered most conscientiously to his book, and would not even look at her."
Another disposition might have determined that a better way to achieve this goal would have been to converse freely in an indifferent manner. It seems that Darcy was afraid of betraying himself. Notice that Darcy already wished to protect Elizabeth, from Miss Bingley's gibes in this case, - a sure sign of love. Of course, Elizabeth would misinterpret all this, perfectly, and imagine further confirmation of her faulty first impression.
Anger is one of the stronger emotions and fury is one of the passions. And, nothing is quite so furious as that which Elizabeth Bennet unleashes on Darcy at times. In Chapter 34, Elizabeth has excused herself in order to sit alone and digest Colonel Fitzwilliam's inadvertent information that it had been Darcy who had separated his friend Bingley from her sister Jane. Elizabeth had suspected that, but here was explicit confirmation. Our heroine boiled:
"... Elizabeth, as if intending to exasperate herself as much as possible against Mr. Darcy, chose for her employment the examination of all the letters which Jane had written to her since her being in Kent. They contained no actual complaint, nor was there any revival of past occurrences, or any communication of present suffering. But in all, and in almost every line of each, there was a want of that cheerfulness which had been used to characterize her style, and which, proceeding from the serenity of a mind at ease with itself and kindly disposed towards every one, had been scarcely ever clouded. Elizabeth noticed every sentence conveying the idea of uneasiness, with an attention which it had hardly received on the first perusal. Mr. Darcy's shameful boast of what misery he had been able to inflict gave her a keener sense of her sister's sufferings. ..."
Elizabeth was interested in Colonel Fitzwilliam and Jane Austen makes that clear in the next passage.
"... It was some consolation to think that [Darcy's] visit to Rosings was to end on the day after the next,--and, a still greater, that in less than a fortnight she should herself be with Jane again, and enabled to contribute to the recovery of her spirits, by all that affection could do.
She could not think of Darcy's leaving Kent without remembering that his cousin was to go with him; but Colonel Fitzwilliam had made it clear that he had no intentions at all, and agreeable as he was, she did not mean to be unhappy about him.
While settling this point, she was suddenly roused by the sound of the door-bell, and her spirits were a little fluttered by the idea of its being Colonel Fitzwilliam himself, who had once before called late in the evening, and might now come to inquire particularly after her. ..."
But it was not Colonel Fitzwilliam, it was someone else who would have done better to have fallen into a ditch on his way to the parsonage.
"But this idea was soon banished, and her spirits were very differently affected, when, to her utter amazement, she saw Mr. Darcy walk into the room. In an hurried manner he immediately began an inquiry after her health, imputing his visit to a wish of hearing that she were better. She answered him with cold civility. He sat down for a few moments, and then getting up, walked about the room. Elizabeth was surprised, but said not a word. After a silence of several minutes, he came towards her in an agitated manner, and thus began-
'In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.'
Fine, well said! - now shut up and wait for a response! But Darcy did not shut up and he became like a trapped animal.
"Elizabeth's astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, colored, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement; and the avowal of all that he felt, and had long felt for her, immediately followed. He spoke well; but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority--of its being a degradation--of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.
In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man's affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. She tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience, when he should have done. He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavors, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand. As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favorable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security. Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther, and, when he ceased, the color rose into her cheeks, and she said-
'In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot--I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to any one. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short duration. The feelings which, you tell me, have long prevented the acknowledgment of your regard, can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this explanation.'
Mr. Darcy, who was leaning against the mantel-piece with his eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise. His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would not open his lips till he believed himself to have attained it. The pause was to Elizabeth's feelings dreadful. At length, in a voice of forced calmness, he said-
'And this is all the reply which I am to have the honor of expecting! I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little endeavor at civility, I am thus rejected. But it is of small importance.'
'I might as well inquire,' replied she, 'why with so evident a design of offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character? Was not this some excuse for incivility, if I was uncivil? But I have other provocations. You know I have. Had not my own feelings decided against you--had they been indifferent, or had they even been favorable, do you think that any consideration would tempt me to accept the man who has been the means of ruining, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?'
As she pronounced these words, Mr. Darcy changed color; but the emotion was short, and he listened without attempting to interrupt her while she continued--
'I have every reason in the world to think ill of you. No motive can excuse the unjust and ungenerous part you acted there. You dare not, you cannot deny that you have been the principal, if not the only means of dividing them from each other--of exposing one to the censure of the world for caprice and instability, the other to its derision for disappointed hopes, and involving them both in misery of the acutest kind.'
She paused, and saw with no slight indignation that he was listening with an air which proved him wholly unmoved by any feeling of remorse. He even looked at her with a smile of affected incredulity.
'Can you deny that you have done it?' she repeated. With assumed tranquillity he then replied, 'I have no wish of denying that I did everything in my power to separate my friend from your sister, or that I rejoice in my success. Towards him I have been kinder than towards myself.'
Elizabeth disdained the appearance of noticing this civil reflection, but its meaning did not escape, nor was it likely to conciliate her.
'But it is not merely this affair,' she continued, 'on which my dislike is founded. Long before it had taken place my opinion of you was decided. Your character was unfolded in the recital which I received many months ago from Mr. Wickham. On this subject, what can you have to say? In what imaginary act of friendship can you here defend yourself? or under what misrepresentation can you here impose upon others?'
'You take an eager interest in that gentleman's concerns,' said Darcy, in a less tranquil tone, and with a heightened color.
'Who that knows what his misfortunes have been, can help feeling an interest in him?'
'His misfortunes!' repeated Darcy contemptuously; 'yes, his misfortunes have been great indeed.'
'And of your infliction,' cried Elizabeth with energy. 'You have reduced him to his present state of poverty--comparative poverty. You have withheld the advantages which you must know to have been designed for him. You have deprived the best years of his life of that independence which was no less his due than his desert. You have done all this! and yet you can treat the mention of his misfortunes with contempt and ridicule.'
