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. The Narrator on Mr. Wickham & Mr. Darcy, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 15
I have often thought that this scene is like a fast Quadrille dance with couples swirling in and out, changing partners, then the music stops, everyone is dizzy and no one ends up with who they were originally partnered with. My head is spinning!
We see three parties meeting by accident on the streets of Meryton; Elizabeth and her sisters with Mr. Collins, meet Mr. Denny who introduces them to Mr. Whickham, and then Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy on horseback. Mr. Darcy sees Whickham, and in an instant, the shock of recognition turns one white, the other red. Jane Austen orchestrates it all so smoothly, but it is an important scene that introduces a new character, and a mystery. Just the fact that Elizabeth’s curiosity is peeked by the interchange significantly raises the interest for the reader.
Jane Austen does not indicate which of the gentlemen turns white or red. To reveal it outright, would tell too much and she knows it. It has often been debated by Janeites, and if you think you know the answer based on human emotions, then you might be right!
I had to comment on the book cover illustration that I included with this post because it is just so darn corny. Not only are the characters in obvious Victorian era attire, but the artistic style reminds me of the less expenive, dare I say, CHEAP romance novels from the 1970’s. My only conclusion was that the publisher Purnell Books of Maidenhead, England was attempting to appeal to a wider audience. Jane has made many happy, or rich.
*Image of the book cover illustration of Pride & Prejudice, Purnell Books, Maidenhead, (1976)
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