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First digital edition 2017 by Anna Ruggieri
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man inpossession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may beon hisfirst entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixedin the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered therightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day,“have you heard that Netherfield Park is let atlast?”
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long hasjust been here, and she told me all about it.”
Mr. Bennet made no answer.
“Do you not want to know who has taken it?” criedhis wife impatiently.
“Youwant to tell me, and I have no objection to hearingit.”
This was invitation enough.
“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says thatNetherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the northof England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to seethe place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed withMr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession beforeMichaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by theend of next week.”
“What is hisname?”
“Is he married or single?”
“Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of largefortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for ourgirls!”
“How so? How can it affect them?”
“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “howcanyou be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of hismarrying one of them.”
“Is that his design in settling here?”
“Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is verylikely that hemayfall in love with one of them, and therefore youmust visithim as soon as he comes.”
“I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, oryou may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be stillbetter, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley maylike you the best of the party.”
“My dear,you flatter me. I certainlyhavehad my share ofbeauty, but I do not pretend to be anything extraordinary now. Whena woman has five grown-up daughters, she ought to give overthinking of her own beauty.”
“In such cases, a woman has not often much beautyto thinkof.”
“But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley whenhe comes into the neighbourhood.”
“It is more than I engage for, I assure you.”
“But consider your daughters. Only think what anestablishment it would be for one of them. Sir Williamand LadyLucas are determined to go, merely on that account, for in general,you know, they visit no newcomers. Indeed you must go, for it willbe impossible forusto visit him if you do not.”
“You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Mr. Bingleywillbe very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you toassure him of my hearty consent to his marrying whichever hechooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for mylittle Lizzy.”
“I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not abitbetter than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsomeas Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia. But you are alwaysgivingherthe preference.”
“They have none of them much to recommend them,”replied he; “they are all silly and ignorantlike other girls;but Lizzy has something more of quickness than hersisters.”
“Mr. Bennet, howcanyou abuse your own children in such away? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for mypoor nerves.”
“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for yournerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them withconsideration these last twenty years at least.”
“Ah, you do not know what I suffer.”
“But I hope you will get over it, and live to see manyyoung men of four thousand ayear come into theneighbourhood.”
“It will be no use to us, if twenty such should come,since you will not visit them.”
“Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty, Iwill visit them all.”
Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastichumour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience ofthree-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wifeunderstand his character.Hermind was less difficult to develop. Shewas a woman of mean understanding, little information, anduncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herselfnervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married;its solace was visitingand news.
Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr.Bingley. He had always intended to visit him, though to the lastalways assuring his wife that he should not go; and till theevening after the visit was paid she had no knowledge of it. It wasthen disclosed in the following manner. Observing his seconddaughter employed in trimming a hat, he suddenly addressed herwith:
“I hope Mr. Bingley will like it, Lizzy.”
“We are not in a way to knowwhatMr. Bingley likes,”said her mother resentfully, “since we are not tovisit.”
“But you forget, mamma,” said Elizabeth, “thatwe shall meet him at the assemblies, and that Mrs. Long promised tointroduce him.”
“I do not believe Mrs. Long will do any such thing. Shehas two nieces of her own. She is a selfish, hypocritical woman,and I have no opinion of her.”
“No more have I,” said Mr. Bennet; “and I amglad to find that you do not depend on her serving you.”
Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply, but, unable tocontain herself, began scolding one of her daughters.
“Don’t keep coughing so, Kitty, for Heaven’ssake! Have a little compassion on my nerves. You tear them topieces.”
“Kitty has no discretion in her coughs,” said herfather; “she times them ill.”
“I do not cough for my own amusement,” replied Kittyfretfully. “When is your next ball to be, Lizzy?”
“Aye, so it is,” cried her mother, “and Mrs.Long does not come back till the day before; so it will beimpossible for her to introduce him, for shewill not know himherself.”
“Then, my dear, you may have the advantage of your friend,and introduce Mr. Bingley toher.”
“Impossible, Mr. Bennet, impossible, when I am notacquainted with him myself; how can you be so teasing?”
“I honour your circumspection. A fortnight’sacquaintance is certainly very little. One cannot know what a manreally is by the end of a fortnight. But ifwedo not venturesomebody else will; and after all, Mrs. Long and her nieces muststand their chance; and, therefore, as she will think it an act ofkindness, if you decline the office, I will take it onmyself.”
The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only,“Nonsense, nonsense!”
“What can be the meaning of that emphaticexclamation?” cried he. “Do you consider the forms ofintroduction, and the stress that is laid on them, as nonsense? Icannot quite agree with youthere. What say you, Mary? For you are ayoung lady of deep reflection, I know, and read great books andmake extracts.”
Mary wished to say something sensible, but knew not how.
“While Mary is adjusting her ideas,” he continued,“let us return to Mr. Bingley.”
“I am sick of Mr. Bingley,” cried his wife.
“I am sorry to hearthat; but why did not you tell me thatbefore? If I had known as much this morning I certainly would nothave called on him. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually paidthe visit, we cannot escape the acquaintance now.”
The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that ofMrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though, when the firsttumult of joy was over, she began to declare that it was what shehad expected all the while.
“How good it was in you, my dear Mr. Bennet! But I knew Ishould persuade you at last. I was sure you loved your girls toowell to neglect such an acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! andit is such a good joke, too, that you should have gone this morningand never said a word about it till now.”
“Now, Kitty, you maycough as much as you choose,”said Mr. Bennet; and, as he spoke, he left the room, fatigued withthe raptures of his wife.
“What an excellent father you have, girls!” saidshe, when the door was shut. “I do not know how you will evermake him amends for his kindness; or me, either, for that matter.At our time of life it is not so pleasant, I can tell you, to bemaking new acquaintances every day; but for your sakes, we would doanything. Lydia, my love, though youarethe youngest, I dare say Mr.Bingleywill dance with you at the next ball.”
“Oh!” said Lydia stoutly, “I am not afraid;for though Iamthe youngest, I’m the tallest.”
The rest of the evening was spent in conjecturing how soon hewould return Mr. Bennet’s visit, and determining when theyshould ask him to dinner.
Not all that Mrs. Bennet, however, with the assistance of herfive daughters, could ask on the subject, was sufficient to drawfrom her husband any satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley. Theyattacked him in various ways—with barefaced questions,ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises; but he eluded theskill of them all, and they were at last obliged to accept thesecond-hand intelligence of their neighbour, Lady Lucas. Her reportwas highly favourable. SirWilliam had been delighted with him. Hewas quite young, wonderfully handsome, extremely agreeable, and, tocrown the whole, he meant to be at the next assembly with a largeparty. Nothing could be more delightful! To be fond of dancing wasa certain steptowards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr.Bingley’s heart were entertained.