'And this,' cried Darcy, as he walked with quick steps across the room, 'is your opinion of me! This is the estimation in which you hold me! I thank you for explaining it so fully. My faults, according to this calculation, are heavy indeed! But perhaps,' added he, stopping in his walk, and turning towards her, 'these offenses might have been overlooked, had not your pride been hurt by my honest confession of the scruples that had long prevented my forming any serious design. These bitter accusations might have been suppressed, had I, with greater policy, concealed my struggles, and flattered you into the belief of my being impelled by unqualified, unalloyed inclination; by reason, by reflection, by everything. But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence. Nor am I ashamed of the feelings I related. They were natural and just. Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections?--to congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?'
Elizabeth felt herself growing more angry every moment; yet she tried to the utmost to speak with composure when she said--
'You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.'
She saw him start at this, but he said nothing, and she continued--
'You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.'
Again his astonishment was obvious; and he looked at her with an expression of mingled incredulity and mortification. She went on--
'From the very beginning- from the first moment, I may almost say--of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.'
'You have said quite enough, madam. I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been. Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness.'
And with these words he hastily left the room, and Elizabeth heard him the next moment open the front door and quit the house."
Elizabeth had demolished him. A great victory that! - ? - or, was it?
" The tumult of her mind was now painfully great. She knew not how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried for half-an-hour. Her astonishment, as she reflected on what had passed, was increased by every review of it. That she should receive an offer of marriage from Mr. Darcy! that he should have been in love with her for so many months! so much in love as to wish to marry her in spite of all the objections which had made him prevent his friend's marrying her sister, and which must appear at least with equal force in his own case--was almost incredible!--it was gratifying to have inspired unconsciously so strong an affection. But his pride, his abominable pride--his shameless avowal of what he had done with respect to Jane--his unpardonable assurance in acknowledging, though he could not justify it, and the unfeeling manner in which he had mentioned Mr. Wickham, his cruelty towards whom he had not attempted to deny, soon overcame the pity which the consideration of his attachment had for a moment excited. She continued in very agitating reflections till the sound of Lady Catherine's carriage made her feel how unequal she was to encounter Charlotte's observation, and hurried her away to her room."
Had the pair become engaged at this time, it would not have been as a result of the deeper knowledge of themselves, and respect for each other, that they both gain afterwards. Elizabeth was never, ever indifferent to Darcy - when she is indifferent, the object virtually doesn't exist for her. She "only quite likes" Colonel Fitzwilliam, as she "quite likes" Bingley - the men who truly attract her, such as Wickham and Darcy are more complicated creatures. (Wickham is more complicated than anyone would care for, of course.) Actually, Elizabeth was mad about Darcy from day one - she just didn't know that she was - Darcy knew, Charlotte knew, Miss Bingley knew - Elizabeth was the only one moving about in blissful ignorance.
C. S. Lewis excerpted four epiphanies (sudden realizations of things as they are) experienced by Jane-Austen heroines. Those were used to begin his essay, A Note on Jane Austen, Essays In Criticism, October 1954. All four are dramatic and belong in our collection. One of those is from Chapter 36 of Pride and Prejudice. We excerpt from that same chapter, but our purposes are served by bringing forward a bit more than Lewis.
Elizabeth had just read Darcy's letter of explanation after their collision at Hunsford parsonage; he did not intend to apologize, but he did want her to understand that he thought he had acted honorably. Darcy asserted that Bingley was impressionable while her sister seemed indifferent. He also explained the true and complete circumstances of his dealings with Wickham.
"If Elizabeth, when Mr. Darcy gave her the letter, did not expect it to contain a renewal of his offers, she had formed no expectation at all of its contents. But such as they were, it may be well supposed how eagerly she went through them, and what a contrariety of emotion they excited. Her feelings as she read were scarcely to be defined. With amazement did she first understand that he believed any apology to be in his power; and steadfastly was she persuaded, that he could have no explanation to give, which a just sense of shame would not conceal. With a strong prejudice against everything he might say, she began his account of what had happened at Netherfield. She read with an eagerness which hardly left her power of comprehension, and from impatience of knowing what the next sentence might bring, was incapable of attending to the sense of the one before her eyes. His belief of her sister's insensibility she instantly resolved to be false; and his account of the real, the worst objections to the match, made her too angry to have any wish of doing him justice. He expressed no regret for what he had done which satisfied her; his style was not penitent, but haughty. It was all pride and insolence.
But when this subject was succeeded by his account of Mr. Wickham,--when she read with somewhat clearer attention a relation of events which, if true, must overthrow every cherished opinion of his worth, and which bore so alarming an affinity to his own history of himself,--her feelings were yet more acutely painful and more difficult of definition. Astonishment, apprehension, and even horror, oppressed her. She wished to discredit it entirely, repeatedly exclaiming, 'This must be false! This cannot be! This must be the grossest falsehood!'--and when she had gone through the whole letter, though scarcely knowing anything of the last page or two, put it hastily away, protesting that she would not regard it, that she would never look in it again."
A wise course! So wise that she was to maintain this resolution for a few moments.
"In this perturbed state of mind, with thoughts that could rest on nothing, she walked on; but it would not do; in half a minute the letter was unfolded again, and collecting herself as well as she could, she again began the mortifying perusal of all that related to Wickham, and commanded herself so far as to examine the meaning of every sentence. ... it was impossible not to feel that there was gross duplicity on one side or the other; and, for a few moments, she flattered herself that her wishes did not err. But when she read and reread with the closest attention, the particulars immediately following of Wickham's resigning all pretensions to the living, of his receiving in lieu so considerable a sum as three thousand pounds, again was she forced to hesitate. She put down the letter, weighed every circumstance with what she meant to be impartiality--deliberated on the probability of each statement--but with little success. On both sides it was only assertion. Again she read on; but every line proved more clearly that the affair, which she had believed it impossible that any contrivance could so represent as to render Mr. Darcy's conduct in it less than infamous, was capable of a turn which must make him entirely blameless throughout the whole."
And so, the epiphany became inevitable. Elizabeth was shocked at the descriptions of idleness and vice which Darcy applied to Mr. Wickham; the more so, as she could bring no proof of its injustice. Nothing had been known of Wickham's former way of life but what he told himself; and, as to his real character, Elizabeth had never felt a wish of inquiring. She tried to recollect some instance of goodness or some distinguished trait of integrity or benevolence, that might rescue him from the attacks of Mr. Darcy. But that proved impossible. Elizabeth could remember no more substantial good than the social powers, that had gained him favor in the Officer's mess and in the neighborhood. As to Darcy's history of Wickham's designs on Miss Darcy; that had received some confirmation from what had passed between Colonel Fitzwilliam and herself only the morning before. And, at last, she had been referred for confirmation to Colonel Fitzwilliam himself. - Mr. Darcy would never have made such a proposal, if he had not been assured of his cousin's corroboration.
