FictionForest

Chapter 10

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

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The day passed much as the day before
had done.  Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley had spent
some hours of the morning with the invalid, who continued,
though slowly, to mend; and in the evening Elizabeth
joined their party in the drawing-room.  The loo-table,
however, did not appear.  Mr. Darcy was writing,
and Miss Bingley, seated near him, was watching the
progress of his letter and repeatedly calling off his
attention by messages to his sister.  Mr. Hurst
and Mr. Bingley were at piquet, and Mrs. Hurst was
observing their game.

Elizabeth took up some needlework,
and was sufficiently amused in attending to what passed
between Darcy and his companion.  The perpetual
commendations of the lady, either on his handwriting,
or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length
of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which
her praises were received, formed a curious dialogue,
and was exactly in union with her opinion of each.

“How delighted Miss Darcy will
be to receive such a letter!”

He made no answer.

“You write uncommonly fast.”

“You are mistaken.  I write rather slowly.”

“How many letters you must have
occasion to write in the course of a year!  Letters
of business, too!  How odious I should think them!”

“It is fortunate, then, that they fall to my
lot instead of yours.”

“Pray tell your sister that I long to see her.”

“I have already told her so once, by your desire.”

“I am afraid you do not like
your pen.  Let me mend it for you.  I mend
pens remarkably well.”

“Thank you ­but I always mend my own.”

“How can you contrive to write so even?”

He was silent.

“Tell your sister I am delighted
to hear of her improvement on the harp; and pray let
her know that I am quite in raptures with her beautiful
little design for a table, and I think it infinitely
superior to Miss Grantley’s.”

“Will you give me leave to defer
your raptures till I write again?  At present
I have not room to do them justice.”

“Oh! it is of no consequence. 
I shall see her in January.  But do you always
write such charming long letters to her, Mr. Darcy?”

“They are generally long; but
whether always charming it is not for me to determine.”

“It is a rule with me, that
a person who can write a long letter with ease, cannot
write ill.”

“That will not do for a compliment
to Darcy, Caroline,” cried her brother, “because
he does not write with ease.  He studies
too much for words of four syllables.  Do not
you, Darcy?”

“My style of writing is very different from
yours.”

“Oh!” cried Miss Bingley,
“Charles writes in the most careless way imaginable. 
He leaves out half his words, and blots the rest.”

“My ideas flow so rapidly that
I have not time to express them ­by which
means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to
my correspondents.”

“Your humility, Mr. Bingley,”
said Elizabeth, “must disarm reproof.”

“Nothing is more deceitful,”
said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. 
It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes
an indirect boast.”

“And which of the two do you
call my little recent piece of modesty?”

“The indirect boast; for you
are really proud of your defects in writing, because
you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity of
thought and carelessness of execution, which, if not
estimable, you think at least highly interesting. 
The power of doing anything with quickness is always
prized much by the possessor, and often without any
attention to the imperfection of the performance. 
When you told Mrs. Bennet this morning that if you
ever resolved upon quitting Netherfield you should
be gone in five minutes, you meant it to be a sort
of panegyric, of compliment to yourself ­and
yet what is there so very laudable in a precipitance
which must leave very necessary business undone, and
can be of no real advantage to yourself or anyone else?”

“Nay,” cried Bingley,
“this is too much, to remember at night all the
foolish things that were said in the morning. 
And yet, upon my honour, I believe what I said of
myself to be true, and I believe it at this moment. 
At least, therefore, I did not assume the character
of needless precipitance merely to show off before
the ladies.”

“I dare say you believed it;
but I am by no means convinced that you would be gone
with such celerity.  Your conduct would be quite
as dependent on chance as that of any man I know;
and if, as you were mounting your horse, a friend
were to say, ’Bingley, you had better stay till
next week,’ you would probably do it, you would
probably not go ­and at another word, might
stay a month.”

“You have only proved by this,”
cried Elizabeth, “that Mr. Bingley did not do
justice to his own disposition.  You have shown
him off now much more than he did himself.”

“I am exceedingly gratified,”
said Bingley, “by your converting what my friend
says into a compliment on the sweetness of my temper. 
But I am afraid you are giving it a turn which that
gentleman did by no means intend; for he would certainly
think better of me, if under such a circumstance I
were to give a flat denial, and ride off as fast as
I could.”

“Would Mr. Darcy then consider
the rashness of your original intentions as atoned
for by your obstinacy in adhering to it?”

“Upon my word, I cannot exactly
explain the matter; Darcy must speak for himself.”

“You expect me to account for
opinions which you choose to call mine, but which
I have never acknowledged.  Allowing the case,
however, to stand according to your representation,
you must remember, Miss Bennet, that the friend who
is supposed to desire his return to the house, and
the delay of his plan, has merely desired it, asked
it without offering one argument in favour of its
propriety.”

“To yield readily ­easily ­to
the persuasion of a friend is no merit with
you.”

“To yield without conviction
is no compliment to the understanding of either.”

“You appear to me, Mr. Darcy,
to allow nothing for the influence of friendship and
affection.  A regard for the requester would often
make one readily yield to a request, without waiting
for arguments to reason one into it.  I am not
particularly speaking of such a case as you have supposed
about Mr. Bingley.  We may as well wait, perhaps,
till the circumstance occurs before we discuss the
discretion of his behaviour thereupon.  But in
general and ordinary cases between friend and friend,
where one of them is desired by the other to change
a resolution of no very great moment, should you think
ill of that person for complying with the desire,
without waiting to be argued into it?”

