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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

Elizabeth and the Gardiners pay their morning call at Pemberley, Mr. Gardiner to fish, the ladies to return the visit of the day before. Bingley's sisters are barely civil, and Georgiana is too shy to talk.

Darcy comes in from the fishing party to greet the guests, and Caroline Bingley at once makes a nasty reference to the militia leaving the Bennets' neighborhood. Elizabeth notes Georgiana's distress at this indirect reference to Wickham. As for Darcy, he is looking earnestly at Elizabeth, wondering how she now feels about Wickham-and about himself.

After Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner leave, Caroline Bingley exclaims that Elizabeth has become "so coarse and brown." Darcy answers mildly that this is a natural consequence of traveling in the summer. Caroline, driven by jealousy, reminds him that he once thought Elizabeth pretty. His answer can hardly please her. That was only when he first knew Elizabeth, he says, but now he considers her "one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance."

NOTE: We are not kept in any doubt about Darcy's continuing love for Elizabeth. The crucial question is: will he again attempt to make her an offer of marriage? Elizabeth is beginning to ask herself the same question. She is less and less certain of what her own answer, this time, might be.



CHAPTER FORTY-SIX

Two hastily written letters from Jane at Longbourn upset all hopes and speculations. The news brings disgrace on the entire family: Lydia has run away with Wickham. At first it was thought that they were going to Scotland, where marriage can take place without the delays imposed in England. It now appears that they have gone into hiding in London. Wickham is now known to his fellow officers as a man not to be trusted, and his colonel thinks it unlikely that he means to marry Lydia. A troubled Mr. Bennet has gone to London to try to find the fugitives. In the letter Jane begs her uncle to join her father in London as soon as possible and bring his better judgment to the situation.

Elizabeth is hurrying out to find her uncle in the town when Darcy comes in to pay a morning call. He is shocked at her pale face and anxious manner, believing she is ill. He sends a servant to find her aunt and uncle, and begs her to let him get her a glass of wine. She protests that she is not ill, and in her agitation, moved by his concern, she blurts out all her dreadful news. She blames herself for not preventing the disaster by telling what she knew of Wickham's true character.

Darcy is at first concerned only for her distress, but then he begins to walk around the room, seemingly inattentive, grave and thoughtful. At last he hastily excuses himself and leaves her. As soon as he is gone, Elizabeth feels the full weight of this horrid turn of events as it affects her. With this scandal, which must stain the entire Bennet family, Darcy's interest in her must surely melt away.

His preoccupation, during the last few minutes of his visit, seems proof to Elizabeth that this process has already begun: whatever love he still feels for her must be cooling. Now, when all hope of having his love seems lost, Elizabeth realizes how much she wishes that he still loved her.

The Gardiners return, and Elizabeth tells them the news. They pack quickly and leave at once for Longbourn. As they hurry away, Mrs. Gardiner reminds Elizabeth that they have a dinner engagement at Pemberley that must be broken. But Elizabeth has already made their excuses to Darcy, and she tells her aunt, "That is all settled!"

"What is all settled?" wonders Mrs. Gardiner, baffled by Elizabeth's uncommunicative behavior. But Elizabeth herself would not be able to say at this point what is or is not settled, except that she can now see no hope that Darcy will ever interest himself in her again.

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Barron's Booknotes-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
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