Elizabeth then remembered everything that had passed in her conversations with Wickham and herself; she remembered that he had boasted of having no fear of seeing Mr. Darcy: yet he had avoided the Netherfield ball the very next week. She remembered also that, till Darcy had quitted the country, he had told his story to no one but herself; but, after Darcy's removal it had been everywhere discussed; he had then no scruples in sinking Mr. Darcy's character. This though he had assured her that respect for the father would always prevent his exposing the son.
"How differently did everything now appear in which [Wickham] was concerned! His attentions to Miss King were now the consequence of views solely and hatefully mercenary; ... His behavior to herself could now have had no tolerable motive; he had either been deceived with regard to her fortune, or had been gratifying his vanity by encouraging the preference which she believed she had most incautiously shown. Every lingering struggle in his favor grew fainter and fainter; and in farther justification of Mr. Darcy, she could not but allow that Mr. Bingley, when questioned by Jane, had long ago asserted his blamelessness in the affair; that proud and repulsive as were his manners, she had never, in the whole course of their acquaintance--an acquaintance which had latterly brought them much together, and given her a sort of intimacy with his ways--seen anything that betrayed him to be unprincipled or unjust--anything that spoke him of irreligious or immoral habits; that among his own connections he was esteemed and valued--that even Wickham had allowed him merit as a brother, and that she had often heard him speak so affectionately of his sister as to prove him capable of some amiable feeling; that had his actions been what Wickham represented them, so gross a violation of everything right could hardly have been concealed from the world; and that friendship between a person capable of it, and such an amiable man as Mr. Bingley, was incomprehensible.
She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think without feeling that she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd.
'How despicably have I acted!' she cried; 'I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candor of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable distrust. How humiliating is this discovery! yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself.' "
But, there was still the matter of Darcy's interference in her sister's affairs.
"... her thoughts were in a line which soon brought to her recollection that Mr. Darcy's explanation there had appeared very insufficient, and she read it again. Widely different was the effect of a second perusal. How could she deny that credit to his assertions, in one instance, which she had been obliged to give in the other. He declared himself to have been totally unsuspicious of her sister's attachment; and she could not help remembering what Charlotte's opinion had always been. Neither could she deny the justice of his description of Jane. She felt that Jane's feelings, though fervent, were little displayed, and that there was a constant complacency in her air and manner not often united with great sensibility."
When Elizabeth came to that part of the letter in which her family was mentioned in terms of merited reproach, her sense of shame was severe. The circumstances to which he particularly alluded to as having passed at the Netherfield ball, and as confirming all his first disapprobation, could not have made a stronger impression on his mind than on hers.
On the other hand, Darcy had praised both Elizabeth and her sister Jane in his letter.
"[Darcy's] compliment to herself and her sister was not unfelt. It soothed, but it could not console her for the contempt which had thus been self-attracted by the rest of her family; ... After wandering along the lane for two hours, giving way to every variety of thought--re-considering events, determining probabilities, and reconciling herself, as well as she could, to a change so sudden and so important, fatigue, and a recollection of her long absence, made her at length return home; and she entered the house with the wish of appearing cheerful as usual, and the resolution of repressing such reflections as must make her unfit for conversation.
She was immediately told that the two gentlemen from Rosings had each called during her absence; Mr. Darcy, only for a few minutes to take leave,--but that Colonel Fitzwilliam had been sitting with them at least an hour, hoping for her return, and almost resolving to walk after her till she could be found. Elizabeth could but just affect concern in missing him; she really rejoiced at it. Colonel Fitzwilliam was no longer an object, she could think only of her letter."
Yes indeed, Colonel Fitzwilliam was no longer an object.
The long interval while Elizabeth sorts out her feelings and Darcy declares his again reinforces the sexual tension. Elizabeth's indecision parallels most women's feelings about first having sex (that's what marriage was, to some extent then.) Yes, no, maybe ... the complete inability to read what the man's actions mean ... the fear of looking like a fool ... what will my parents think ... etc. Even after the declarations, Jane Austen gives us the continuing awkwardness and embarrassment that "... [takes] from the season of courtship much of its pleasure."
An important impediment to Elizabeth's evolution remained, and that is delineated in Chapter 40.
"[Elizabeth] was now, on being settled at home, at leisure to observe the real state of her sister's spirits. Jane was not happy. She still cherished a very tender affection for Bingley. Having never even fancied herself in love before, her regard had all the warmth of first attachment, and, from her age and disposition, greater steadiness than first attachments often boast; and so fervently did she value his remembrance, and prefer him to every other man, that all her good sense, and all her attention to the feelings of her friends, were requisite to check the indulgence of those regrets which must have been injurious to her own health and their tranquillity."
How could Elizabeth forgive Darcy for his part in that?
Chapter 43: Elizabeth was in the neighborhood of Pemberley with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. The aunt was eager to tour the great estate and Elizabeth was prevailed upon because she had it, from good authority, that the master was not to home. That was confirmed by the housekeeper, Mrs. Reynolds, who went on to complain that Darcy was not at Pemberley as often as she liked. Mr. Gardiner picked up on that and began to question her as follows.
" '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 good enough for him.'
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner smiled. Elizabeth could not help saying, 'It is very much to his credit, I am sure, that you should think so.'
'I say no more than the truth, and what everybody will say that knows him,' replied the other. Elizabeth thought this was going pretty far; and she listened with increasing astonishment as the housekeeper added, 'I have never had a cross word from him in my life, and I have known him ever since he was four years old.'
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 keenest attention was awakened; she longed to hear more, and was grateful to her uncle for saying--
'There are very few people of whom so much can be said. You are lucky in having such a master.'