“Will it not be advisable, before
we proceed on this subject, to arrange with rather
more precision the degree of importance which is to
appertain to this request, as well as the degree of
intimacy subsisting between the parties?”

“By all means,” cried
Bingley; “let us hear all the particulars, not
forgetting their comparative height and size; for that
will have more weight in the argument, Miss Bennet,
than you may be aware of.  I assure you, that
if Darcy were not such a great tall fellow, in comparison
with myself, I should not pay him half so much deference. 
I declare I do not know a more awful object than Darcy,
on particular occasions, and in particular places;
at his own house especially, and of a Sunday evening,
when he has nothing to do.”

Mr. Darcy smiled; but Elizabeth thought
she could perceive that he was rather offended, and
therefore checked her laugh.  Miss Bingley warmly
resented the indignity he had received, in an expostulation
with her brother for talking such nonsense.

“I see your design, Bingley,”
said his friend.  “You dislike an argument,
and want to silence this.”

“Perhaps I do.  Arguments
are too much like disputes.  If you and Miss Bennet
will defer yours till I am out of the room, I shall
be very thankful; and then you may say whatever you
like of me.”

“What you ask,” said Elizabeth,
“is no sacrifice on my side; and Mr. Darcy had
much better finish his letter.”

Mr. Darcy took her advice, and did finish his letter.

When that business was over, he applied
to Miss Bingley and Elizabeth for an indulgence of
some music.  Miss Bingley moved with some alacrity
to the pianoforte; and, after a polite request that
Elizabeth would lead the way which the other as politely
and more earnestly negatived, she seated herself.

Mrs. Hurst sang with her sister, and
while they were thus employed, Elizabeth could not
help observing, as she turned over some music-books
that lay on the instrument, how frequently Mr. Darcy’s
eyes were fixed on her.  She hardly knew how to
suppose that she could be an object of admiration
to so great a man; and yet that he should look at her
because he disliked her, was still more strange. 
She could only imagine, however, at last that she
drew his notice because there was something more wrong
and reprehensible, according to his ideas of right,
than in any other person present.  The supposition
did not pain her.  She liked him too little to
care for his approbation.

After playing some Italian songs,
Miss Bingley varied the charm by a lively Scotch air;
and soon afterwards Mr. Darcy, drawing near Elizabeth,
said to her: 

“Do not you feel a great inclination,
Miss Bennet, to seize such an opportunity of dancing
a reel?”

She smiled, but made no answer. 
He repeated the question, with some surprise at her
silence.

“Oh!” said she, “I
heard you before, but I could not immediately determine
what to say in reply.  You wanted me, I know, to
say ‘Yes,’ that you might have the pleasure
of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing
those kind of schemes, and cheating a person of their
premeditated contempt.  I have, therefore, made
up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance
a reel at all ­and now despise me if you
dare.”

“Indeed I do not dare.”

Elizabeth, having rather expected
to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there
was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner
which made it difficult for her to affront anybody;
and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman
as he was by her.  He really believed, that were
it not for the inferiority of her connections, he
should be in some danger.

Miss Bingley saw, or suspected enough
to be jealous; and her great anxiety for the recovery
of her dear friend Jane received some assistance from
her desire of getting rid of Elizabeth.

She often tried to provoke Darcy into
disliking her guest, by talking of their supposed
marriage, and planning his happiness in such an alliance.

“I hope,” said she, as
they were walking together in the shrubbery the next
day, “you will give your mother-in-law a few
hints, when this desirable event takes place, as to
the advantage of holding her tongue; and if you can
compass it, do cure the younger girls of running after
officers.  And, if I may mention so delicate a
subject, endeavour to check that little something,
bordering on conceit and impertinence, which your
lady possesses.”

“Have you anything else to propose
for my domestic felicity?”

“Oh! yes.  Do let the portraits
of your uncle and aunt Phillips be placed in the gallery
at Pemberley.  Put them next to your great-uncle
the judge.  They are in the same profession, you
know, only in different lines.  As for your Elizabeth’s
picture, you must not have it taken, for what painter
could do justice to those beautiful eyes?”

“It would not be easy, indeed,
to catch their expression, but their colour and shape,
and the eyelashes, so remarkably fine, might be copied.”

At that moment they were met from
another walk by Mrs. Hurst and Elizabeth herself.

“I did not know that you intended
to walk,” said Miss Bingley, in some confusion,
lest they had been overheard.

“You used us abominably ill,”
answered Mrs. Hurst, “running away without telling
us that you were coming out.”

Then taking the disengaged arm of
Mr. Darcy, she left Elizabeth to walk by herself. 
The path just admitted three.  Mr. Darcy felt their
rudeness, and immediately said: 

“This walk is not wide enough
for our party.  We had better go into the avenue.”

But Elizabeth, who had not the least
inclination to remain with them, laughingly answered: 

“No, no; stay where you are. 
You are charmingly grouped, and appear to uncommon
advantage.  The picturesque would be spoilt by
admitting a fourth.  Good-bye.”

She then ran gaily off, rejoicing
as she rambled about, in the hope of being at home
again in a day or two.  Jane was already so much
recovered as to intend leaving her room for a couple
of hours that evening.

 

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