Chapter Eight: Embarrassment at Pemberley
It was May when Elizabeth and Jane returned to Longbourn. Their
reception at home was most kind. Mrs Bennet was happy to see Jane as
beautiful as always and more than once during dinner. Mr Bennet told
Elizabeth that he was glad she was back.
On their first day home Lydia wanted to walk to Meryton, but Elizabeth
objected strongly. People should not say that the Miss Bennets could not be
home for half a day before they ran after the officers. She did not want to
meet Wickham and hoped to avoid him as long as possible. Only the next
morning could Elizabeth speak to Jane about her meeting with Mr Darcy and
the letter. She had decided not to mention Mr Bingley. Jane was surprised at
Darcy's proposal. She was sorry he had expressed his feelings in a manner so
little pleasing to her sister, but still more for the unhappiness her refusal
must have given him. When she heard of George Wickham, however, Jane's
feelings were more serious.
'I do not know when I have been more shocked,' she said. 'Wickham so
very bad! It is past belief. And poor Mr Darcy! Dear Lizzy, only think
what he must have suffered with the knowledge of your ill opinion too and
having to tell such a thing of his sister! It is really too bad. Lizzy, when you
first read that letter, you must have felt it so.'
'I was very uncomfortable. I may say unhappy. And with no one to speak
to, of what I felt, no Jane to make me feel better and say that I had not been
so very weak and vain and nonsensical as I knew I had! Oh! how I wanted
The sisters decided against telling people about Wickham. His regiment
was soon to move to Brighton for the summer. It did not seem important.
At home, Elizabeth could now observe her sister's real feeling. Jane was
not happy. She still felt a very strong affection for Bingley. She had never
thought herself in love before so her feelings had all the warmth of first
attraction, and were, from her age and character, longer lasting.
The second week after their return began. It was the last week of the
regiment's stay in Meryton, and all the young ladies in the neighbourhood
were in despair. Only Jane and Elizabeth were still able to eat, drink and
sleep. Kitty and Lydia could not understand them.
'What, oh what shall we do!' they often cried desperately.
'How can you smile so, Lizzy?'
Their affectionate mother joined them in their feelings. She remembered
what she herself had suffered at such a time, twenty-five years ago.
'I am sure,' said she, 'I cried for two whole days when Colonel Millar's
regiment went away. I thought I would die.'
'I am sure I shall die,' said Lydia.
'If only we could go to Brighton!' observed Mrs Bennet.
'Oh yes! If only we could go, but papa is so disagreeable.' Lydia's
happiness soon returned, for she received an invitation to Brighton from her
friend Mrs Forster. This was a very young woman, just married to the
Colonel of the regiment. But where Lydia was happy, Kitty was mortified.
In vain did Elizabeth and Jane speak to her. She refused to be comforted.
Before the regiment departed Elizabeth saw Mr Wickham for the last time.
He was invited to Longbourn with some other officers. On her return from
Kent, she had learned that the rich young lady who had taken her place in his
affections had moved. Over dinner Mr Wickham spoke to her with a
gallantry which caused her much displeasure. When he asked about her stay
in Kent, she told him she had seen Mr Darcy and that she found him more
agreeable now that she knew him better. Wickham looked anxious and said,
'I am happy that he is wise enough to try and appear a good man. But I
imagine that he was only cautious to seem so at the house of his aunt
because of his wish of marrying Miss de Bourgh.' Elizabeth had to smile, but
did not answer.
A month before her planned journey to the Lakes, Elizabeth received a
letter from her aunt, informing her that instead of the Lakes they had decided
to go to Derbyshire, to the little town of Lambton, where Mrs Gardiner had
friends. Lambton was, Mrs Gardiner wrote, five miles from Pemberley, the
estate of Mr Darcy and old home of George Wickham. Elizabeth's feelings
were mixed, but she consoled herself that there was small probability of
Four weeks passed, and Mr and Mrs Gardiner appeared at Longbourn.
They stayed the night, and left the next morning with Elizabeth. The evening
before their arrival in Lambton, while talking over their travel plans, they
saw that Pemberley was not more than two miles out of their way. Mrs
Gardiner expressed a wish to see the place and asked Elizabeth if she
wouldn't like to Hoe a place to which so many of her friends were connected.
Elizabeth knew not what to say. She felt that she had no business at
Pemberley. She was tired of great houses, she told her aunt, but Mrs
Gardiner was determined.
'It is not only a great house,' said she, 'but the gardens are some of the
finest in England.'
Elizabeth said no more, but she was uneasy. The possibility of meeting
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Darcy while visiting the place immediately came to mind. That night she
asked the servant about Pemberley and if he Family was there. The answer
Pemberley, a large, handsome house, delighted Elizabeth when she saw it.
She had never seen a place of such natural beauty, and felt that to be
mistress of Pemberley might be something. The housekeeper , a respectable looking,
older woman, showed them the house. The rooms were both simple
'And of this place,' she thought, 'I might have been mistress! I might have
enjoyed it as my own and welcomed as visitors my uncle and aunt. But no,
that could never be. They would have been lost to me. He would not have
permitted me to invite them.' This fortunate thought saved her from feeling
When her aunt called her to look at a picture, the housekeeper came
forward and said,
'That is my master, and very like him.'
'I have heard of your master,' said Mrs Gardiner. 'Lizzy, you can tell us if
it is like or not.'
The housekeeper asked if she knew Mr Darcy. 'A little,' said Elizabeth .