'Yes, sir, 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 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 as affable 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 the pictures, the dimensions of the rooms, and the price of the furniture, in vain. Mr. Gardiner, highly amused by the kind of family prejudice to which he attributed her excessive commendation of her master, soon led again to the subject; and she dwelt with energy on his many merits as they proceeded together up the great staircase.
'He is the best landlord, and the best master,' said she, 'that ever lived; not like the wild young men now-a-days, who think of nothing but themselves. There is not one of his tenants or servants but what will give him a good name. Some people call him proud; but I am sure I never saw anything of it. To my fancy, it is only because he does not rattle away like other young men.'
'In what an amiable light does this place him?' thought Elizabeth.
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 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 of the windows.
Mrs. Reynolds anticipated Miss Darcy's delight, when she should enter the room. 'And this is always the way with him,' she added. 'Whatever can give his sister any pleasure is sure to be done in a moment. There is nothing he would not do for her.' "
From there, the party was led to the family gallery.
"In the gallery there were many family portraits, but they could have little to fix the attention of a stranger. Elizabeth walked on in quest of the only face whose features would be known to her. At last it arrested her--and she beheld a striking resemblance of Mr. Darcy, with such a smile over the face as she remembered to have sometimes seen when he looked at her. She stood several minutes before the picture, in earnest contemplation, and returned to it again before they quitted the gallery. ...
There was certainly at this moment, in Elizabeth's mind, a more gentle sensation towards the original than she had ever felt in the height of their acquaintance. The commendation bestowed on him by Mrs. Reynolds was of no trifling nature. What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant? ... Every idea that had been brought forward by the housekeeper was favorable to his 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 deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before; she remembered its warmth, and softened its impropriety of expression. "
Then, while the party was touring the grounds, and most unexpectedly, Elizabeth found herself facing the original of that portrait!
Chapter 44: So, Darcy and Elizabeth had their embarrassing, wonderful, chance meeting at Pemberley. It was awkward and Elizabeth had some of her usual, resentful, private thoughts. But, the dynamics had changed in a fundamental way. For one thing, she was now actually impressed with his manners; she even consented to receive his sister's introduction.
The next passage is set on the next day, in the inn at Lambton.--Elizabeth is with her aunt and uncle. Elizabeth had settled it that Mr. Darcy would bring his sister to visit her day after her reaching Pemberley; and was consequently resolved not to be out of sight of the inn the whole of that morning. But her estimate was wrong; for on the very morning after their own arrival at Lambton, the visitors came. The sound of a carriage drew Elizabeth's party to a window.
"... Elizabeth immediately recognizing the livery, guessed what it meant, and imparted no small degree of surprise to her relations by acquainting them with the honor which she expected. Her uncle and aunt were all amazement; and the embarrassment of her manner as she 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 now felt that there was no other way of accounting for such attentions from such a quarter than by supposing a partiality for their niece. While these newly-born notions were passing in their heads, the perturbation of Elizabeth's feelings was every moment increasing. She was quite amazed at her own discomposure; but amongst other causes of disquiet, she dreaded lest the partiality of the brother should have said too much in her favor; and, more than commonly anxious to please, she naturally suspected that every power of pleasing would fail her.
She retreated from the window, fearful of being seen; and as she walked up and down the room, endeavoring to compose herself, saw such looks of inquiring surprise in her uncle and aunt as made everything worse."
The introduction took place and Elizabeth found that Miss Darcy was tall, well formed; and, though little more than sixteen, her appearance was womanly and graceful. There was sense and good humor in her face, and her manners were perfectly unassuming and gentle. However, with astonishment did Elizabeth see that her new acquaintance was at least as much embarrassed as herself. Since her being at Lambton, she had heard that Miss Darcy was exceedingly proud; but the observation of a very few minutes convinced her that she was only exceedingly shy.
Darcy then explained that Bingley was also coming to wait on her; and Elizabeth had barely time to express her satisfaction, and prepare for such a visitor, when Bingley entered the room.
"... All Elizabeth's anger against him had been long done away; but had she still felt any, it could hardly have stood its ground against the unaffected cordiality with which he expressed himself on seeing her again. He inquired in a friendly, though general way, after her family, and looked and spoke with the same good-humored ease that he had ever done."
Of course, the intelligent, observant Gardiners were in the same room.
"... The suspicions which had just arisen of Mr. Darcy and their niece 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 lady's sensations they remained a little in doubt; but that the gentleman was overflowing with admiration was evident enough."
And what was Elizabeth thinking about?
"... She wanted to ascertain the feelings of each of her visitors; she wanted to compose her own, and to make herself agreeable to all; and in the latter object, where she feared most to fail, she was most sure of success, for those to whom she endeavored to give pleasure were prepossessed in her favor. Bingley was ready, Georgiana was eager, and Darcy determined, to be pleased."
Elizabeth carefully observed and concluded that Miss Darcy and Bingley were not in love - it all had been misrepresentation! Bingley's halting, earnest inquiries about her sister indicated to Elizabeth where his true affections lie. She could not bring herself to look often in Mr. Darcy's direction. But when she did, she found that his good manners of the previous day had not deserted him - even now, when the acquaintance of those to whom his attentions were addressed would draw down the ridicule and censure of the ladies both of Netherfield and Rosings.
After a half-hour, it was time to depart. Darcy called on his sister to join him in expressing their wish of seeing Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, and Miss Bennet, to dinner at Pemberley. Miss Darcy readily concurred. Mrs. Gardiner looked about. Elizabeth had turned away her head; but, this studied avoidance likely indicated a momentary embarrassment rather than any dislike of the proposal. Mrs. Gardiner knew her husband was fond of society, and so she ventured to accept the invitation.
Bingley expressed pleasure in the certainty of seeing Elizabeth again - he "had a great deal to say to her, and many inquiries to make after all their friends." Elizabeth, construed all this into a desire of hearing more of her sister and was pleased. On that happy note, the visitors departed. Yes, and now was the time to reflect upon what had just happened.
"Eager to be alone, and fearful of inquiries or hints from her uncle and aunt, [Elizabeth] stayed with them only long enough to hear their favorable opinion of Bingley, and then hurried away to dress.
But she had no reason to fear Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner's curiosity; it was not their wish to force her communication. It was evident that she was much better acquainted with Mr. Darcy than they had before any idea of; it was evident that he was very much in love with her. They saw much to interpret, but nothing to justify inquiry.
