But the attention of every lady was soon caught by a young man,
whom they had never seen before, of most gentlemanlike
appearance, walking with another officer on the other side of the
way. The officer was the very Mr. Denny concerning whose
return from London Lydia came to inquire, and he bowed as
they passed. All were struck with the stranger's air, all
wondered who he could be; and Kitty and Lydia, determined if
possible to find out, led the way across the street, under pretense
of wanting something in an opposite shop, and fortunately had
just gained the pavement when the two gentlemen, turning back,
had reached the same spot. Mr. Denny addressed them directly,
and entreated permission to introduce his friend, Mr. Wickham,
who had returned with him the day before from town, and he
was happy to say had accepted a commission in their corps.
This was exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted only
regimentals to make him completely charming. His appearance
was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a
fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address. The
introduction was followed up on his side by a happy readiness of
conversation--a readiness at the same time perfectly correct and
unassuming; and the whole party were still standing and talking
together very agreeably, when the sound of horses drew their
notice, and Darcy and Bingley were seen riding down the street.
On distinguishing the ladies of the group, the two gentlemen
came directly towards them, and began the usual civilities.
Bingley was the principal spokesman, and Miss Bennet the
principal object. He was then, he said, on his way to Longbourn
on purpose to inquire after her. Mr. Darcy corroborated it with
a bow, and was beginning to determine not to fix his eyes on
Elizabeth, when they were suddenly arrested by the sight of the
stranger, and Elizabeth happening to see the countenance of
both as they looked at each other, was all astonishment at the
effect of the meeting. Both changed colour, one looked white,
the other red. Mr. Wickham, after a few moments, touched his
hat--a salutation which Mr. Darcy just deigned to return. What
could be the meaning of it? It was impossible to imagine; it was
impossible not to long to know.
In another minute, Mr. Bingley, but without seeming to have
noticed what passed, took leave and rode on with his friend.
Mr. Denny and Mr. Wickham walked with the young ladies to
the door of Mr. Phillip's house, and then made their bows, in
spite of Miss Lydia's pressing entreaties that they should come
in, and even in spite of Mrs. Phillips's throwing up the parlour
window and loudly seconding the invitation.