'Do you not think him a very handsome gentleman, Ma'am?'
'Yes, very handsome.'
The housekeeper, either from pride or affection, clearly had great pleasure
in talking about him. Mr Gardiner asked her about him. Elizabeth listened
with surprise as she said, 'I never had an unkind word from him in my life
and I have known him since he was four years old. There is not one of his
servants who does not speak well of him. Some people call him proud, but I
am sure I never saw that.'
As they walked through the rooms Elizabeth was stopped by the sight of a
large portrait. It was of Mr Darcy, with such a smile on his face as she
remembered to have seen sometimes when he looked at her. There was at
this moment in Elizabeth's mind, a warmer feeling towards the man than she
had ever felt before. The picture of his character given by his housekeeper
was a compliment indeed.
When they had seen what was open of the house, they took their leave. As
they walked through the garden, Elizabeth turned back to look again when
suddenly she saw Darcy himself. They were so near that it was impossible to
avoid his sight. Their eyes met, and they both blushed deeply. He looked and
for a moment could not move for surprise, but then came up and spoke to
Elizabeth politely, explaining that he had come a day early.
She had turned away, but stopping, received his compliments with
mortification. The thought of the impropriety of her being there made
those moments some of the most uncomfortable of her life. He too was not
at ease. After standing a few moments without saying a word, he suddenly
took his leave.
The others then joined her and expressed their admiration, but Elizabeth
heard not a word. She was so ashamed. Her coming there was the most
unfortunate thing in the world! Oh! Why did he come a day before he was
expected? And his behaviour, so changed, what could it mean? She was
surprised that he should even speak to her, but to speak so politely, to ask
after her family! Never in her life had she seen his manners so little formal,
never had he spoken so kindly as on this unexpected meeting.
They were walking on when Mr Darcy came up again and asked if
Elizabeth would do him the honour of introducing him to her friends. She
almost smiled when she remembered what he had once said of her
'What will be his surprise,' thought she, 'when he knows who they are! He
now thinks they are people of fashion.'
The introduction was made. Mr Darcy turned back with them and started a
conversation with Mr Gardiner. Elizabeth was very pleased that he should
know she had some relatives to be proud of. She listened and triumphed at
every word of her uncle's that showed his intelligence or his good manners.
They began to speak of fishing, and she heard Mr Darcy invite him to fish
there as often as he liked while in the neighbourhood. Mrs Gardiner gave
Elizabeth a look of surprise. Elizabeth said nothing, but was very gratified.
The compliment must be for herself, but she kept thinking, 'Why is he so
changed? It cannot be for me that his manners are so softened. It is
impossible that he should still love me.'
After some time Mrs Gardiner, tired from the walk, asked for her
husband's arm, and Mr Darcy took her place by her niece. Elizabeth spoke
first. She wanted him to know that she had been assured he was away from
home before she came to the place. He had come early on business he
explained. The party who travelled with him was joining him the next day.
'There are some of them who you know, Mr Bingley and his sisters.'
Elizabeth did not answer. 'There is one other person in the party who wished
to be known to you. Will you permit me, or do I ask too much, to introduce
my sister to you during your stay at Lambton?'
They walked on in silence. Elizabeth was not comfortable, but she was
flattered and pleased. His wish of introducing his sister to her was a
compliment of the highest kind. At the house Mr Darcy invited them to tea,
but they refused and took their leave.
The observations of her aunt and uncle now began. Both thought him
much better than anything they had expected.
'There is something a little formal in him, but only in his manner,' said her
'I was never more surprised than by his behaviour to us. It was more than
polite. It was really attentive, and there was no necessity. He does not know
Elizabeth so well,' her uncle added.
'Indeed Lizzy,' said her aunt, 'he is not as handsome as Wickham, but how
could you tell us that he was disagreeable? It is hard to believe he can have
behaved so badly to poor Wickham.'
Elizabeth explained that his character was not so bad nor Wickham's as
good as they had thought. The Gardiners were shocked, but as they were
now nearing Lambton, there was no time to say more.
On the morning after their arrival at Lambton, they heard the sound of a
carriage. It was Darcy. When Elizabeth told her uncle and aunt they were
most surprised, and the embarrassment of her Manner as she spoke opened
to them a new idea on the business.
Miss Darcy and her brother appeared and the introduction took place.
Elizabeth saw that the young lady was as much embarrassed as she. She had
heard that Miss Darcy was proud, but the observation of a few minutes
showed her that she was only timid.
They had not been long together before Darcy told her that Bingley also
was coming. A moment later he entered the room and greeted her warmly.
He asked in a friendly, though general way after her family.
To Mr and Mrs Gardiner, Bingley was a most interesting person. They
observed the whole party with attention. Their suspicions of Mr Darcy and
their niece made them watch each closely and they soon saw that one of
them, at least, knew what it was to love. The lady's feelings they did not
quite understand, but the gentleman was clearly full of admiration.
In seeing Bingley, Elizabeth immediately thought of Jane. She watched his
behaviour to Miss Darcy, but saw nothing that spoke of affection in his
manner to her. At one point he observed to Elizabeth that it was a very long
time since he had had the pleasure of seeing her, and then asked if all her
sisters were at Longbourn, with a look and a manner that gave the words
When their visitors got up to depart, Mr Darcy asked his sister to join him
in inviting the Gardiners and Miss Bennet to dinner at Pemberley. They
accepted and a day was decided.