For them, it was now a matter of anxiety to think well of Mr. Darcy. They could not be untouched by his politeness, and there was now an interest in believing what his housekeeper had said of him. - The recommendation of a servant, who had known him since he 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 him of but pride; pride he 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 he was a liberal man, and did much good among the poor.
For Elizabeth, there would then be that long evening to get through.
"As for Elizabeth, her 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 her feelings towards one in that mansion; and she lay awake two whole hours endeavoring to make them out. She certainly did not hate him. No; hatred had vanished long ago, and she had almost as long been ashamed of ever feeling a dislike against him, that could be so called. The respect created by the conviction of his valuable qualities, though at first unwillingly admitted, had for some time ceased to be repugnant to her feelings; and it was now heightened into somewhat of a friendlier nature, by the testimony so highly in his favor, and bringing forward his disposition in so amiable a light, which yesterday had produced. But above all, above respect and esteem, there was a motive within her of goodwill which could not be overlooked. It was gratitude;--gratitude, not merely for having once loved her, but for loving her still well enough to forgive all the petulance and acrimony of her manner in rejecting him, and all the unjust accusations accompanying her rejection. He who, she had been persuaded, would avoid her as his 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 her friends, and bent on making her known to his sister. Such a change in a man of so much pride excited not only astonishment but gratitude--for to love, ardent love, it must be attributed; and as such, its impression on her was of a sort to be encouraged, as by no means unpleasing, though it could not be exactly defined. She respected, she esteemed, she was grateful to him, she felt a real interest in his welfare; and she only wanted to know how far she wished that welfare to depend upon herself, and how far it would be for the happiness of both that she should employ the power, which her fancy told her she still possessed, of bringing on the renewal of his addresses."
Mrs. Gardiner and her niece thought Miss Darcy's visit extraordinary. Such a striking civility ought to be imitated by some exertion of politeness on their side; and, consequently, that it would be highly expedient to wait on her at Pemberley the following morning.
"... They were, therefore, to go.--Elizabeth was pleased; though when she asked herself the reason, she had very little to say in reply."
Chapter 52: Elizabeth was stunned to learn from Lydia that Darcy had attended her wedding! The information had been given inadvertently as Darcy had sworn Lydia to secrecy. Elizabeth was determined not to violate Darcy's expressed wishes in that quarter, but she was determined to know exactly what was going on, so she applied to her Aunt Gardiner - a more reliable source than Lydia in any case.
"Elizabeth had the satisfaction of receiving an answer to her letter as soon as she possibly could. She was no sooner in possession of it than, hurrying into the little copse, where she was least likely to be interrupted, she sat down on one of the benches, and prepared to be happy; for the length of the letter convinced her that it did not contain a denial."
And happy she would become - among other things.
Gracechurch Street, Sept. 6.
My Dear Niece,-
... I must confess myself surprised by your application; I did not expect it from you. Don't think me angry, however, for I only mean to let you know that I had not imagined such inquiries to be necessary on your side. If you do not choose to understand me, forgive my impertinence. Your uncle is as much surprised as I am, and nothing but the belief of your being a party concerned would have allowed him to act as he has done. But if you are really innocent and ignorant, I must be more explicit.
... From what I can collect, [Darcy] left Derbyshire only one day after ourselves, and came to town with the resolution of hunting for [Lydia and Wickham]. The motive professed was his conviction of its being owing to himself that Wickham's worthlessness had not been so well known as to make it impossible for any young woman of character to love or confide in him. He generously imputed the whole to his mistaken pride, and confessed that he had before thought it beneath him to lay his private actions open to the world. His character was to speak for itself. He called it, therefore, his duty to step forward, and endeavor to remedy an evil which had been brought on by himself. If he had another motive, I am sure it would never disgrace him. He had been some days in town before he was able to discover them; but he had something to direct his search, which was more than we had; and the consciousness of this was another reason for his resolving to follow us.
... [A] Mrs. Younge was, he knew, intimately acquainted with Wickham; and he went to her for intelligence of him, as soon as he got to town. But it was two or three days before he could get from her what he wanted. She would not betray her trust, I suppose, without bribery and corruption, ... At length, however, our kind friend procured the wished-for direction. They were in __ Street. He saw Wickham, and afterwards insisted on seeing Lydia. His first object with her, he acknowledged, had been to persuade her to quit her present disgraceful situation, and return to her friends as soon as they could be prevailed on to receive her, offering his assistance as far as it would go. But he found Lydia absolutely resolved on remaining where she was. She cared for none of her friends; she wanted no help of his; she would not hear of leaving Wickham; ..., it only remained, [Darcy] thought, to secure and expedite a marriage, which, in his very first conversation with Wickham, he easily learnt had never been his design. He confessed himself obliged to leave the regiment on account of some debts of honor which were very pressing, and scrupled not to lay all the ill consequences of Lydia's flight on her own folly alone. ...
... [Darcy discovered] that Wickham still cherished the hope of more effectually making his fortune by marriage in some other country. Under such circumstances, however, he was not likely to be proof against the temptation of immediate relief.
They met several times, for there was much to be discussed. Wickham, of course, wanted more than he could get, but at length was reduced to be reasonable.
Everything being settled between them, Mr. Darcy's next step was to make your uncle acquainted with it, and he first called in Gracechurch Street the evening before I came home. But Mr. Gardiner could not be seen, ... On Saturday he came again. ... your uncle [was] at home, and, as I said before, they had a great deal of talk together.
They met again on Sunday, and then I saw him too. ... our visitor was very obstinate. I fancy, Lizzy, that obstinacy is the real defect of his character after all. He has been accused of many faults at different times, but this is the true one. Nothing was to be done that he did not do himself; though I am sure (and I do not speak it to be thanked, therefore say nothing about it) your uncle would most readily have settled the whole.
They battled it together for a long time, which was more than either the gentleman or lady concerned in it deserved. But at last your uncle was forced to yield, and instead of being allowed to be of use to his niece, was forced to put up with only having the probable credit of it, which went sorely against the grain; and I really believe your letter this morning gave him great pleasure, because it required an explanation that would rob him of his borrowed feathers, and give the praise where it was due. But, Lizzy, this must go no farther than yourself, or Jane at most.
