A Good Day's Catch
Mr. Gardiner left the two ladies soon after breakfast. The fishing scheme had been renewed the day before, and a positive engagement made for the gentlemen meeting at Pemberley later in the day.
Mr. Gardiner felt that a visit to Lambton was needed prior to this trip to properly outfit himself. After asking the inn keeper where he could find a general store that would meet his requirements, he could soon be seen walking toward just such an establishment. When inside, after having purchased the required items, he could not resist querying the owner a little about Pemberley and the gentleman who owned it.
"I understand the fishing is very fine at Pemberley, with some of the best trout in the country. Is this not true?" he asked.
"Well sir, I believe none from these parts have ever had the privilege of casting in those waters. But I have heard from some that there are indeed lively action to be found there if you know the proper spots. But do take care, for Pemberley's master is not one to take kindly any poaching activity on his estate, and would surly prosecute to the full extent of the law. He is a very stern and proud gentleman."
On Mr. Gardiner informing the proprietor of his going at the invitation of said master, the man seemed very much surprised and a little incredulous.
"Sorry, Sir. I meant no disrespect. But we don't often see many strangers invited there. The Darcys' do enjoy their privacy. I think I can assure you sir that with Mr. Darcy directions, the sport will be very good indeed."
With this intelligence Mr. Gardiner proceeded to the stable behind the inn to inquire about the use of a horse for the trip to Pemberley. Having come to a satisfactory arrangement for the fee a horse was soon brought forward.
Mr. Gardiner looked at the horse with curiosity and some trepidation, as he was not in any frequent habit of horseback riding; but the carriage was required by his wife and Elizabeth for their own visit to Pemberley somewhat later that day.
"This animal is not in high spirits, is it now." he hesitantly asked the stable boy.
"No sir, assuredly not. He be's the most tamest h'rse in this here stable. Could eat yer lunch off 'is back ye could. Why the widow Marset once road this here h'rse to Besterfield and back without once alighting, and swore she felt as fresh as if she'd a been asleep in her own bed. If yud be up then youd see yerself".
And the boy proceeded to position himself to support Mr. Gardiner onto his mount. Despite his growing concern that once aboard he could not easily get down, Mr. Gardiner soon found himself on the back of the beast. To his surprise and tremendous relief, he found the horse was indeed very docile and that his skills at horsemanship had not totally deserted him, despite the lack of opportunities for such activities in town.
With due caution, but eventually without undue concern, Mr. Gardiner made his slow journey toward Mr. Darcy's Estate. And even though next to the comforts of home and family he found fishing as one of the most singular delights of his life, his mind during this private sojourn was not on the prospects of what could be found in the delightful streams he had seen just two days before but in those prospects that most concerned his niece.
The new awareness he shared with his wife, that Mr. Darcy had show a decided preference for his niece, was one that he found hard to comprehend. Had they not just a few months before been in a community of people who universally shared a belief in the insufferable pride of Mr. Darcy and a fixed idea of his mean behavior toward such a worthy gentleman as Mr. Wickham had seemed to be. Yet in their own meetings with the man, he had seemed most cordial and agreeable. Could so many be in error. Or maybe his behavior was to a great extent depended upon place. At home where comfort is most easily to be found, he may feel no need to treat people with such distance as he does when away from home.
As Mr. Gardiner soon approached the estate, his jumbled feelings about this affair could reach no settled notion. That a connection by his niece in such a corner would seem to be highly advantageous to her and her relations, Mr. Gardiner felt too much real concern for her to wish only for good connections. He was really desirous to see her happily married, not just well married. And to what extent Mr. Darcy's attentions could lead in that direction was not in any sure way to be determined, without confronting the lady herself. This, however did not seem to Mr. Gardiner to be in his providence. Therefore, he was determined on this day of fishing to catch more then a nice fish, no he really hoped to come to a better understanding of how things stood with Mr. Darcy and his niece.
Dismounting with as much grace as he could muster, Mr. Gardiner was soon among the gentlemen of Pemberley. The party consisted of himself, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley and a Mr. Hurst. Mr. Bingley he had met the evening before, and had found him a very agreeable and sensible young man.
Mr. Hurst however seemed to have been misnamed. Mr. Hurt would have been more apt. He made it plain early on that he thought very little of fishing, much preferring hunting, and was only along because he could think of nothing better to do. Mr. Gardiner had no trouble believing this, for it soon became evident that thinking at all was much too great an exercise for Mr. Hurst. From the minute they left the house for the stream, until all fishing was done, Mr. Hurst never spoke a word that wasn't connected to some complaint. Mr. Gardiner soon joined, with the other gentlemen, in turning a deaf hear, assuming that a nod every fifteen minutes or so in his direction was all that was required.
Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Darcy, with the latter's kind direction, soon took up positions on the stream which Mr. Darcy promised to provide the best action; and for a while Mr. Gardiner's only thoughts were on the stream and it's majestic inhabitants, with a keen desire to bring one of the denizens to the surface. However, Mr. Gardiner soon remembered both his manners and his earlier intentions of delving into Mr. Darcy's thoughts on Elizabeth.
"Do you often get a chance to enjoy the sport, Mr. Darcy. Or, do you, as I'm afraid you must, find yourself often too busy to get much time for this sort of leisure. An estate of this size must keep one very busy."
"Well, yes there are many things to do to keep the estate running smoothly." Mr. Darcy responded. "Yet, I think I am able to find the time for such activities as these, Sir. I feel that it is a requirement of the estate that it be enjoyed, else why bother. I try to manage my activities in a manner that will provide me ample time for all the pleasures such an estate as this can provide. This I feel would have been in keeping with my Father's wishes, who took a great deal of pride in Pemberley."
"And well he should have." said Mr. Gardiner with some feeling. He had really begun to appreciate the beauty and serenity of the park. "I don't think we've seen a more comfortable place in our travels this summer.
"Miss Georgiana must be a great help in giving the manor that, ...well that something not so easily defined, that only a woman can bring" Mr. Gardiner continued in all innocence; but a quick look at Mr. Darcy showed he had touched a sensitive area. Mr. Gardiner would have sworn a slight blush overspread Mr. Darcy's face.
To further collect his thoughts Mr. Gardiner turned his attention back to the fishing as likewise did Mr. Darcy. How well Mr. Darcy's mind was brought to bare on fishing could soon be heard by Mr. Bingley's shouting.
"Why Darcy I believe you have a strike! What are you about man; your going to loose it. Come, take heed on what your doing."
Mr. Darcy's hook had indeed found its target, but such poor reactions had not been seen in this stream since Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham had been fishing in these parts as lads, very young lads at that. The fish, of course, made it's escape and Darcy was left looking rather foolish, or at least as foolish as a man of his position and worth could look.
In an attempt to alleviate the awkwardness of Darcy's inattentive actions, Mr. Gardiner again began a conversation. He intended to stay on very safe ground, even starting the conversation by asking Darcy about the generalities of the weather in this part of the country. But this eventually led to how easy it was to travel in such fine weather, which somehow got around to how he, Mrs. Gardiner and his niece had so much enjoyed the weather on their current trip.
"Then was it Miss Elizabeth's idea to visit Pemberley." Mr. Darcy asked after the subject of their trip had been broached.
"No, not at all." replied Mr. Gardiner. "In fact she had professed to have seen enough fine houses for one trip, and was afraid that Pemberley was not at all in the way of our current destination, Lambton. However, Mrs. Gardiner carried the day I believe when she reminded Lizzy that Mr. Wickham had spent his youth here."
On hearing this piece of news, Mr. Darcy, seeming none to pleased, again returned to his fishing; but upon making his cast managed to catch the line in a nearby tree. With a few words not often heard by his closest friends, Mr. Darcy, after angrily shooing away a servant, went to untangle his line.
Mr. Bingley made his way over to Mr. Gardiner and began a discussion on Mr. Darcy's strange way of fishing. He told Mr. Gardiner that he was beginning to feel that Darcy's idea's on fishing were more closely aligned to the thoughts of Mr. Hurst then of themselves. That, perhaps he had only come along to accommodate Mr. Gardiner.
Eventually, their conversation turned toward the previous evening's meeting and the impressions it had left.
"Miss Georgiana was delighted by Miss Elizabeth, and could talk of nothing else all the way home. She could hardly wait to see her again, and was eagerly awaiting their dinner engagement." Mr. Bingley told Mr. Gardiner.
"Oh, she shall not have to wait so long, I assure you; as my wife and Lizzy plan on attending to Georgiana and your sisters this very afternoon." replied Mr. Gardiner.
"OW! I've cut my hand." cried Mr. Darcy. "Please, gentlemen, you will excuse me if I take my leave of you now. I really must go to the house and have this seen too. The servant will bring your things up to the house when you have finished."
Despite their own protests that the cut was surly just a trifling thing, Mr. Darcy insisted on his leaving and on their staying to enjoy the fishing for a little longer as he was:
"Sure that my own lack of attention has diminished your enjoyment of the day. Please, stay. I am convinced that soon the bites will be forthwith and that real sport can be had." With these word he started the climb up to the manor house.
Mr. Gardiner watched him go with a little smile upon his face. He was sure that even if he caught nothing to fill his larder he had already caught much to fill his interest and his curiosity.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.