Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pride & Prejudice, Volume III, chapter 2 (ch 44)

Yesterday we read chapter 43, in which Darcy asked if he could introduce his sister to Elizabeth. It's the next day, and Elizabeth is certain that she'll be seeing Darcy and Georgiana, but she's not expecting to see them today – after all, Georgiana will just have arrived from London, so Elizabeth believes the Darcys will pay her a call the next day – but no, here they are, arriving in a curricle (a lightweight, two-wheeled carriage built to carry the driver and one passenger, usually pulled by two horses, making it a speedy contraption and one often preferred by fashionable young gentlemen – The More You Know*).

Elizabeth sees them approaching the inn and flies into a tizzy. She realizes that their visit means that the Darcys are in quite a hurry to see her, and appreciates the honor of it. She worries that she'll let Darcy and/or his sister down.

The Gardiners see the Darcys approaching and Elizabeth's tizzy and nearly start chanting "Lizzy and Darcy, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G". Thinking over how Darcy and Elizabeth behaved the day before and how eager Darcy is to see Lizzy again and introduce his sister, they have decided that Darcy must be in love with their niece. May I just say that I love the Gardiners? Because I do. They are so very kind and well-mannered and pleasant and sensible.

"Miss Darcy and her brother appeared, and this formidable introduction took place."

Elizabeth has heard – not only from Wickham, but also from Mrs Gardiner's friends in Lambton – that Miss Darcy is proud, but she quickly understands that Georgiana Darcy is merely shy. "[T]here was sense and good humour in her face, and her manners were perfectly unassuming and gentle."

Darcy tells her that Bingley is also coming to call on her, and sure enough he turns up, as good-natured and cordial as ever. The Gardiners, having heard about him from Elizabeth and Jane (and Mrs Bennet, of course), are quite keen to meet him. They're also eager to test their theory about Darcy having a thing for Elizabeth. The Gardiners:
directed their observation towards each with an earnest, though guarded, enquiry; and they soon drew from those enquiries 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.
"Bingley was ready, Georgiana was eager, and Darcy determined to be pleased."
The following is one of my favorite paragraphs in this book for how succinctly Austen conveys Elizabeth's state of mind, and for how she sums up the moods of the three visitors:

Elizabeth, on her side, had much to do. 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 endeavoured to give pleasure were prepossessed in her favour. Bingley was ready, Georgiana was eager, and Darcy determined to be pleased.
Elizabeth notes that neither Bingley nor Georgiana seems at all interested in the other, proving Miss Bingley's written assertions about a match to be a work of fiction. And Bingley does seem to be remembering Jane quite a lot. He calculates with precision how long it's been since he last saw her, remembering the exact date eight months ago, and later enquiring if all her sisters are at Longbourn.

And what of Mr Darcy's manners?

It was not often that she could turn her eyes on Mr Darcy himself; but, whenever she did catch a glimpse, she saw an expression of general complaisance, and in all that he said she heard an accent so far removed from hauteur or disdain of his companions, as convinced her that the improvement of manners which she had yesterday witnessed, however temporary its existence might prove, had at least outlived one day. When she saw him thus seeking the acquaintance and courting the good opinion of people, with whom any intercourse a few months ago would have been a disgrace; when she saw him thus civil, not only to herself, but to the very relations whom he had openly disdained, and recollected their last lively scene in Hunsford Parsonage, the difference, the change was so great, and struck so forcibly on her mind, that she could hardly restrain her astonishment from being visible. Never, even in the company of his dear friends at Netherfield, or his dignified relations at Rosings, had she seen him so desirous to please, so free from self-consequence or unbending reserve, as now, when no importance could result from the success of his endeavours, and when even 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.
You may recall (from my post about Chapter 2) that the "proper" length of an initial morning call was about 15 minutes, yet Bingley and the Darcys (the replacement band for Darcy and the Bingley Sisters) stay past half an hour, thereby conveying the impression to the Gardiners that the acquaintance with Elizabeth is far closer and more established than that of mere acquaintances.

Before they leave, Darcy makes his sister ask them all to come to dinner, and they decide to do so in two days' time. Bingley again hints that he wants to hear more about Jane, the Darcys leave, Lizzy asks what the Gardiners thought about Bingley and then bolts to her own room in a fluster to ponder things over a bit, worried that they'll ask her about Darcy. The Gardiners see no reason to make inquiries – they've figured out that there's a relationship there and that Darcy is in love with their niece and they're good with it. (Again, I so love the Gardiners.)

"As for Elizabeth, her thoughts were at Pemberley".

The Gardiners have decided to think well of Darcy, based on their observation of his behaviour, on the statements of Mrs Reynolds, the housekeeper, who has known him since he was four, and on the word of their acquaintance in Lambton, who have confirmed that Darcy is very good to the poor, and that Wickham is of bad character, having left quite a lot of debts in his wake when he left town (which Darcy paid off). Although the Lambton crowd considers Darcy proud, the Gardiners shrug it off, figuring it's the natural assumption that nearby townsfolk would make – it's not like the Darcys live in Lambton, after all, Pemberley being five miles off.

The lengthy paragraph on Elizabeth's mindset is fascinating to me. She's not entirely certain what she feels for Darcy at the moment, but it's pretty obvious that she's falling in love with him – she's long past hate or dislike, well into Elinor Dashwood "I greatly esteem/I like him" territory, and finds herself filled with gratitude that he would be so very caring toward her as to still treat her well even though she rejected his proposal (and did so in such awful terms).

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.
Come morning, Mrs Gardiner and Elizabeth have decided to return Miss Darcy's call by visiting her at Pemberley, and Mr Gardiner is off to go fishing with Darcy and Bingley, Darcy having again pressed him to do so.

I find myself very much looking forward to these next few chapters. *rubs hands together in excitement*

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