You know pretty well, I suppose, what has been done for the young people. His debts are to be paid, amounting, I believe, to considerably more than a thousand pounds, another thousand in addition to her own settled upon her, and his commission purchased. The reason why all this was to be done by him alone was such as I have given above. It was owing to him, to his reserve and want of proper consideration, that Wickham's character had been so misunderstood, and, consequently, that he had been received and noticed as he was. Perhaps there was some truth in this; though I doubt whether his reserve, or anybody's reserve, can be answerable for the event. But in spite of all this fine talking, my dear Lizzy, you may rest perfectly assured that your uncle would never have yielded, if we had not given him credit for another interest in the affair.
... I believe I have now told you everything. It is a relation which you tell me is to give you great surprise; I hope at least it will not afford you any displeasure. Lydia came to us; and Wickham had constant admission to the house. ... I was sometimes quite provoked, but then I recollected my dear Elizabeth and Jane, and for their sakes had patience with her.
Mr. Darcy was punctual in his return, and, as Lydia informed you, attended the wedding. He dined with us the next day, and was to leave town again on Wednesday or Thursday. Will you be very angry with me, my dear Lizzy, if I take this opportunity of saying (what I was never bold enough to say before) how much I like him? His behavior to us has, in every respect, been as pleasing as when we were in Derbyshire. His understanding and opinions all please me; he wants nothing but a little more liveliness, and that, if he marry prudently, his wife may teach him. I thought him very sly;--he hardly ever mentioned your name. But slyness seems the fashion.
Pray forgive me if I have been very presuming; or at least do not punish me so far as to exclude me from P. I shall never be quite happy till I have been all round the park. A low phaeton, with a nice little pair of ponies, would be the very thing.
But I must write no more. The children have been wanting me this half-hour.
Yours, very sincerely,
How that Aunt Gardiner could write!
"The contents of this letter threw Elizabeth into a flutter of spirits, in which it was difficult to determine whether pleasure or pain bore the greatest share. The vague and unsettled suspicions which uncertainty had produced of what Mr. Darcy might have been doing to forward her sister's match ... were proved beyond their greatest extent to be true! ... Her heart did whisper that he had done it for her. But it was a hope shortly checked by other considerations, and she soon felt that even her vanity was insufficient, when required to depend on his affection for her, for a woman who had already refused him, as able to overcome a sentiment so natural as abhorrence against relationship with Wickham.--Brother-in-law of Wickham!--Every kind of pride must revolt from the connection. He had, to be sure, done much,--she was ashamed to think how much. But he had given a reason for his interference, which asked no extraordinary stretch of belief. It was reasonable that he should feel he had been wrong; he had liberality, and he had the means of exercising it; and though she would not place herself as his principal inducement, she could, perhaps, believe that remaining partiality for her might assist his endeavors in a cause where her peace of mind must be materially concerned..."
And so, Elizabeth refused to admit to herself what is so obvious to us all.
"... It was painful, exceedingly painful, to know that they were under obligations to a person who could never receive a return. They owed the restoration of Lydia, her character, everything to him. Oh! how heartily did she grieve over every ungracious sensation she had ever encouraged, every saucy speech she had ever directed towards him. For herself, she was humbled; but she was proud of him. Proud that in a cause of compassion and honor he had been able to get the better of himself. She read over her aunt's commendation of him again and again. It was hardly enough; but it pleased her. She was even sensible of some pleasure, though mixed with regret, on finding how steadfastly both she and her uncle had been persuaded that affection and confidence subsisted between Mr. Darcy and herself.
She was roused from her seat and her reflections by some one's approach; and before she could strike into another path she was overtaken by Wickham. ..."
Poor bastard! Still, Elizabeth would remember that she and Wickham were now sister and brother, so she flayed him only between the lines. But that passage is funny, and we are resolved to avert our eyes from the humor and focus only on the passion in these pages.
Then, the Bennet family learned that Bingley and a shooting party had returned to Netherfield. That information caused much anxiety and discussion until a Bennet sister, standing at the window, excitedly announced that Bingley was riding up to their home for a visit. Thus began the sequence of events that would lead to Bingley's renewed feelings and, eventually, to his welcome proposal to Elizabeth's sister, Jane. There is much that might call our attention there, but our preference is to focus on Elizabeth and Darcy instead. This next passage is from Chapter 53: Jane and Elizabeth were sitting together when, almost as an afterthought, it was observed that Bingley was accompanied by his friend, Darcy. During the visit, Mrs. Bennet would be obsequious to Bingley and rude to Darcy; it is difficult to know which behavior caused Elizabeth more pain. But that is not to the point, our focus is on the passionate feelings and reactions of Elizabeth Bennet.
"Jane looked at Elizabeth with surprise and concern. She knew but little of [Darcy and Elizabeth's] meeting in Derbyshire, and therefore felt for the awkwardness which must attend her sister, in seeing him almost for the first time after receiving his explanatory letter. Both sisters were uncomfortable enough. Each felt for the other, and of course for themselves; and their mother talked on, of her dislike of Mr. Darcy, and her resolution to be civil to him only as Mr. Bingley's friend, without being heard by either of them. But Elizabeth had sources of uneasiness which could not be suspected by Jane, to whom she had never yet had courage to show Mrs. Gardiner's letter, or to relate her own change of sentiment towards him. To Jane, he could be only a man whose proposals she had refused, and whose merit she had undervalued; but to her own more extensive information, he was the person to whom the whole family were indebted for the first of benefits, and whom she regarded herself with an interest, if not quite so tender, at least as reasonable and just as what Jane felt for Bingley. Her astonishment at his coming--at his coming to Netherfield, to Longbourn, and voluntarily seeking her again, was almost equal to what she had known on first witnessing his altered behavior in Derbyshire.
The color which had been driven from her face, returned for half a minute with an additional glow, and a smile of delight added luster to her eyes, as she thought for that space of time, that his affection and wishes must still be unshaken. But she would not be secure.
'Let me first see how he behaves,' said she; 'it will then be early enough for expectation.'
