FictionForest

Chapter 9

Jane AustenAug 15, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Elizabeth passed the chief of the
night in her sister’s room, and in the morning
had the pleasure of being able to send a tolerable
answer to the inquiries which she very early received
from Mr. Bingley by a housemaid, and some time afterwards
from the two elegant ladies who waited on his sisters. 
In spite of this amendment, however, she requested
to have a note sent to Longbourn, desiring her mother
to visit Jane, and form her own judgement of her situation. 
The note was immediately dispatched, and its contents
as quickly complied with.  Mrs. Bennet, accompanied
by her two youngest girls, reached Netherfield soon
after the family breakfast.

Had she found Jane in any apparent
danger, Mrs. Bennet would have been very miserable;
but being satisfied on seeing her that her illness
was not alarming, she had no wish of her recovering
immediately, as her restoration to health would probably
remove her from Netherfield.  She would not listen,
therefore, to her daughter’s proposal of being
carried home; neither did the apothecary, who arrived
about the same time, think it at all advisable. 
After sitting a little while with Jane, on Miss Bingley’s
appearance and invitation, the mother and three daughters
all attended her into the breakfast parlour. 
Bingley met them with hopes that Mrs. Bennet had not
found Miss Bennet worse than she expected.

“Indeed I have, sir,”
was her answer.  “She is a great deal too
ill to be moved.  Mr. Jones says we must not think
of moving her.  We must trespass a little longer
on your kindness.”

“Removed!” cried Bingley. 
“It must not be thought of.  My sister, I
am sure, will not hear of her removal.”

“You may depend upon it, Madam,”
said Miss Bingley, with cold civility, “that
Miss Bennet will receive every possible attention while
she remains with us.”

Mrs. Bennet was profuse in her acknowledgments.

“I am sure,” she added,
“if it was not for such good friends I do not
know what would become of her, for she is very ill
indeed, and suffers a vast deal, though with the greatest
patience in the world, which is always the way with
her, for she has, without exception, the sweetest
temper I have ever met with.  I often tell my other
girls they are nothing to her.  You have
a sweet room here, Mr. Bingley, and a charming prospect
over the gravel walk.  I do not know a place in
the country that is equal to Netherfield.  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, I should probably
be off in five minutes.  At present, however,
I consider myself as quite fixed here.”

“That is exactly what I should
have supposed of you,” said Elizabeth.

“You begin to comprehend me,
do you?” cried he, turning towards her.

“Oh! yes ­I understand you perfectly.”

“I wish I might take this for
a compliment; but to be so easily seen through I am
afraid is pitiful.”

“That is as it happens. 
It does not follow that a deep, intricate character
is more or less estimable than such a one as yours.”

“Lizzy,” cried her mother,
“remember where you are, and do not run on in
the wild manner that you are suffered to do at home.”

“I did not know before,”
continued Bingley immediately, “that you were
a studier of character.  It must be an amusing
study.”

“Yes, but intricate characters
are the most amusing.  They have at least
that advantage.”

“The country,” said Darcy,
“can in general supply but a few subjects for
such a study.  In a country neighbourhood you move
in a very confined and unvarying society.”

“But people themselves alter
so much, that there is something new to be observed
in them for ever.”

“Yes, indeed,” cried Mrs.
Bennet, offended by his manner of mentioning a country
neighbourhood.  “I assure you there is quite
as much of that going on in the country as
in town.”

Everybody was surprised, and Darcy,
after looking at her for a moment, turned silently
away.  Mrs. Bennet, who fancied she had gained
a complete victory over him, continued her triumph.

“I cannot see that London has
any great advantage over the country, for my part,
except the shops and public places.  The country
is a vast deal pleasanter, is it not, Mr. Bingley?”

“When I am in the country,”
he replied, “I never wish to leave it; and when
I am in town it is pretty much the same.  They
have each their advantages, and I can be equally happy
in either.”

“Aye ­that is because
you have the right disposition.  But that gentleman,”
looking at Darcy, “seemed to think the country
was nothing at all.”

“Indeed, Mamma, you are mistaken,”
said Elizabeth, blushing for her mother.  “You
quite mistook Mr. Darcy.  He only meant that there
was not such a variety of people to be met with in
the country as in the town, which you must acknowledge
to be true.”

