when she asked herself the reason, she had very little to say in
Mr. Gardiner left them soon after breakfast. The fishing scheme
had been renewed the day before, and a positive engagement
made of his meeting some of the gentlemen at Pemberley before
Convinced as Elizabeth now was that Miss Bingley's dislike of
her had originated in jealousy, she could not help feeling how
unwelcome her appearance at Pemberley must be to her, and
was curious to know with how much civility on that lady'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 Miss Darcy, who was
sitting there with Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, and the lady
with whom she lived in London. Georgiana'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 her being proud and reserved. Mrs. Gardiner and her
niece, however, did her justice, and pitied her.
By Mrs. Hurst and Miss 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 Mrs. Annesley, a genteel, agreeable-looking
woman, whose endeavour to introduce some kind of discourse
proved her to be more truly well-bred than either of the others;
and between her and Mrs. Gardiner, with occasional help from
Elizabeth, the conversation was carried on. Miss Darcy looked
as if she wished for courage enough to join in it; and sometimes
did venture a short sentence when there was least danger of its
Elizabeth soon saw that she was herself closely watched by Miss
Bingley, and that she could not speak a word, especially to Miss
Darcy, without calling her attention. This observation would not
have prevented her from trying to talk to the latter, had they
not been seated at an inconvenient distance; but she was not sorry
to be spared the necessity of saying much. Her own thoughts
were employing her. She expected every moment that some of the
gentlemen would enter the room. She wished, she feared that
the master of the house might be amongst them; and whether
she wished or feared it most, she could scarcely determine.
After sitting in this manner a quarter of an hour without hearing
Miss Bingley's voice, Elizabeth was roused by receiving from
her a cold inquiry after the health of her family. She answered
with equal indifference and brevity, and the others 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 Mrs. Annesley to
Miss Darcy had been given, to remind her of her 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, Elizabeth had a fair opportunity of deciding
whether she most feared or wished for the appearance of Mr.
Darcy, by the feelings which prevailed on his entering the room;
and then, though but a moment before she had believed her
wishes to predominate, she began to regret that he came.
He had been some time with Mr. Gardiner, who, with two or
three other gentlemen from the house, was engaged by the river,
and had left him only on learning that the ladies of the family
intended a visit to Georgiana that morning. No sooner did he
appear than Elizabeth wisely resolved to be perfectly easy and
unembarrassed; a resolution the more necessary to be made, but
perhaps not the more easily kept, because she saw that the
suspicions of the whole party were awakened against them, and
that there was scarcely an eye which did not watch his
behaviour when he first came into the room. In no countenance
was attentive curiosity so strongly marked as in Miss Bingley's,
in spite of the smiles which overspread her face whenever she
spoke to one of its objects; for jealousy had not yet made her
desperate, and her attentions to Mr. Darcy were by no means
over. Miss Darcy, on her brother's entrance, exerted herself
much more to talk, and Elizabeth saw that he was anxious for
his sister and herself to get acquainted, and forwarded as much
as possible, every attempt at conversation on either side. Miss
Bingley saw all this likewise; and, in the imprudence of anger,
took the first opportunity of saying, with sneering civility:
"Pray, Miss Eliza, are not the - - shire Militia removed from
Meryton? They must be a great loss to _your_ family."
In Darcy's presence she dared not mention Wickham's name;
but Elizabeth instantly comprehended that he was uppermost in
her thoughts; and the various recollections connected with him
gave her a moment's distress; but exerting herself vigorously to
repel the ill-natured attack, she presently answered the question
in a tolerably detached tone. While she spoke, an involuntary
glance showed her Darcy, with a heightened complexion,
earnestly looking at her, and his sister overcome with confusion,
and unable to lift up her eyes. Had Miss Bingley known what
pain she was then giving her beloved friend, she undoubtedly
would have refrained from the hint; but she had merely intended
to discompose Elizabeth by bringing forward the idea of a man
to whom she believed her partial, to make her betray a sensibility
which might injure her in Darcy's opinion, and, perhaps, to
remind the latter of all the follies and absurdities by which
some part of her family were connected with that corps. Not a
syllable had ever reached her of Miss Darcy's meditated
elopement. To no creature had it been revealed, where secrecy
was possible, except to Elizabeth; and from all Bingley's
connections her brother was particularly anxious to conceal it,
from the very wish which Elizabeth had long ago attributed to
him, of their becoming hereafter her own. He had certainly
formed such a plan, and without meaning that it should effect
his endeavour to separate him from Miss Bennet, it is probable
that it might add something to his lively concern for the welfare
of his friend.