She sat intently at work striving to be composed, and without daring to lift up her eyes, ... On the gentlemen's appearing, ... Elizabeth said as little to either as civility would allow, and sat down again to her work, with an eagerness which it did not often command. She had ventured only one glance at Darcy. He looked serious as usual, and, she thought, more as he had been used to look in Hertfordshire, than as she had seen him at Pemberley. But, perhaps, he could not in her mother's presence be what he was before her uncle and aunt. It was a painful, but not an improbable, conjecture. ... Elizabeth particularly, who knew that her mother owed to [Darcy] the preservation of her favorite daughter from irremediable infamy, was hurt and distressed to a most painful degree by a distinction so ill-applied.
Darcy, after inquiring of her how Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner did--a question which she could not answer without confusion--said scarcely anything. He was not seated by her; perhaps that was the reason of his silence; but it had not been so in Derbyshire. There he had talked to her friends, when he could not to herself. But now several minutes elapsed, without bringing the sound of his voice; and when occasionally, unable to resist the impulse of curiosity, she raised her eyes to his face, she as often found him looking at Jane as at herself, and frequently on no object but the ground. More thoughtfulness, and less anxiety to please than when they last met, were plainly expressed. She was disappointed, and angry with herself for being so.
'Could I expect it to be otherwise!' said she. 'Yet why did he come?'
She was in no humor for conversation with any one but himself; and to him she had hardly courage to speak.
She inquired after his sister, but could do no more.
'It is a long time, Mr. Bingley, since you went away,' said Mrs. Bennet.
He readily agreed to it. 'I began to be afraid you would never come back again. People did say, you meant to quit the place entirely at Michaelmas; but, however, I hope it is not true. A great many changes have happened in the neighborhood since you went away. Miss Lucas is married and settled. And one of my own daughters. ... It is a delightful thing, to be sure, to have a daughter well married,' continued her mother; 'but, at the same time, Mr. Bingley, it is very hard to have her taken away from me. They are gone down to Newcastle, a place quite northward, it seems, and there they are to stay I do not know how long. His regiment is there; for I suppose you have heard of his leaving the __shire, and of his being gone into the regulars. Thank Heaven! he has some friends, though, perhaps, not so many as he deserves.'
Elizabeth, who knew this to be leveled at Mr. Darcy, was in such misery of shame that she could hardly keep her seat. ...
'When you have killed all your own birds, Mr. Bingley,' said her mother, 'I beg you will come here, and shoot as many as you please, on Mr. Bennet's manor. I am sure he will be vastly happy to oblige you, and will save all the best of the covies for you.'
Elizabeth's misery increased at such unnecessary, such officious attention! Were the same fair prospect to arise at present as had flattered them a year ago, everything, she was persuaded, would be hastening to the same vexatious conclusions. At that instant she felt that years of happiness could not make Jane or herself amends for moments of such painful confusion.
'The first wish of my heart,' said she to herself, 'is never more to be in company with either of them. Their society can afford no pleasure that will atone for such wretchedness as this! Let me never see either one or the other again!'
Drat that Darcy! Well, Elizabeth promised us not to recognize him ever again, and that is only what he deserves.
The subject of the visit is continued in Chapter 54. Notice that Elizabeth would again give Darcy up forever - two more times.
"As soon as they were gone Elizabeth walked out to recover her spirits,--or, in other words, to dwell without interruption on those subjects that must deaden them more. Mr. Darcy's behavior astonished and vexed her.
'Why, if he came only to be silent, grave, and indifferent,' said she, 'did he come at all?'
She could settle it in no way that gave her pleasure.
'He could be still amiable, still pleasing to my uncle and aunt, when he was in town; and why not to me? If he fears me, why come hither? If he no longer cares for me, why silent?--Teasing, teasing man! I will think no more about him.'
Her resolution was for a short time involuntarily kept by the approach of her sister, who joined her with a cheerful look, which showed her better satisfied with their visitors than Elizabeth. ...
They did not see the gentlemen again till Tuesday; ... On Tuesday there was a large party assembled at Longbourn; and the two, who were most anxiously expected, to the credit of their punctuality as sportsmen, were in very good time. When they repaired to the dining-room, Elizabeth eagerly watched to see whether Bingley would take the place which, in all their former parties, had belonged to him, by her sister ... [Bingley's] behavior to her sister was such, during dinner-time, as showed an admiration of her which, though more guarded than formerly, persuaded Elizabeth, that if left wholly to himself, Jane's happiness, and his own, would be speedily secured. Though she dared not depend upon the consequence, she yet received pleasure from observing his behavior. It gave her all the animation that her spirits could boast; for she was in no cheerful humor. Mr. Darcy was almost as far from her as the table could divide them. He was on one side of her mother. ... Her mother's ungraciousness made the sense of what they owed him more painful to Elizabeth's mind; and she would, at times, have given anything to be privileged to tell him that his kindness was neither unknown nor unfelt by the whole of the family.
She was in hopes that the evening would afford some opportunity of bringing them together; that the whole of the visit would not pass away without enabling them to enter into something more of conversation, than the mere ceremonious salutation attending his entrance. Anxious and uneasy, the period which passed in the drawing-room, before the gentlemen came, was wearisome and dull to a degree that almost made her uncivil. She looked forward to their entrance as the point on which all her chance of pleasure for the evening must depend.
'If he does not come to me then,' said she, 'I shall give him up forever.'
The gentlemen came; and she thought he looked as if he would have answered her hopes; but, alas! the ladies had crowded round the table, where Miss Bennet was taking tea, and Elizabeth pouring out the coffee, in so close a confederacy, that there was not a single vacancy near her which would admit of a chair. And on the gentlemen's approaching, one of the girls moved closer to her than ever, and said, in a whisper--
'The men shan't come and part us, I am determined. We want none of them; do we?'
Darcy had walked away to another part of the room. She followed him with her eyes, envied every one to whom he spoke, had scarcely patience enough to help anybody to coffee, and then was enraged against herself for being so silly!
'A man who has once been refused! How could I ever be foolish enough to expect a renewal of his love? Is there one among the sex who would not protest against such a weakness as a second proposal to the same woman? There is no indignity so abhorrent to their feelings!'