“Certainly, my dear, nobody
said there were; but as to not meeting with many people
in this neighbourhood, I believe there are few neighbourhoods
larger.  I know we dine with four-and-twenty families.”

Nothing but concern for Elizabeth
could enable Bingley to keep his countenance. 
His sister was less delicate, and directed her eyes
towards Mr. Darcy with a very expressive smile. 
Elizabeth, for the sake of saying something that might
turn her mother’s thoughts, now asked her if
Charlotte Lucas had been at Longbourn since her
coming away.

“Yes, she called yesterday with
her father.  What an agreeable man Sir William
is, Mr. Bingley, is not he?  So much the man of
fashion!  So genteel and easy!  He had always
something to say to everybody. That is my idea
of good breeding; and those persons who fancy themselves
very important, and never open their mouths, quite
mistake the matter.”

“Did Charlotte dine with you?”

“No, she would go home. 
I fancy she was wanted about the mince-pies.  For
my part, Mr. Bingley, I always keep servants that can
do their own work; my daughters are brought
up very differently.  But everybody is to judge
for themselves, and the Lucases are a very good sort
of girls, I assure you.  It is a pity they are
not handsome!  Not that I think Charlotte so very
plain ­but then she is our particular friend.”

“She seems a very pleasant young woman.”

“Oh! dear, yes; but you must
own she is very plain.  Lady Lucas herself has
often said so, and envied me Jane’s beauty. 
I do not like to boast of my own child, but to be
sure, Jane ­one does not often see anybody
better looking.  It is what everybody says. 
I do not trust my own partiality.  When she was
only fifteen, there was a man at my brother Gardiner’s
in town so much in love with her that my sister-in-law
was sure he would make her an offer before we came
away.  But, however, he did not.  Perhaps
he thought her too young.  However, he wrote some
verses on her, and very pretty they were.”

“And so ended his affection,”
said Elizabeth impatiently.  “There has
been many a one, I fancy, overcome in the same way. 
I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry
in driving away love!”

“I have been used to consider
poetry as the food of love,” said Darcy.

“Of a fine, stout, healthy love
it may.  Everything nourishes what is strong already. 
But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination,
I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it
entirely away.”

Darcy only smiled; and the general
pause which ensued made Elizabeth tremble lest her
mother should be exposing herself again.  She longed
to speak, but could think of nothing to say; and after
a short silence Mrs. Bennet began repeating her thanks
to Mr. Bingley for his kindness to Jane, with an apology
for troubling him also with Lizzy.  Mr. Bingley
was unaffectedly civil in his answer, and forced his
younger sister to be civil also, and say what the
occasion required.  She performed her part indeed
without much graciousness, but Mrs. Bennet was satisfied,
and soon afterwards ordered her carriage.  Upon
this signal, the youngest of her daughters put herself
forward.  The two girls had been whispering to
each other during the whole visit, and the result of
it was, that the youngest should tax Mr. Bingley with
having promised on his first coming into the country
to give a ball at Netherfield.

Lydia was a stout, well-grown girl
of fifteen, with a fine complexion and good-humoured
countenance; a favourite with her mother, whose affection
had brought her into public at an early age.  She
had high animal spirits, and a sort of natural self-consequence,
which the attention of the officers, to whom her uncle’s
good dinners, and her own easy manners recommended
her, had increased into assurance.  She was very
equal, therefore, to address Mr. Bingley on the subject
of the ball, and abruptly reminded him of his promise;
adding, that it would be the most shameful thing in
the world if he did not keep it.  His answer to
this sudden attack was delightful to their mother’s
ear: 

“I am perfectly ready, I assure
you, to keep my engagement; and when your sister is
recovered, you shall, if you please, name the very
day of the ball.  But you would not wish to be
dancing when she is ill.”

Lydia declared herself satisfied. 
“Oh! yes ­it would be much better to
wait till Jane was well, and by that time most likely
Captain Carter would be at Meryton again.  And
when you have given your ball,” she added,
“I shall insist on their giving one also. 
I shall tell Colonel Forster it will be quite a shame
if he does not.”

Mrs. Bennet and her daughters then
departed, and Elizabeth returned instantly to Jane,
leaving her own and her relations’ behaviour
to the remarks of the two ladies and Mr. Darcy; the
latter of whom, however, could not be prevailed on
to join in their censure of her, in spite of
all Miss Bingley’s witticisms on fine eyes.

 

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