“If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled atNetherfield,” said Mrs. Bennet to her husband, “and allthe others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wishfor.”
In a few days Mr. Bingley returned Mr. Bennet’s visit, andsat about ten minutes with him in his library. He had entertainedhopes of being admitted to a sight of the young ladies, of whosebeauty he had heard much; but he saw only the father.The ladieswere somewhat more fortunate, for they had the advantage ofascertaining from an upper window that he wore a blue coat, androde a black horse.
An invitation to dinner was soon afterwards dispatched; andalready had Mrs. Bennet planned the courses that were to do creditto her housekeeping, when an answer arrived which deferred it all.Mr. Bingley was obliged to be in town the following day, and,consequently, unable to accept the honour of their invitation, etc.Mrs. Bennet was quite disconcerted. She could not imagine whatbusiness he could have in town so soon after his arrival inHertfordshire; and she began to fear that he might be always flyingabout from one place to another, and never settled at Netherfieldas he ought to be. Lady Lucas quieted her fears a little bystarting the idea of his being gone to London only to get a largeparty for the ball; and a report soon followed that Mr. Bingley wasto bring twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him to theassembly. The girls grieved over such a number of ladies, but werecomforted the day before the ball by hearing, that instead oftwelve he brought only six with him from London—his fivesisters and a cousin. And when the party entered the assembly roomit consisted of only five altogether—Mr. Bingley, his twosisters, the husband of the eldest, and another young man.
Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had apleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His sisterswere fine women, with an air of decided fashion. Hisbrother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but hisfriend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine,tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report whichwas in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance,of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him tobe a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was muchhandsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with greatadmiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave adisgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he wasdiscovered to be proud; to be above his company, and abovebeingpleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then savehim from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, andbeing unworthy to be compared with his friend.
Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all theprincipal people in the room; he was lively and unreserved, dancedevery dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked ofgiving onehimself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speakfor themselves. What a contrast between him and his friend! Mr.Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley,declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the restofthe evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally toone of his own party. His character was decided. He was theproudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and everybody hopedthat he would never come there again. Amongst the most violentagainst him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviourwas sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted oneof her daughters.
Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen,to sit down for two dances; and during part of that time, Mr. Darcyhad been standing near enough for her to hear a conversationbetween him and Mr. Bingley, who came from the dance for a fewminutes, to press his friend to join it.
“Come, Darcy,” said he, “I must have youdance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupidmanner. You had much better dance.”
“I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless Iam particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly asthis it would be insupportable. Your sisters areengaged, and thereis not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishmentto me to stand up with.”
“I would not be so fastidious as you are,” cried Mr.Bingley, “for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with somany pleasant girls in my lifeas I have this evening; and there areseveral of them you see uncommonly pretty.”
“Youare dancing with the only handsome girl in theroom,” said Mr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.
“Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! Butthereis one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who isvery pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask mypartner to introduce you.”
“Which do you mean?” and turning round he looked fora moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his ownand coldly said: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enoughto temptme; I am in no humour at present to give consequence toyoung ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better returnto your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your timewith me.”
Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; andElizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings toward him. Shetold the story, however, with great spirit among her friends; forshe had a lively, playful disposition,which delighted in anythingridiculous.
The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the wholefamily. Mrs. Bennet had seen her eldest daughter much admired bythe Netherfield party. Mr. Bingley had danced with her twice, andshe had been distinguishedby his sisters. Jane was as muchgratified by thisas her mother could be, though in a quieter way.Elizabeth felt Jane’s pleasure. Mary had heard herselfmentioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in theneighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydiahad been fortunate enoughnever to be without partners, which was all that they had yetlearnt to care for at a ball. They returned, therefore, in goodspirits to Longbourn, the village where they lived, and of whichthey were the principal inhabitants. They found Mr. Bennet stillup. With a book he was regardless of time; and on the presentoccasion he had a good deal of curiosity as to the event of anevening which had raised such splendid expectations. He had ratherhoped that his wife’s views on the stranger would bedisappointed; but he soon found out that he had a different storyto hear.
“Oh! my dear Mr. Bennet,” as she entered the room,“we have had a most delightful evening, a most excellentball. I wish you had been there. Jane was so admired, nothing couldbe like it. Everybody said how well she looked; and Mr. Bingleythought her quite beautiful, and danced with her twice! Only thinkofthat, my dear; he actually danced with her twice! and she was theonly creature in the room that he asked a second time. First ofall, he asked Miss Lucas. I was so vexed to see him stand up withher! But, however, he did not admire her at all; indeed, nobodycan, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she wasgoing down the dance. So he inquired who shewas, and gotintroduced, and asked her for the two next. Then the two third hedanced with Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and thetwo fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, andtheBoulanger—”
“If he had had any compassion forme,” cried herhusband impatiently, “he would not have danced half so much!For God’s sake, say no more of his partners. Oh that he hadsprained his ankle in the first dance!”
“Oh! my dear, I am quite delighted with him. He is soexcessively handsome! And his sisters are charming women. I neverin my life saw anything more elegant than their dresses. I dare saythe lace upon Mrs. Hurst’s gown—”
Here she was interrupted again. Mr. Bennet protested against anydescription of finery. She was therefore obliged to seek anotherbranch of the subject, and related, with much bitterness of spiritand some exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Mr. Darcy.
“But I can assure you,” she added, “that Lizzydoes not lose much by not suitinghisfancy; for he is a mostdisagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth pleasing. So high and soconceited that there was no enduring him! He walked here, and hewalked there, fancying himself so very great! Not handsome enoughto dance with! I wish you had been there, my dear, to havegiven himone of your set-downs. I quite detest the man.”
When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had beencautious in her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to hersister just how very much she admired him.
“He is justwhat a young man ought to be,” said she,“sensible, good-humoured, lively; and I never saw such happymanners!—so much ease, with such perfect goodbreeding!”
“He is also handsome,” replied Elizabeth,“which a young man ought likewise to be, if he possiblycan.His character is thereby complete.”
“I was very much flattered by his asking me to dance asecond time. I did not expect such a compliment.”
