FictionForest

Chapter 11

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

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When the ladies removed after dinner,
Elizabeth ran up to her sister, and seeing her well
guarded from cold, attended her into the drawing-room,
where she was welcomed by her two friends with many
professions of pleasure; and Elizabeth had never seen
them so agreeable as they were during the hour which
passed before the gentlemen appeared.  Their powers
of conversation were considerable.  They could
describe an entertainment with accuracy, relate an
anecdote with humour, and laugh at their acquaintance
with spirit.

But when the gentlemen entered, Jane
was no longer the first object; Miss Bingley’s
eyes were instantly turned toward Darcy, and she had
something to say to him before he had advanced many
steps.  He addressed himself to Miss Bennet, with
a polite congratulation; Mr. Hurst also made her a
slight bow, and said he was “very glad;”
but diffuseness and warmth remained for Bingley’s
salutation.  He was full of joy and attention. 
The first half-hour was spent in piling up the fire,
lest she should suffer from the change of room; and
she removed at his desire to the other side of the
fireplace, that she might be further from the door. 
He then sat down by her, and talked scarcely to anyone
else.  Elizabeth, at work in the opposite corner,
saw it all with great delight.

When tea was over, Mr. Hurst reminded
his sister-in-law of the card-table ­but
in vain.  She had obtained private intelligence
that Mr. Darcy did not wish for cards; and Mr. Hurst
soon found even his open petition rejected.  She
assured him that no one intended to play, and the
silence of the whole party on the subject seemed to
justify her.  Mr. Hurst had therefore nothing
to do, but to stretch himself on one of the sofas
and go to sleep.  Darcy took up a book; Miss Bingley
did the same; and Mrs. Hurst, principally occupied
in playing with her bracelets and rings, joined now
and then in her brother’s conversation with Miss
Bennet.

Miss Bingley’s attention was
quite as much engaged in watching Mr. Darcy’s
progress through his book, as in reading her
own; and she was perpetually either making some inquiry,
or looking at his page.  She could not win him,
however, to any conversation; he merely answered her
question, and read on.  At length, quite exhausted
by the attempt to be amused with her own book, which
she had only chosen because it was the second volume
of his, she gave a great yawn and said, “How
pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! 
I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! 
How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! 
When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable
if I have not an excellent library.”

No one made any reply.  She then
yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes
round the room in quest for some amusement; when hearing
her brother mentioning a ball to Miss Bennet, she turned
suddenly towards him and said: 

“By the bye, Charles, are you
really serious in meditating a dance at Netherfield? 
I would advise you, before you determine on it, to
consult the wishes of the present party; I am much
mistaken if there are not some among us to whom a
ball would be rather a punishment than a pleasure.”

“If you mean Darcy,” cried
her brother, “he may go to bed, if he chooses,
before it begins ­but as for the ball, it
is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls
has made white soup enough, I shall send round my
cards.”

“I should like balls infinitely
better,” she replied, “if they were carried
on in a different manner; but there is something insufferably
tedious in the usual process of such a meeting. 
It would surely be much more rational if conversation
instead of dancing were made the order of the day.”

“Much more rational, my dear
Caroline, I dare say, but it would not be near so
much like a ball.”

Miss Bingley made no answer, and soon
afterwards she got up and walked about the room. 
Her figure was elegant, and she walked well; but Darcy,
at whom it was all aimed, was still inflexibly studious. 
In the desperation of her feelings, she resolved on
one effort more, and, turning to Elizabeth, said: 

“Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade
you to follow my example, and take a turn about the
room.  I assure you it is very refreshing after
sitting so long in one attitude.”

Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed
to it immediately.  Miss Bingley succeeded no
less in the real object of her civility; Mr. Darcy
looked up.  He was as much awake to the novelty
of attention in that quarter as Elizabeth herself
could be, and unconsciously closed his book.  He
was directly invited to join their party, but he declined
it, observing that he could imagine but two motives
for their choosing to walk up and down the room together,
with either of which motives his joining them would
interfere.  “What could he mean?  She
was dying to know what could be his meaning?” ­and
asked Elizabeth whether she could at all understand
him?

“Not at all,” was her
answer; “but depend upon it, he means to be severe
on us, and our surest way of disappointing him will
be to ask nothing about it.”

Miss Bingley, however, was incapable
of disappointing Mr. Darcy in anything, and persevered
therefore in requiring an explanation of his two motives.

“I have not the smallest objection
to explaining them,” said he, as soon as she
allowed him to speak.  “You either choose
this method of passing the evening because you are
in each other’s confidence, and have secret
affairs to discuss, or because you are conscious that
your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking;
if the first, I would be completely in your way, and
if the second, I can admire you much better as I sit
by the fire.”

“Oh! shocking!” cried
Miss Bingley.  “I never heard anything so
abominable.  How shall we punish him for such a
speech?”

“Nothing so easy, if you have
but the inclination,” said Elizabeth.  “We
can all plague and punish one another.  Tease him ­laugh
at him.  Intimate as you are, you must know how
it is to be done.”

“But upon my honour, I do not
I do assure you that my intimacy has not yet taught
me that.  Tease calmness of manner and presence
of mind!  No, no ­feel he may defy us
there.  And as to laughter, we will not expose
ourselves, if you please, by attempting to laugh without
a subject.  Mr. Darcy may hug himself.”

“Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed
at!” cried Elizabeth.  “That is an
uncommon advantage, and uncommon I hope it will continue,
for it would be a great loss to me to have
many such acquaintances.  I dearly love a laugh.”

“Miss Bingley,” said he,
“has given me more credit than can be. 
The wisest and the best of men ­nay, the
wisest and best of their actions ­may be
rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object
in life is a joke.”

“Certainly,” replied Elizabeth ­“there
are such people, but I hope I am not one of them
I hope I never ridicule what is wise and good. 
Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, do
divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can. 
But these, I suppose, are precisely what you are without.”

“Perhaps that is not possible
for anyone.  But it has been the study of my life
to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong
understanding to ridicule.”

“Such as vanity and pride.”

“Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. 
But pride ­where there is a real superiority
of mind, pride will be always under good regulation.”

Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile.

“Your examination of Mr. Darcy
is over, I presume,” said Miss Bingley; “and
pray what is the result?”

“I am perfectly convinced by
it that Mr. Darcy has no defect.  He owns it himself
without disguise.”

“No,” said Darcy, “I
have made no such pretension.  I have faults enough,
but they are not, I hope, of understanding.  My
temper I dare not vouch for.  It is, I believe,
too little yielding ­certainly too little
for the convenience of the world.  I cannot forget
the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought,
nor their offenses against myself.  My feelings
are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. 
My temper would perhaps be called resentful. 
My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.”

That is a failing indeed!”
cried Elizabeth.  “Implacable resentment
is a shade in a character.  But you have
chosen your fault well.  I really cannot laugh
at it.  You are safe from me.”

“There is, I believe, in every
disposition a tendency to some particular evil ­a
natural defect, which not even the best education can
overcome.”

“And your defect is to hate everybody.”

“And yours,” he replied
with a smile, “is willfully to misunderstand
them.”

“Do let us have a little music,”
cried Miss Bingley, tired of a conversation in which
she had no share.  “Louisa, you will not
mind my waking Mr. Hurst?”

Her sister had not the smallest objection,
and the pianoforte was opened; and Darcy, after a
few moments’ recollection, was not sorry for
it.  He began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth
too much attention.

 

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