Elizabeth's collected behaviour, however, soon quieted his
emotion; and as Miss Bingley, vexed and disappointed, dared
not approach nearer to Wickham, Georgiana also recovered in
time, though not enough to be able to speak any more. Her
brother, whose eye she feared to meet, scarcely recollected her
interest in the affair, and the very circumstance which had
been designed to turn his thoughts from Elizabeth seemed to
have fixed them on her more and more cheerfully.
Their visit did not continue long after the question and answer
above mentioned; and while Mr. Darcy was attending them to
their carriage Miss Bingley was venting her feelings in criticisms
on Elizabeth's person, behaviour, and dress. But Georgiana
would not join her. Her brother's recommendation was enough
to ensure her favour; his judgement could not err. And he had
spoken in such terms of Elizabeth as to leave Georgiana without
the power of finding her otherwise than lovely and amiable.
When Darcy returned to the saloon, Miss Bingley could not help
repeating to him some part of what she had been saying to his
"How very ill Miss Eliza Bennet looks this morning, Mr. Darcy,"
she cried; "I never in my life saw anyone so much altered as she
is since the winter. She is grown so brown and coarse! Louisa
and I were agreeing that we should not have known her again."
However little Mr. Darcy might have liked such an address, he
contented himself with coolly replying that he perceived no
other alteration than her being rather tanned, no miraculous
consequence of travelling in the summer.
"For my own part," she rejoined, "I must confess that I never
could see any beauty in her. Her face is too thin; her
complexion has no brilliancy; and her features are not at all
handsome. Her nose wants character - there is nothing marked
in its lines. Her teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common
way; and as for her 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 her
air altogether there is a self-sufficiency without fashion, which
Persuaded as Miss Bingley was that Darcy admired Elizabeth,
this was not the best method of recommending herself; but
angry people are not always wise; and in seeing him at last look
somewhat nettled, she had all the success she expected. He was
resolutely silent, however, and, from a determination of making
him speak, she continued:
"I remember, when we first knew her in Hertfordshire, how
amazed we all were to find that she was a reputed beauty; and I
particularly recollect your saying one night, after they had been
dining at Netherfield, '_She_ a beauty! - I should as soon call her
mother a wit.' But afterwards she seemed to improve on you,
and I believe you thought her rather pretty at one time."
"Yes," replied Darcy, who could contain himself no longer,
"but _that_ was only when I first saw her, for it is many months
since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of
He then went away, and Miss Bingley was left to all the
satisfaction of having forced him to say what gave no one any
pain but herself.
Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth 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 his sister, his friends,
his house, his fruit - of everything but himself; yet Elizabeth
was longing to know what Mrs. Gardiner thought of him, and Mrs.
Gardiner would have been highly gratified by her niece's beginning
Elizabeth had been a good deal disappointed in not finding a
letter from Jane on their first arrival at Lambton; and this
disappointment had been renewed on each of the mornings that
had now been spent there; but on the third her repining was
over, and her sister justified, by the receipt of two letters
from her at once, on one of which was marked that it had been
missent elsewhere. Elizabeth was not surprised at it, as Jane
had written the direction remarkably ill.
They had just been preparing to walk as the letters came in;
and her uncle and aunt, leaving her to enjoy them in quiet, set
off by themselves. The one missent must first be attended to;
it had been written five days ago. The beginning contained an
account of all their little parties and engagements, with such
news as the country afforded; but the latter half, which was
dated a day later, and written in evident agitation, gave more
important intelligence. It was to this effect:
"Since writing the above, dearest Lizzy, something has occurred
of a most unexpected and serious nature; but I am afraid of
alarming you - be assured that we are all well. What I have to
say relates to poor Lydia. An express came at twelve last night,
just as we were all gone to bed, from Colonel Forster, to
inform us that she was gone off to Scotland with one of his
officers; to own the truth, with Wickham! Imagine our surprise.
To Kitty, however, it does not seem so wholly unexpected. I
am very, very sorry. So imprudent a match on both sides! But
I am willing to hope the best, and that his character has been
misunderstood. Thoughtless and indiscreet I can easily believe
him, but this step (and let us rejoice over it) marks nothing bad
at heart. His choice is disinterested at least, for he must know
my father can give her nothing. Our poor mother is sadly
grieved. My father bears it better. How thankful am I that we
never let them know what has been said against him; we must
forget it ourselves. They were off Saturday night about twelve,
as is conjectured, but were not missed till yesterday morning at
eight. The express was sent off directly. My dear Lizzy, they
must have passed within ten miles of us. Colonel Forster gives
us reason to expect him here soon. Lydia left a few lines for
his wife, informing her of their intention. I must conclude, for
I cannot be long from my poor mother. I am afraid you will not
be able to make it out, but I hardly know what I have written."