“Did not you? I did for you. But that is one greatdifference between us. Compliments always takeyouby surprise,andmenever. What could be more natural than his asking you again?He could not help seeing that you were about five times as prettyas every other woman in the room. No thanks to his gallantry forthat. Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave tolike him. You have liked many a stupider person.”
“Oh! you are a great deal too apt, you know, to likepeople in general. You never see a fault in anybody. All the worldare good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard youspeak ill ofa human being in your life.”
“I would not wish to be hasty in censuring anyone; but Ialways speak what I think.”
“I know you do; and it isthatwhich makes the wonder.Withyourgood sense, to be so honestly blind to the follies andnonsenseof others! Affectation of candour is commonenough—one meets with it everywhere. But to be candid withoutostentation or design—to take the good of everybody’scharacter and make it still better, and say nothing of thebad—belongs to you alone. And so youlike this man’ssisters, too, do you? Their manners are not equal tohis.”
“Certainly not—at first. But they are very pleasingwomen when you converse with them. Miss Bingley is to live with herbrother, and keep his house; and I am much mistaken if we shall notfind a very charming neighbour in her.”
Elizabeth listened in silence, but was not convinced; theirbehaviour at the assembly had not been calculated to please ingeneral; and with more quickness of observation and less pliancy oftemper than her sister, and with a judgement too unassailed by anyattention to herself, she was very little disposed to approve them.They were in fact very fine ladies; not deficient in good humourwhen they were pleased, nor in the power of making themselvesagreeable when they chose it, but proud and conceited. They wererather handsome, had been educated in one of the first privateseminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, werein the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associatingwith people of rank, and were therefore in every respect entitledto think well of themselves, and meanly of others. They were of arespectable family in the north of England; a circumstance moredeeply impressed on their memories than that their brother’sfortuneand their own had been acquired by trade.
Mr. Bingley inherited property to the amount of nearly a hundredthousand pounds from his father, who had intended to purchase anestate, but did not live to do it. Mr. Bingley intended itlikewise, and sometimesmade choice of his county; but as he was nowprovided with a good house and the liberty of a manor, it wasdoubtful to many of those who best knew the easiness of his temper,whether he might not spend the remainder of his days atNetherfield, and leave the next generation to purchase.
His sisters were anxious for his having an estate of his own;but, though he was now only established as a tenant, Miss Bingleywas by no means unwilling to preside at his table—nor wasMrs. Hurst, who had married a man of more fashion than fortune,less disposed to consider his house as her home when it suited her.Mr. Bingley had not been of age two years, when he was tempted byan accidental recommendation to look at Netherfield House. He didlook at it, and into it for half-an-hour—was pleased with thesituation and the principal rooms, satisfied with what the ownersaid in its praise, and took it immediately.
Between him and Darcy there was a very steady friendship, inspite of great opposition of character. Bingley was endeared toDarcy by the easiness, openness, and ductility of his temper,though no disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own,and though with his own he never appeared dissatisfied. On thestrength of Darcy’s regard, Bingley had the firmest reliance,and of his judgement the highest opinion. In understanding, Darcywas the superior. Bingley was by no means deficient, but Darcy wasclever. He was at the same time haughty, reserved, and fastidious,and his manners, though well-bred, were not inviting. In thatrespect his friend had greatly the advantage. Bingley was sure ofbeing liked wherever he appeared, Darcy was continually givingoffense.
The manner in which they spoke of the Meryton assembly wassufficiently characteristic. Bingley had nevermet with morepleasant people or prettier girls in his life; everybody had beenmost kind and attentive to him; there had been no formality, nostiffness; he had soon felt acquainted with all the room; and, asto Miss Bennet, he could not conceive an angelmore beautiful.Darcy, on the contrary, had seen a collection of people in whomthere was little beauty and no fashion, for none of whom he hadfelt the smallest interest, and from none received either attentionor pleasure. Miss Bennet he acknowledged tobe pretty, but shesmiled too much.
Mrs. Hurst and her sister allowed it to be so—but stillthey admired her and liked her, and pronounced her to be a sweetgirl, and one whom they would not object to know more of. MissBennet was therefore established asa sweet girl, and their brotherfelt authorized by such commendation to think of her as hechose.
Within a short walk of Longbourn lived a family with whom theBennets were particularly intimate. Sir William Lucas had beenformerly intrade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune,and risen to the honour of knighthood by an address to the kingduring his mayoralty. The distinction had perhaps been felt toostrongly. It had given him a disgust to his business, and to hisresidence in a small market town; and, in quitting them both, hehad removed with his family to a house about a mile from Meryton,denominated from that period Lucas Lodge, where he could think withpleasure of his own importance, and, unshackled by business, occupyhimself solely in being civil to all the world. For, though elatedby his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary,he was all attention to everybody. By nature inoffensive, friendly,and obliging, his presentation at St. James’s hadmade himcourteous.
Lady Lucas was a very good kind of woman, not too clever to be avaluable neighbour to Mrs. Bennet. They had several children. Theeldest of them, a sensible, intelligent young woman, abouttwenty-seven, was Elizabeth’s intimate friend.
That the Miss Lucases and the Miss Bennets should meet to talkover a ball was absolutely necessary; and the morning after theassembly brought the former to Longbourn to hear and tocommunicate.
“Youbegan the evening well, Charlotte,” said Mrs.Bennet with civil self-command to Miss Lucas. “Youwere Mr.Bingley’s first choice.”
“Yes; but he seemed to like his second better.”
“Oh! you mean Jane, I suppose, because he danced with hertwice. To be sure thatdidseem as if he admired her—indeed Irather believe hedid—I heard something about it—but Ihardly know what—something about Mr. Robinson.”
“Perhaps you mean what I overheard between him and Mr.Robinson; did not I mention it to you? Mr. Robinson’s askinghim how he liked our Meryton assemblies, and whether he did notthink there were a great many pretty women in the room, andwhichhethought the prettiest? and his answering immediately to the lastquestion: ‘Oh! the eldest Miss Bennet, beyond a doubt; therecannot be two opinions on that point.’”
“Uponmy word! Well, that is very decided indeed—thatdoes seem as if—but, however, it may all come to nothing, youknow.”
“Myoverhearings were more to the purpose thanyours,Eliza,” said Charlotte. “Mr. Darcy is not so well worthlistening to as his friend,is he?—poor Eliza!—to beonly justtolerable.”
“I beg you would not put it into Lizzy’s head to bevexed by his ill-treatment, for he is such a disagreeable man, thatit would be quite a misfortune to be liked by him. Mrs. Long toldme last night that he sat close to her for half-an-hour withoutonce opening his lips.”