She was a little revived, however, by his bringing back his coffee-cup himself; and she seized the opportunity of saying, 'Is your sister at Pemberley still?'
'Yes, she will remain there till Christmas.'
'And quite alone? Have all her friends left her?'
'Mrs. Annesley is with her. The others have been gone on to Scarborough these three weeks.'
She could think of nothing more to say; but if he wished to converse with her, he might have better success. He stood by her, however, for some minutes, in silence; and, at last, on the young ladies whispering to Elizabeth again, he walked away.
When the tea-things were removed, and the card-tables placed, the ladies all rose, and Elizabeth was then hoping to be soon joined by him, when all her views were overthrown by seeing him fall a victim to her mother's rapacity for whist-players, and in a few moments after seated with the rest of the party. She now lost every expectation of pleasure. They were confined for the evening at different tables, and she had nothing to hope, but that his eyes were so often turned towards her side of the room, as to make him play as unsuccessfully as herself."
Soon after, Darcy left for London; in part, perhaps, to give Bingley room to make his proposals to Jane Bennet. But, how are we to explain his behavior at Longborne? The answer to that will be given in the last couple of excerpts on this page.
Darcy returned and soon enough to play out that scene described in the first passage of this web page. After that, there was the need to obtain Elizabeth's father's consent and her mother's approval (Chapter 59). The latter was easy enough, but the father presented some problems. Typically, Mr. Bennet had no real sensitivity to his daughter's true feelings; and while he would not deny Darcy a consent, he did pressure Elizabeth to break off the engagement - he continued to think Darcy supercilious and that his daughter might be giving way to avarice.
" 'Have you no other objection', said Elizabeth, 'than your belief of my indifference?'
'None at all, we all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of man; but this would be nothing if you really liked him.'
'I do, I do like him', she replied with tears in her eyes; 'I love him. Indeed he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable. You do not know what he really is; then do not pain me by speaking of him in such terms.'
Elizabeth, ... was earnest and solemn in her reply; and at length, by repeated assurances that Mr. Darcy was really the object of her choice, by explaining the gradual change which her estimation of him had undergone, relating her absolute certainty that his affection was not the work of a day, but had stood the test of many months' suspense, and enumerating with energy all his good qualities, she did conquer her father's incredulity, and reconcile him to the match.
... To complete the favorable impression, she then told him what Mr. Darcy had voluntarily done for Lydia. He heard her with astonishment... Elizabeth's mind was now relieved from a very heavy weight, and, after half-an-hour's quiet reflection in her own room, she was able to join the others with tolerable composure."
"Elizabeth's spirits soon rising to playfulness again, she wanted Mr. Darcy to account for his having ever fallen in love with her. 'How could you begin?' said she. 'I can comprehend your going on charmingly, when you had once made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?'
'I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.'
'My beauty you had early withstood, and as for my manners--my behavior to you was at least always bordering on the uncivil, and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not. Now, be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence?'
'For the liveliness of your mind, I did.'
'You may as well call it impertinence at once. It was very little less. The fact is, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking and looking and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused and interested you, because I was so unlike them. Had you not been really amiable, you would have hated me for it; but, in spite of the pains you took to disguise yourself, your feelings were always noble and just; and, in your heart, you thoroughly despised the persons who so assiduously courted you. There--I have saved you the trouble of accounting for it; and really, all things considered, I begin to think it perfectly reasonable. To be sure, you know no actual good of me--but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love.'
'Was there no good in your affectionate behavior to Jane, while she was ill at Netherfield?'
'Dearest Jane! Who could have done less for her? But make a virtue of it by all means. My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible; and, in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teasing and quarreling with you as often as may be; and I shall begin directly, by asking you what made you so unwilling to come to the point at last? What made you so shy of me when you first called, and afterwards dined here? Why, especially, when you called, did you look as if you did not care about me?'
'Because you were grave and silent, and gave me no encouragement.'
'But I was embarrassed.'
'And so was I.'
'You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner.'
'A man who had felt less, might.'
'How unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give, and that I should be so reasonable as to admit it! But I wonder how long you would have gone on if you had been left to yourself! I wonder when you would have spoken, if I had not asked you! My resolution of thanking you for your kindness to Lydia had certainly great effect--too much, I am afraid; for what becomes of the moral, if our comfort springs from a breach of promise? for I ought not to have mentioned the subject. This will never do.'
'You need not distress yourself. The moral will be perfectly fair. Lady Catherine's unjustifiable endeavors to separate us were the means of removing all my doubts. I am not indebted for my present happiness to your eager desire of expressing your gratitude. I was not in a humor to wait for an opening of yours. My aunt's intelligence had given me hope, and I was determined at once to know everything.'
'Lady Catherine has been of infinite use, which ought to make her happy, for she loves to be of use. But tell me, what did you come down to Netherfield for? Was it merely to ride to Longbourn, and be embarrassed? or had you intended any more serious consequences?'
'My real purpose was to see you, and to judge, if I could, whether I might ever hope to make you love me. My avowed one, or what I avowed to myself, was to see whether your sister was still partial to Bingley, and, if she were, to make the confession to him which I have since made.'
So now, all was explained - and wonderful.
Elizabeth had a final task. From an unwillingness to confess how much her intimacy with Mr. Darcy had been overrated by her aunt, our heroine had not yet answered Mrs. Gardiner's letter. But now, having that to communicate which she knew would be most welcome, she was almost ashamed to find that her uncle and aunt had already lost three days of happiness. Elizabeth immediately wrote as follows:-
|"I would have thanked you before, my dear aunt, as I ought to have done, for your long, kind, satisfactory detail of particulars; but, to say the truth, I was too cross to write. You supposed more than really existed. But now suppose as much as you choose; give a loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford, and unless you believe me actually married, you cannot greatly err. You must write again very soon, and praise him a great deal more than you did in your last. I thank you, again and again, for not going to the Lakes. How could I be so silly as to wish it! Your idea of the ponies is delightful. We will go round the Park every day. I am the happiest creature in the world. Perhaps other people have said so before, but no one with such justice. I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles, I laugh. Mr. Darcy sends you all the love in the world that can be spared from me. You are all to come to Pemberley at Christmas.- Yours, &c."|
And adieu to you, kind reader.
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