Without allowing herself time for consideration, and scarcely
knowing what she felt, Elizabeth on finishing this letter instantly
seized the other, and opening it with the utmost impatience, read
as follows: it had been written a day later than the conclusion of
"By this time, my dearest sister, you have received my hurried
letter; I wish this may be more intelligible, but though not
confined for time, my head is so bewildered that I cannot answer
for being coherent. Dearest Lizzy, I hardly know what I would
write, but I have bad news for you, and it cannot be delayed.
Imprudent as the marriage between Mr. Wickham and our poor
Lydia would be, we are now anxious to be assured it has taken
place, for there is but too much reason to fear they are not gone
to Scotland. Colonel Forster came yesterday, having left
Brighton the day before, not many hours after the express.
Though Lydia's short letter to Mrs. F. gave them to understand
that they were going to Gretna Green, something was dropped
by Denny expressing his belief that W. never intended to go
there, or to marry Lydia at all, which was repeated to Colonel
F., who, instantly taking the alarm, set off from B. intending to
trace their route. He did trace them easily to Clapham, but no
further; for on entering that place, they removed into a hackney
coach, and dismissed the chaise that brought them from Epsom.
All that is known after this is, that they were seen to continue
the London road. I know not what to think. After making every
possible inquiry on that side London, Colonel F. came on into
Hertfordshire, anxiously renewing them at all the turnpikes, and
at the inns in Barnet and Hatfield, but without any success - no
such people had been seen to pass through. With the kindest
concern he came on to Longbourn, and broke his apprehensions
to us in a manner most creditable to his heart. I am sincerely
grieved for him and Mrs. F., but no one can throw any blame
on them. Our distress, my dear Lizzy, is very great. My father
and mother believe the worst, but I cannot think so ill of him.
Many circumstances might make it more eligible for them to be
married privately in town than to pursue their first plan;
and even if _he_ could form such a design against a young woman
of Lydia's connections, which is not likely, can I suppose her
so lost to everything? Impossible! I grieve to find, however,
that Colonel F. is not disposed to depend upon their marriage;
he shook his head when I expressed my hopes, and said he feared
W. was not a man to be trusted. My poor mother is really ill,
and keeps her room. Could she exert herself, it would be better;
but this is not to be expected. And as to my father, I never in
my life saw him so affected. Poor Kitty has anger for having
concealed their attachment; but as it was a matter of confidence,
one cannot wonder. I am truly glad, dearest Lizzy, that you
have been spared something of these distressing scenes; but
now, as the first shock is over, shall I own that I long for
your return? I am not so selfish, however, as to press for it,
if inconvenient. Adieu! I take up my pen again to do what I
have just told you I would not; but circumstances are such that
I cannot help earnestly begging you all to come here as soon as
possible. I know my dear uncle and aunt so well, that I am not
afraid of requesting it, though I have still something more to
ask of the former. My father is going to London with Colonel
Forster instantly, to try to discover her. What he means to do
I am sure I know not; but his excessive distress will not allow
him to pursue any measure in the best and safest way, and
Colonel Forster is obliged to be at Brighton again to-morrow
evening. In such an exigence, my uncle's advice and assistance
would be everything in the world; he will immediately comprehend
what I must feel, and I rely upon his goodness."
"Oh! where, where is my uncle?" cried Elizabeth, darting from
her seat as she finished the letter, in eagerness to follow him,
without losing a moment of the time so precious; but as she
reached the door it was opened by a servant, and Mr. Darcy
appeared. Her pale face and impetuous manner made him start,
and before he could recover himself to speak, she, in whose
mind every idea was superseded by Lydia's situation, hastily
exclaimed, "I beg your pardon, but I must leave you. I must
find Mr. Gardiner this moment, on business that cannot be
delayed; I have not an instant to lose."
"Good God! what is the matter?" cried he, with more feeling
than politeness; then recollecting himself, "I will not detain you
a minute; but let me, or let the servant go after Mr. and Mrs.
Gardiner. You are not well enough; you cannot go yourself."
Elizabeth hesitated, but her knees trembled under her and she
felt how little would be gained by her attempting to pursue them.
Calling back the servant, therefore, she commissioned him,
though in so breathless an accent as made her almost unintelligible,
to fetch his master and mistress home instantly.
On his quitting the room she sat down, unable to support
herself, and looking so miserably ill, that it was impossible
for Darcy to leave her, or to refrain from saying, in a tone
of gentleness and commiseration, "Let me call your maid. Is
there nothing you could take to give you present relief? A
glass of wine; shall I get you one? You are very ill."
"No, I thank you," she replied, endeavouring to recover herself.
"There is nothing the matter with me. I am quite well; I am
only distressed by some dreadful news which I have just
received from Longbourn."