“Are you quite sure, ma’am?—is not there alittle mistake?” said Jane. “I certainly saw Mr. Darcyspeaking to her.”
“Aye—because she asked him at last how he likedNetherfield, and he could not help answering her; but she said heseemed quite angry at being spoke to.”
“Miss Bingley told me,” said Jane, “that henever speaks much, unless among his intimate acquaintances.Withthemhe is remarkably agreeable.”
“I do not believe a word of it, mydear. If he had been sovery agreeable, he would have talked to Mrs. Long. But I can guesshow it was; everybody says that he is eat up with pride, and I daresay he had heard somehow that Mrs. Long does not keep a carriage,and had come to the ball in a hack chaise.”
“I do not mind his not talking to Mrs. Long,” saidMiss Lucas, “but I wish he had danced with Eliza.”
“Another time, Lizzy,” said her mother, “Iwould not dance withhim, if I were you.”
“I believe, ma’am, I may safely promise younevertodance with him.”
“His pride,” said Miss Lucas, “does notoffendmeso much as pride often does, because there is an excuse forit. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family,fortune, everything in his favour, should think highly ofhimself.If I may so express it, he has arightto beproud.”
“That is very true,” replied Elizabeth, “and Icould easily forgivehispride, if he had notmortifiedmine.”
“Pride,” observed Mary, who piqued herself upon thesolidity of her reflections, “is a verycommon failing, Ibelieve. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it isvery common indeed; that human nature is particularly prone to it,and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling ofself-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real orimaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the wordsare often used synonymously. A person may be proud without beingvain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity towhat we would have others think of us.”
“If I were as rich as Mr. Darcy,” cried a youngLucas, who came with his sisters, “I should not care howproud I was. I would keep a pack of foxhounds, and drink a bottleof wine a day.”
“Then you would drink a great deal more than youought,” said Mrs. Bennet; “and if I were to see you atit, I should take away your bottle directly.”
The boy protested that she should not; she continued to declarethat she would, and the argument ended only with the visit.
The ladies of Longbourn soon waited on those of Netherfield. Thevisit was soon returned in due form. Miss Bennet’s pleasingmanners grew on the goodwill of Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; andthough the mother was found to be intolerable, and the youngersisters not worth speaking to, a wish of being better acquaintedwiththemwas expressed towards the two eldest. By Jane, thisattention was received with the greatest pleasure, but Elizabethstill saw superciliousness in their treatment of everybody,hardlyexcepting even her sister, and could not like them; thoughtheir kindness to Jane, such as it was, had a value as arising inall probability from the influence of their brother’sadmiration. It was generally evident whenever they met, thathedidadmire her and toherit was equally evident that Jane wasyielding to the preference which she had begun to entertain for himfrom the first, and was in a way to be very much in love; but sheconsidered with pleasure that it was not likely to be discovered bytheworld in general, since Jane united, with great strength offeeling, a composure of temper and a uniform cheerfulness of mannerwhich would guard her from the suspicions of the impertinent. Shementioned this to her friend Miss Lucas.
“It may perhaps be pleasant,” replied Charlotte,“to be able to impose on the public in such a case; but it issometimes a disadvantage to be so very guarded. If a woman concealsher affection with the same skill from the object of it, she maylose the opportunity of fixing him; and it will then be but poorconsolation to believe the world equally in the dark. There is somuch of gratitude or vanity in almost every attachment, that it isnot safe to leave any to itself. We can allbeginfreely—aslight preference is natural enough; but there are very few of uswho have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement.In nine cases out of ten a women had better showmoreaffection thanshe feels. Bingley likes your sister undoubtedly; but he may neverdo more than like her, if she does not help him on.”
“But she does help him on, as much as her nature willallow. If I can perceive her regard for him, he must be asimpleton, indeed, not to discover it too.”
“Remember, Eliza, that hedoes not know Jane’sdisposition as you do.”
“But if a woman is partial to a man, and does notendeavour to conceal it, he must find it out.”
“Perhaps he must, if he sees enough of her. But, thoughBingley and Jane meet tolerably often, it is never for many hourstogether; and, as they always see each other in large mixedparties, it is impossible that every moment should be employed inconversing together. Jane should therefore make the most of everyhalf-hour in which she can command his attention. Whenshe is secureof him, there will be more leisure for falling in love as much asshe chooses.”
“Your plan is a good one,” replied Elizabeth,“where nothing is in question but the desire of being wellmarried, and if I were determined to get a rich husband,or anyhusband, I dare say I should adopt it. But these are notJane’s feelings; she is not acting by design. As yet, shecannot even be certain of the degree of her own regard nor of itsreasonableness. She has known him only a fortnight. She dancedfourdances with him at Meryton; she sawhim one morning at his ownhouse, and has since dined with him in company four times. This isnot quite enough to make her understand his character.”
“Not as you represent it. Had she merelydinedwith him, shemight only have discovered whether he had a good appetite; but youmust remember that four evenings have also been spenttogether—and four evenings may do a great deal.”
“Yes; these four evenings have enabled them to ascertainthat they both like Vingt-un better than Commerce; but with respectto any other leading characteristic, I do not imagine that much hasbeen unfolded.”
“Well,” said Charlotte, “I wish Jane successwith all my heart; and if she were married to him to-morrow, Ishould think she had as good a chance of happiness as if she wereto be studying his character for a twelvemonth. Happiness inmarriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of theparties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similarbeforehand, it does not advancetheir felicity in the least. Theyalways continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to havetheir share of vexation; and it is better to know as little aspossible of the defects of the person with whom you are to passyour life.”
“You make me laugh,Charlotte; but it is not sound. Youknow it is not sound, and that you would never act in this wayyourself.”
Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley’s attentions to hersister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herselfbecoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr.Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had lookedat her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, helooked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clearto himself andhis friends that she hardly had a good feature in herface, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligentby the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discoverysucceeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detectedwith acritical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in herform, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light andpleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were notthose of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easyplayfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware; to her he was onlythe man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thoughther handsome enough to dance with.
He began to wish to know more of her, and as a step towardsconversing with her himself, attended to her conversation withothers. His doing so drew her notice. It was at Sir WilliamLucas’s, where a large party were assembled.
“What does Mr. Darcy mean,” said she to Charlotte,“by listening to my conversation with ColonelForster?”
“That is a question which Mr. Darcy only cananswer.”
