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 new commanding officer, Colonel Fitzwilliam who had arrived the day before from town. The news of Colonel Foster's removal from the regiment had not yet been known and the arrival of his replacement came as a great shock to all those attending. His appearance was greatly in his favor; he had 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. Upon discerning Jane to be one of the part Mr. Bingley came directly toward them and began usual civilities. He said he was on his way to Longbourn to inquire after her health. 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. Mr. Darcy displayed a fine set of teeth in a smile and Colonel Fitzwilliam laughed.
Elizabeth, who had not believed him capable of such facial contortion, was all astonishment.
Down the street another fine looking young man who had come down to join the shire militia saw the encounter from a distance and immediately turned around and was never seen in Hertfordshire again.
After explanations, salutations, and the usual civilities were dispensed with, Mr. Denny spoke.
"I was just showing the Colonel around Meryton and speaking of the excellent company we have found ourselves in this part of the country. Perhaps the Miss Bennets would care to share some of the secrets of the area that only the natives would know."