She burst into tears as she alluded to it, and for a few minutes
could not speak another word. Darcy, in wretched suspense,
could only say something indistinctly of his concern, and
observe her in compassionate silence. At length she spoke
again. "I have just had a letter from Jane, with such dreadful
news. It cannot be concealed from anyone. My younger sister
has left all her friends - has eloped; has thrown herself into
the power of - of Mr. Wickham. They are gone off together from
Brighton. _You_ know him too well to doubt the rest. She has
no money, no connections, nothing that can tempt him to - she
is lost for ever."
Darcy was fixed in astonishment. "When I consider," she added
in a yet more agitated voice, "that I might have prevented it!
I, who knew what he was. Had I but explained some part of
it only - some part of what I learnt, to my own family! Had his
character been known, this could not have happened. But it is
all - all too late now."
"I am grieved indeed," cried Darcy; "grieved - shocked. But is
it certain - absolutely certain?"
"Oh, yes! They left Brighton together on Sunday night, and
were traced almost to London, but not beyond; they are
certainly not gone to Scotland."
"And what has been done, what has been attempted, to recover
"My father is gone to London, and Jane has written to beg my
uncle's immediate assistance; and we shall be off, I hope, in
half-an-hour. But nothing can be done - I know very well that
nothing can be done. How is such a man to be worked on? How
are they even to be discovered? I have not the smallest hope.
It is every way horrible!"
Darcy shook his head in silent acquiescence.
"When _my_ eyes were opened to his real character - Oh! had I
known what I ought, what I dared to do! But I knew not - I
was afraid of doing too much. Wretched, wretched mistake!"
Darcy made no answer. He seemed scarcely to hear her, and
was walking up and down the room in earnest meditation, his
brow contracted, his air gloomy. Elizabeth soon observed, and
instantly understood it. Her power was sinking; everything
_must_ sink under such a proof of family weakness, such an
assurance of the deepest disgrace. She could neither wonder
nor condemn, but the belief of his self-conquest brought nothing
consolatory to her bosom, afforded no palliation of her
distress. It was, on the contrary, exactly calculated to make
her understand her own wishes; and never had she so honestly felt
that she could have loved him, as now, when all love must be vain.
But self, though it would intrude, could not engross her.
Lydia - the humiliation, the misery she was bringing on them all,
soon swallowed up every private care; and covering her face with
her handkerchief, Elizabeth was soon lost to everything else;
and, after a pause of several minutes, was only recalled to a
sense of her situation by the voice of her companion, who, in a
manner which, though it spoke compassion, spoke likewise restraint,
said, "I am afraid you have been long desiring my absence, nor
have I anything to plead in excuse of my stay, but real, though
unavailing concern. Would to Heaven that anything could be
either said or done on my part that might offer consolation to
such distress! But I will not torment you with vain wishes, which
may seem purposely to ask for your thanks. This unfortunate
affair will, I fear, prevent my sister's having the pleasure of
seeing you at Pemberley to-day."
"Oh, yes. Be so kind as to apologise for us to Miss Darcy. Say
that urgent business calls us home immediately. Conceal the
unhappy truth as long as it is possible, I know it cannot be long."
He readily assured her of his secrecy; again expressed his sorrow
for her distress, wished it a happier conclusion than there was
at present reason to hope, and leaving his compliments for her
relations, with only one serious, parting look, went away.
As he quitted the room, Elizabeth felt how improbable it was
that they should ever see each other again on such terms of
cordiality as had marked their several meetings in Derbyshire;
and as she threw a retrospective glance over the whole of their
acquaintance, so full of contradictions and varieties, sighed
at the perverseness of those feelings which would now have
promoted its continuance, and would formerly have rejoiced in
If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection,
Elizabeth's change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor
faulty. But if otherwise - if regard springing from such sources
is unreasonable or unnatural, in comparison of what is so often
described as arising on a first interview with its object, and even
before two words have been exchanged, nothing can be said in
her defence, except that she had given somewhat of a trial to the
latter method in her partiality for Wickham, and that its ill
success might, perhaps, authorise her to seek the other less
interesting mode of attachment. Be that as it may, she saw him
go with regret; and in this early example of what Lydia's infamy
must produce, found additional anguish as she reflected on that
wretched business. Never, since reading Jane's second letter,
had she entertained a hope of Wickham's meaning to marry her.
No one but Jane, she thought, could flatter herself with such an
expectation. Surprise was the least of her feelings on this
development. While the contents of the first letter remained in
her mind, she was all surprise - all astonishment that Wickham
should marry a girl whom it was impossible he could marry
for money; and how Lydia could ever have attached him had
appeared incomprehensible. But now it was all too natural. For
such an attachment as this she might have sufficient charms; and
though she did not suppose Lydia to be deliberately engaging in
an elopement without the intention of marriage, she had no
difficulty in believing that neither her virtue nor her
understanding would preserve her from falling an easy prey.
She had never perceived, while the regiment was in Hertfordshire,