“But if he does it any more I shall certainly let him knowthat I see what he is about. He has a very satirical eye, and if Ido not begin by being impertinent myself, I shall soon grow afraidof him.”
On his approaching them soon afterwards, though without seemingto have any intention of speaking, Miss Lucas defied her friend tomention such a subject to him; which immediately provokingElizabeth to do it, she turned to him and said:
“Did you not think, Mr. Darcy,that I expressed myselfuncommonly well just now, when I was teasing Colonel Forster togive us a ball at Meryton?”
“With great energy; but it is always a subject which makesa lady energetic.”
“You are severe on us.”
“It will beherturn soon to be teased,” said MissLucas. “I am going to open the instrument, Eliza, and youknow what follows.”
“You are a very strange creature by way of afriend!—always wanting me to play and sing before anybody andeverybody! If my vanity had taken a musical turn, you would havebeen invaluable; but as it is, I would really rather not sit downbefore those who must be in the habit of hearing the very bestperformers.” On Miss Lucas’s persevering, however, sheadded, “Very well, if it must be so, it must.” Andgravely glancing at Mr. Darcy, “There is a fine old saying,which everybody here is of course familiar with: ‘Keep yourbreath to cool your porridge’; and I shall keep mine to swellmy song.”
Her performance was pleasing, though by no means capital. Aftera song or two, and before she could reply to the entreaties ofseveral that she would sing again, she was eagerly succeeded at theinstrument by her sister Mary, who having, in consequence of beingthe only plain one in the family, worked hard for knowledge andaccomplishments, was always impatient for display.
Mary had neither genius nor taste; and though vanity had givenher application, it had given her likewise a pedantic air andconceited manner, which would have injured a higher degree ofexcellence than she had reached. Elizabeth, easy and unaffected,had been listened to with much more pleasure, though not playinghalf so well; and Mary, at the end of a long concerto, was glad topurchase praise and gratitude by Scotch and Irish airs, at therequest of her younger sisters, who, with some of the Lucases, andtwo or three officers, joined eagerly in dancing at one end of theroom.
Mr. Darcy stood near them in silent indignation at such a modeof passing the evening, to the exclusion of all conversation, andwas toomuch engrossed by his thoughts to perceive that Sir WilliamLucas was his neighbour, till Sir William thus began:
“What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr.Darcy! There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it asone of the first refinements of polished society.”
“Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being invogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Everysavage can dance.”
Sir William only smiled. “Your friend performsdelightfully,” he continued after apause, on seeing Bingleyjoin the group; “and I doubt not that you are an adept in thescience yourself, Mr. Darcy.”
“You saw me dance at Meryton, I believe, sir.”
“Yes, indeed, and received no inconsiderable pleasure fromthe sight. Do you often dance atSt. James’s?”
“Do you not think it would be a proper compliment to theplace?”
“It is a compliment which I never pay to any place if Ican avoid it.”
“You have a house in town, I conclude?”
Mr. Darcy bowed.
“I had once had some thought of fixing in townmyself—for I am fond of superior society; but I did not feelquite certain that the air of London would agree with LadyLucas.”
He paused in hopes of an answer; but his companion was notdisposed to make any; and Elizabeth at that instant moving towardsthem, he was struck with the action of doing a very gallant thing,and called out to her:
“My dear Miss Eliza, why are you not dancing? Mr. Darcy,you must allow me to present this young lady to you as a verydesirable partner. You cannot refuseto dance, I am sure when somuch beauty is before you.” And, taking her hand, he wouldhave given it to Mr. Darcy who, though extremely surprised, was notunwilling to receive it, when she instantly drew back, and saidwith some discomposure to Sir William:
“Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing. Ientreat you not to suppose that I moved this way in order to begfor a partner.”
Mr. Darcy, with grave propriety, requested to be allowed thehonour of her hand, but in vain. Elizabeth was determined; nor didSir William at all shake her purpose by his attempt atpersuasion.
“You excel so much in the dance, Miss Eliza, that it iscruel to deny me the happiness of seeing you; and though thisgentleman dislikes the amusement in general, he can havenoobjection, I am sure, to oblige us for one half-hour.”
“Mr. Darcy is all politeness,” said Elizabeth,smiling.
“He is, indeed; but, considering the inducement, my dearMiss Eliza, we cannot wonder at his complaisance—for whowould object to such a partner?”
Elizabeth looked archly, and turned away. Her resistance had notinjured her with the gentleman, and he was thinking of her withsome complacency, when thus accosted by Miss Bingley:
“I can guess the subject of your reverie.”
“I should imagine not.”
“You are considering how insupportable it would be to passmany evenings in this manner—in such society; and indeed I amquite of your opinion. I was never more annoyed! The insipidity,and yet the noise—the nothingness, and yet theself-importance of all those people! What would I give to hear yourstrictures on them!”
“Your conjecture is totally wrong, I assure you. My mindwas more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the verygreat pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a prettywomancan bestow.”
Miss Bingley immediately fixed her eyes on his face, and desiredhe would tell her what lady had the credit of inspiring suchreflections. Mr. Darcy replied with great intrepidity:
“Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”
“Miss Elizabeth Bennet!” repeated Miss Bingley.“I am all astonishment. How long has she been such afavourite?—and pray, when am I to wish you joy?”
“That is exactly the question which I expected you to ask.A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admirationto love, from love to matrimony, in a moment. I knew you would bewishing me joy.”
“Nay, if you are serious about it, I shall consider thematter is absolutely settled. You will be having a charmingmother-in-law, indeed; and, of course, she will always be atPemberley with you.”
He listened to her with perfect indifference while she chose toentertain herself in this manner; and as his composure convincedher that all was safe, her wit flowed long.
Mr. Bennet’s property consisted almost entirely in anestate oftwo thousand a year, which, unfortunately for hisdaughters, was entailed, in default of heirs male, on a distantrelation; and their mother’s fortune, though ample for hersituation in life, could but ill supply the deficiency of his. Herfather had beenan attorney in Meryton, and had left her fourthousand pounds.
She had a sister married to a Mr. Phillips, who had been a clerkto their father and succeeded him in the business, and a brothersettled in London in a respectable line of trade.
The villageof Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton; a mostconvenient distance for the young ladies, who were usually temptedthither three or four times a week, to pay their duty to their auntand to a milliner’s shop just over the way. The two youngestof the family, Catherine and Lydia, were particularly frequent inthese attentions; their minds were more vacant than theirsisters’, and when nothing better offered, a walk to Merytonwas necessary to amuse their morning hours and furnish conversationfor the evening; and however bare of news the country in generalmight be, they always contrived to learn some from their aunt. Atpresent, indeed, they were well supplied both with news andhappiness by the recent arrival of a militia regiment in theneighbourhood;it was to remain the whole winter, and Meryton wasthe headquarters.
Their visits to Mrs. Phillips were now productive of the mostinteresting intelligence. Every day added something to theirknowledge of the officers’ names and connections. Theirlodgingswere not long a secret, and at length they began to knowthe officers themselves. Mr. Phillips visited them all, and thisopened to his nieces a store of felicity unknown before. They couldtalk of nothing but officers; and Mr. Bingley’s largefortune, the mention of which gave animation to their mother, wasworthless in their eyes when opposed to the regimentals of anensign.
After listening one morning to their effusions on this subject,Mr. Bennet coolly observed:
“From all that I can collect by your manner of talking,you must be two of the silliest girls in the country. I havesuspected it some time, but I am now convinced.”
Catherine was disconcerted, and made no answer; but Lydia, withperfect indifference, continued to express her admiration ofCaptain Carter, and her hope of seeing him in the course of theday, as he was going the next morning to London.
“I am astonished, my dear,” said Mrs. Bennet,“that you should be so ready to think your own childrensilly. If I wished to think slightingly of anybody’schildren, it should not be of my own, however.”
“If my children are silly, I must hope to be alwayssensible of it.”
“Yes—but as it happens, they are all of them veryclever.”
“This is the only point, I flatter myself, on which we donot agree. I had hoped that our sentiments coincided in everyparticular, but I must so far differ from you as to think our twoyoungest daughters uncommonly foolish.”
“My dear Mr. Bennet, you must not expect such girls tohave the sense of their father and mother. Whenthey get to our age,I dare say they will not think about officers any more than we do.I remember the time when I liked a red coat myself verywell—and, indeed, so I do still at my heart; and if a smartyoung colonel, with five or six thousand a year, should want one ofmy girls I shall not say nay to him; and I thought Colonel Forsterlooked very becoming the other night at Sir William’s in hisregimentals.”
“Mamma,” cried Lydia, “my aunt says thatColonel Forster and Captain Carter do not go so often toMissWatson’s as they did when they first came; she sees them nowvery often standing in Clarke’s library.”
Mrs. Bennet was prevented replying by the entrance of thefootman with a note for Miss Bennet; it came from Netherfield, andthe servant waited foran answer. Mrs. Bennet’s eyes sparkledwith pleasure, and she was eagerly calling out, while her daughterread,
“Well, Jane, who is it from? What is it about? What doeshe say? Well, Jane, make haste and tell us; make haste, mylove.”
“It is from Miss Bingley,” said Jane, and then readit aloud.
“MY DEAR FRIEND,—
“If you are not so compassionate as to dine to-day withLouisa and me, we shall be in danger of hating each other for therest of our lives, for a whole day’s tete-a-tete between twowomen can never end without a quarrel. Come as soon as you can onreceipt of this. My brother and the gentlemen are to dine with theofficers.—Yours ever,
“With the officers!” cried Lydia. “I wonder myaunt did not tell us ofthat.”
“Dining out,” said Mrs. Bennet, “that is veryunlucky.”
“Can I have the carriage?” said Jane.
“No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because itseems likely to rain; and then you must stay all night.”
“That would be a good scheme,” said Elizabeth,“if you were surethat they would not offer to send herhome.”
“Oh! but the gentlemen will have Mr. Bingley’schaise to go to Meryton, and the Hursts have no horses totheirs.”
“I had much rather go in the coach.”
“But, my dear, your father cannot spare the horses, Iamsure. They are wanted in the farm, Mr. Bennet, are theynot?”
“They are wanted in the farm much oftener than I can getthem.”
“But if you have got them to-day,” said Elizabeth,“my mother’s purpose will be answered.”
She did at last extort from her fatheran acknowledgment that thehorses were engaged. Jane was therefore obliged to go on horseback,and her mother attended her to the door with many cheerfulprognostics of a bad day. Her hopes were answered; Jane had notbeen gone long before it rained hard.Her sisters were uneasy forher, but her mother wasdelighted. The rain continued the wholeevening without intermission; Jane certainly could not comeback.
“This was a lucky idea of mine, indeed!” said Mrs.Bennet more than once, as if the credit of making it rain were allher own. Till the next morning, however, she was not aware of allthe felicity of her contrivance. Breakfast was scarcely over when aservant from Netherfield brought the following note forElizabeth:
“MY DEAREST LIZZY,—
“I find myselfvery unwell this morning, which, I suppose,is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kindfriends will not hear of my returning till I am better. They insistalso on my seeing Mr. Jones—therefore do not be alarmed ifyou should hear of hishaving been to me—and, excepting a sorethroat and headache, there is not much the matter withme.—Yours, etc.”
“Well, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth hadread the note aloud, “if your daughter should have adangerous fit of illness—if she shoulddie, it would be acomfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, andunder your orders.”
“Oh! I am not afraid of her dying. People do not die oflittle trifling colds. She will be taken good care of. As long asshe stays there, it is all verywell. I would go and see her if Icould have the carriage.”
Elizabeth, feeling really anxious, was determined to go to her,though the carriage was not to be had; and as she was nohorsewoman, walking was her only alternative. She declared herresolution.
“How can you be so silly,” cried her mother,“as to think of such a thing, in all this dirt! You will notbe fit to be seen when you get there.”
“I shall be very fit to see Jane—which is all Iwant.”
“Is this a hint to me, Lizzy,” said her father,“tosend for the horses?”
“No, indeed, I do not wish to avoid the walk. The distanceis nothing when one has a motive; only three miles. I shall be backby dinner.”
“I admire the activity of your benevolence,”observed Mary, “but every impulse of feeling should be guidedby reason; and, in my opinion, exertion should always be inproportion to what is required.”
“We will go as far as Meryton with you,” saidCatherine and Lydia. Elizabeth accepted their company, and thethree young ladies set off together.
“If we make haste,” said Lydia, as they walkedalong, “perhaps we may see something of Captain Carter beforehe goes.”
In Meryton they parted; the two youngest repaired to thelodgings of one of the officers’ wives, and Elizabethcontinued her walk alone, crossing field after field at a quickpace, jumping over stiles and springing over puddles with impatientactivity, and finding herself at last within view of the house,with weary ankles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with thewarmth of exercise.
She wasshown into the breakfast-parlour, where all but Jane wereassembled, and where her appearance created a great deal ofsurprise. That she should have walked threemiles so early in theday, in such dirty weather, and by herself, was almost incredibleto Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and Elizabeth was convinced thatthey held her in contempt for it. She was received, however, verypolitely by them; and in their brother’s manners there wassomething better than politeness; there was good humour andkindness. Mr. Darcy said very little, and Mr. Hurst nothing at all.The former was divided between admiration of the brilliancy whichexercise had given to her complexion, and doubt as to theoccasion’s justifying her coming so far alone. The latter wasthinking onlyof his breakfast.
Her inquiries after her sister were not very favourablyanswered. Miss Bennet had slept ill, and though up, was veryfeverish, and not well enough to leave her room. Elizabeth was gladto be taken to her immediately; and Jane, who had only beenwithheld by the fear of giving alarm or inconvenience fromexpressing in her note how much she longed for such a visit, wasdelighted at her entrance. She was not equal, however, to muchconversation, and when Miss Bingley left them together,couldattempt little besides expressions of gratitude for theextraordinary kindness she was treated with. Elizabeth silentlyattended her.
When breakfast was over they were joined by the sisters; andElizabeth began to like them herself, when she saw howmuchaffection and solicitude they showed for Jane. The apothecarycame, and having examined his patient, said, as might be supposed,that she had caught a violent cold, and that they must endeavour toget the better of it; advised her to return to bed, and promisedher some draughts. The advice was followed readily, for thefeverish symptoms increased, and her head ached acutely. Elizabethdid not quit her room for a moment; nor were the other ladies oftenabsent; the gentlemen being out, they had, in fact, nothing to doelsewhere.
When the clock struck three, Elizabeth felt that she must go,and very unwillingly said so. Miss Bingley offered her thecarriage, and she only wanted a little pressing to accept it, whenJane testified such concern in parting with her, that Miss Bingleywas obliged to convert the offer of the chaise to an invitation toremain at Netherfield for the present. Elizabeth most thankfullyconsented, and a servant was dispatched to Longbourn to acquaintthe family with her stay and bring back a supply of clothes.
At five o’clock the two ladies retired to dress, and athalf-past six Elizabeth was summoned to dinner. To the civilinquiries which then poured in, and amongst which she had thepleasure of distinguishing the muchsuperior solicitude of Mr.Bingley’s, she could not make a very favourable answer. Janewas by no means better. The sisters, on hearing this, repeatedthree or four times how much they were grieved, how shocking it wasto have a bad cold, and how excessively they disliked being illthemselves; and then thought no more of the matter: and theirindifference towards Jane when not immediately before them restoredElizabeth to the enjoyment of all her former dislike.
Their brother, indeed, was the only one of the party whom shecould regard with any complacency. His anxiety for Jane wasevident, and his attentions to herself most pleasing, and theyprevented her feeling herself so much an intruder as she believedshe was considered by the others. She had very little notice fromany but him. Miss Bingley was engrossed by Mr. Darcy, her sisterscarcely less so; and as for Mr. Hurst, by whom Elizabeth sat, hewas an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play atcards; who, when he found her to prefer a plain dish to a ragout,had nothing to say to her.
When dinner was over, she returned directly to Jane, and MissBingley began abusing her as soon as she was out of the room. Hermanners were pronounced to be very bad indeed, a mixture of prideandimpertinence; she had no conversation, no style, no beauty. Mrs.Hurst thought the same, and added:
“She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being anexcellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning.She really looked almost wild.”
“She did, indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep mycountenance. Very nonsensical to come at all! Why mustshebescampering about the country, because her sister had a cold? Herhair, so untidy, so blowsy!”
“Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, sixinches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which hadbeen let down to hide it not doing its office.”
“Your picture may be very exact, Louisa,” saidBingley; “but this was all lost upon me. I thought MissElizabeth Bennet looked remarkably well when she came into the roomthis morning. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped mynotice.”
“Youobserved it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure,” said MissBingley; “and I am inclined to think that you would not wishto seeyoursister make such an exhibition.”
“To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, orwhatever it is, above her ankles in dirt, and alone, quite alone!What could she mean by it? It seems to me to show an abominablesort of conceited independence, a most country-townindifference todecorum.”
“It shows an affection for her sister that is verypleasing,” said Bingley.
“I am afraid, Mr. Darcy,” observed Miss Bingley in ahalf whisper, “that this adventure has rather affected youradmiration of her fine eyes.”
“Not at all,” he replied; “they werebrightened by the exercise.” A short pause followed thisspeech, and Mrs. Hurst began again:
“I have an excessive regard for Miss Jane Bennet, she isreally a very sweet girl, and I wish with all my heart she werewell settled. But with such a father and mother, and such lowconnections, I am afraid there is no chance of it.”
“I think I have heard you say that their uncle is anattorney in Meryton.”
“Yes; and they have another, who lives somewhere nearCheapside.”
“That is capital,” added her sister, and they bothlaughed heartily.
“If they had uncles enough to fillallCheapside,”cried Bingley, “it would not make them one jot lessagreeable.”
“But it must very materially lessen their chance ofmarrying men of any consideration inthe world,” repliedDarcy.
To this speech Bingley made no answer; but his sisters gave ittheir hearty assent, and indulged their mirth for some time at theexpense of their dear friend’s vulgar relations.
With a renewal of tenderness, however, they returned to her roomon leaving the dining-parlour, and sat with her till summoned tocoffee. She was still very poorly, and Elizabeth would not quit herat all, till late in the evening, when she had the comfort ofseeing her sleep, and when it seemed to her rather right thanpleasant that she should go downstairs herself. On entering thedrawing-room she found the whole party at loo, and was immediatelyinvited to join them; but suspecting them to be playing high shedeclined it, and making her sister the excuse, said she would amuseherself for the short time she could stay below, with a book. Mr.Hurst looked at her with astonishment.
“Do you prefer reading to cards?” said he;“that is rather singular.”
“Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley,“despises cards.She is a great reader, and has no pleasure inanything else.”
“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,”cried Elizabeth; “I amnota great reader, and I have pleasurein many things.”
“In nursing your sister I am sure you havepleasure,” said Bingley; “and I hope it will be soonincreased by seeing her quite well.”
Elizabeth thanked him from her heart, and then walked towardsthe table where a few books were lying. He immediately offered tofetch her others—all that his library afforded.
“And I wish my collection were larger for your benefit andmy own credit; but I am an idle fellow, and though I have not many,I have more than I ever looked into.”
Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly withthose in the room.
“I amastonished,” said Miss Bingley, “that myfather should have left so small a collection of books. What adelightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy!”
“It ought to be good,” he replied, “it hasbeen the work of many generations.”
“And then you haveadded so much to it yourself, you arealways buying books.”
“I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library insuch days as these.”
“Neglect! I am sure you neglect nothing that can add tothe beauties of that noble place. Charles, when you buildyourhouse,I wish it may be half as delightful as Pemberley.”
“I wish it may.”
“But I would really advise you to make your purchase inthat neighbourhood, and take Pemberley for a kind of model. Thereis not a finer county in England than Derbyshire.”
“With all my heart; I will buy Pemberley itself if Darcywill sell it.”
“I am talking of possibilities, Charles.”
“Upon my word, Caroline, I should think it more possibleto get Pemberley by purchase than by imitation.”
Elizabeth was so much caught with what passed, as to leave hervery little attention for her book; and soon laying it whollyaside, she drew near the card-table, and stationed herself betweenMr. Bingley and his eldest sister, to observe the game.
“Is Miss Darcy much grown since the spring?” saidMiss Bingley; “will she be as tall as I am?”
“I think she will. She is now about Miss ElizabethBennet’s height, or rather taller.”
“How I long to see her again! I never met with anybody whodelighted me so much. Such a countenance, such manners! And soextremely accomplished for her age! Her performance on thepianoforte is exquisite.”
“It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “howyoung ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as theyall are.”
“All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, whatdoyou mean?”
“Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, coverscreens, and net purses. I scarcely know anyone who cannot do allthis, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for thefirst time, without being informed that she was veryaccomplished.”
“Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,”said Darcy, “has too much truth. The word is applied to manya woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse orcovering a screen. But I am very far from agreeing with you in yourestimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing morethan half-a-dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that arereally accomplished.”
“Nor I, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley.
“Then,” observed Elizabeth, “you mustcomprehend a great dealin your idea of an accomplishedwoman.”
“Yes, I do comprehend a great deal in it.”
“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant,“no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does notgreatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have athorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and themodern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, shemust possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking,the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the wordwill be but half-deserved.”
“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “andto all this she must yet add something more substantial, in theimprovement of her mind by extensive reading.”
“I am no longer surprised at your knowingonlysixaccomplished women. Irather wonder now at yourknowingany.”
“Are you so severe upon your own sex as to doubt thepossibility of all this?”
“I never saw such a woman. I never saw such capacity, andtaste, and application, and elegance, as you describeunited.”
Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley both cried out against the injusticeof her implied doubt, and were both protesting that they knew manywomen who answered this description, when Mr. Hurst called them toorder, with bitter complaints of their inattention to what wasgoing forward. As all conversation was thereby at an end, Elizabethsoon afterwards left the room.
“Elizabeth Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, when the doorwas closed on her, “is one of those young ladies who seek torecommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluingtheir own; andwith many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my opinion, it is apaltry device, a very mean art.”
“Undoubtedly,” replied Darcy, to whom this remarkwas chiefly addressed, “there is a meanness inallthe artswhich ladies sometimes condescend to employ for captivation.Whatever bears affinity to cunning is despicable.”
Miss Bingley was not so entirely satisfied with this reply as tocontinue the subject.
Elizabeth joined them again only to say that her sister wasworse, and that she couldnot leave her. Bingley urged Mr. Jonesbeing sent for immediately; while his sisters, convinced that nocountry advice could be of any service, recommended an express totown for one of the most eminent physicians. This she would nothear of; but she was not so unwilling to comply with theirbrother’s proposal; and it was settled that Mr. Jones shouldbe sent for early in the morning, if Miss Bennet were not decidedlybetter. Bingley was quite uncomfortable; his sisters declared thatthey were miserable. They solaced their wretchedness, however, byduets after supper, while he could find no better relief to hisfeelings than by giving his housekeeper directions that everyattention might be paid to the sick lady and her sister.
Elizabethpassed the chief of the night in her sister’sroom, and in the morning had the pleasure of being able to send atolerable answer to the inquiries which she very early receivedfrom Mr. Bingley by a housemaid, and some time afterwards from thetwo elegant ladies who waited on his sisters. In spite of thisamendment, however, she requested to have a note sent to Longbourn,desiring her mother to visit Jane, and form her own judgement ofher situation. The note was immediately dispatched, and itscontents as quickly complied with. Mrs. Bennet, accompanied by hertwo youngest girls, reached Netherfield soon after the familybreakfast.
Had she found Jane in any apparent danger, Mrs. Bennet wouldhave been very miserable; but being satisfied on seeing her thatherillness was not alarming, she had no wish of her recoveringimmediately, as her restoration to health would probably remove herfrom Netherfield. She would not listen, therefore, to herdaughter’s proposal of being carried home; neither did theapothecary, who arrived about the same time, think it at alladvisable. After sitting a little while with Jane, on MissBingley’s appearance and invitation, the mother and threedaughters all attended her into the breakfast parlour. Bingley metthem with hopes thatMrs. Bennet had not found Miss Bennet worsethan she expected.
“Indeed I have, sir,” was her answer. “She isa great deal too ill to be moved. Mr. Jones says we must not thinkof moving her. We must trespass a little longer on yourkindness.”
“Removed!” cried Bingley. “It must not bethought of. My sister, I am sure, will not hear of herremoval.”
“You may depend upon it, Madam,” said Miss Bingley,with cold civility, “that Miss Bennet will receive everypossible attention while she remains with us.”
Mrs. Bennet was profuse in her acknowledgments.
“I am sure,” she added, “if it was not forsuch good friends I do not know what would become of her, for sheis very ill indeed, and suffers a vast deal, though with thegreatest patience in the world, which is always the way with her,for she has, without exception, the sweetest temper I have ever metwith. I often tell my other girls they are nothing toher. You havea sweet room here, Mr. Bingley, and a charming prospect over thegravel walk. I do not know a place in the country that is equal toNetherfield. You will not think of quitting it in a hurry, I hope,though you have but a short lease.”
“Whatever I do is done in a hurry,” replied he;“and therefore if I should resolve to quit Netherfield, Ishould probably be off in five minutes. At present, however, Iconsider myself as quite fixed here.”
“That is exactly what I should have supposed ofyou,” said Elizabeth.
“You begin to comprehend me, do you?” cried he,turning towards her.
“Oh! yes—I understand youperfectly.”