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Chapter 45

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

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Convinced as Elizabeth now was that
Miss Bingley’s dislike of her had originated
in jealousy, she could not help feeling how unwelcome
her appearance at Pemberley must be to her, and was
curious to know with how much civility on that lady’s
side the acquaintance would now be renewed.

On reaching the house, they were shown
through the hall into the saloon, whose northern aspect
rendered it delightful for summer.  Its windows
opening to the ground, admitted a most refreshing view
of the high woody hills behind the house, and of the
beautiful oaks and Spanish chestnuts which were scattered
over the intermediate lawn.

In this house they were received by
Miss Darcy, who was sitting there with Mrs. Hurst
and Miss Bingley, and the lady with whom she lived
in London.  Georgiana’s reception of them
was very civil, but attended with all the embarrassment
which, though proceeding from shyness and the fear
of doing wrong, would easily give to those who felt
themselves inferior the belief of her being proud
and reserved.  Mrs. Gardiner and her niece, however,
did her justice, and pitied her.

By Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley they
were noticed only by a curtsey; and, on their being
seated, a pause, awkward as such pauses must always
be, succeeded for a few moments.  It was first
broken by Mrs. Annesley, a genteel, agreeable-looking
woman, whose endeavour to introduce some kind of discourse
proved her to be more truly well-bred than either of
the others; and between her and Mrs. Gardiner, with
occasional help from Elizabeth, the conversation was
carried on.  Miss Darcy looked as if she wished
for courage enough to join in it; and sometimes did
venture a short sentence when there was least danger
of its being heard.

Elizabeth soon saw that she was herself
closely watched by Miss Bingley, and that she could
not speak a word, especially to Miss Darcy, without
calling her attention.  This observation would
not have prevented her from trying to talk to the
latter, had they not been seated at an inconvenient
distance; but she was not sorry to be spared the necessity
of saying much.  Her own thoughts were employing
her.  She expected every moment that some of the
gentlemen would enter the room.  She wished, she
feared that the master of the house might be amongst
them; and whether she wished or feared it most, she
could scarcely determine.  After sitting in this
manner a quarter of an hour without hearing Miss Bingley’s
voice, Elizabeth was roused by receiving from her a
cold inquiry after the health of her family. 
She answered with equal indifference and brevity,
and the others said no more.

The next variation which their visit
afforded was produced by the entrance of servants
with cold meat, cake, and a variety of all the finest
fruits in season; but this did not take place till
after many a significant look and smile from Mrs.
Annesley to Miss Darcy had been given, to remind her
of her post.  There was now employment for the
whole party ­for though they could not all
talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids
of grapes, nectarines, and peaches soon collected
them round the table.

While thus engaged, Elizabeth had
a fair opportunity of deciding whether she most feared
or wished for the appearance of Mr. Darcy, by the
feelings which prevailed on his entering the room;
and then, though but a moment before she had believed
her wishes to predominate, she began to regret that
he came.

He had been some time with Mr. Gardiner,
who, with two or three other gentlemen from the house,
was engaged by the river, and had left him only on
learning that the ladies of the family intended a visit
to Georgiana that morning.  No sooner did he appear
than Elizabeth wisely resolved to be perfectly easy
and unembarrassed; a resolution the more necessary
to be made, but perhaps not the more easily kept, because
she saw that the suspicions of the whole party were
awakened against them, and that there was scarcely
an eye which did not watch his behaviour when he first
came into the room.  In no countenance was attentive
curiosity so strongly marked as in Miss Bingley’s,
in spite of the smiles which overspread her face whenever
she spoke to one of its objects; for jealousy had
not yet made her desperate, and her attentions to
Mr. Darcy were by no means over.  Miss Darcy, on
her brother’s entrance, exerted herself much
more to talk, and Elizabeth saw that he was anxious
for his sister and herself to get acquainted, and forwarded
as much as possible, every attempt at conversation
on either side.  Miss Bingley saw all this likewise;
and, in the imprudence of anger, took the first opportunity
of saying, with sneering civility: 

“Pray, Miss Eliza, are not the
­shire Militia removed from Meryton? 
They must be a great loss to your family.”

In Darcy’s presence she dared
not mention Wickham’s name; but Elizabeth instantly
comprehended that he was uppermost in her thoughts;
and the various recollections connected with him gave
her a moment’s distress; but exerting herself
vigorously to repel the ill-natured attack, she presently
answered the question in a tolerably detached tone. 
While she spoke, an involuntary glance showed her
Darcy, with a heightened complexion, earnestly looking
at her, and his sister overcome with confusion, and
unable to lift up her eyes.  Had Miss Bingley known
what pain she was then giving her beloved friend,
she undoubtedly would have refrained from the hint;
but she had merely intended to discompose Elizabeth
by bringing forward the idea of a man to whom she believed
her partial, to make her betray a sensibility which
might injure her in Darcy’s opinion, and, perhaps,
to remind the latter of all the follies and absurdities
by which some part of her family were connected with
that corps.  Not a syllable had ever reached her
of Miss Darcy’s meditated elopement.  To
no creature had it been revealed, where secrecy was
possible, except to Elizabeth; and from all Bingley’s
connections her brother was particularly anxious to
conceal it, from the very wish which Elizabeth had
long ago attributed to him, of their becoming hereafter
her own.  He had certainly formed such a plan,
and without meaning that it should effect his endeavour
to separate him from Miss Bennet, it is probable that
it might add something to his lively concern for the
welfare of his friend.

Elizabeth’s collected behaviour,
however, soon quieted his emotion; and as Miss Bingley,
vexed and disappointed, dared not approach nearer to
Wickham, Georgiana also recovered in time, though not
enough to be able to speak any more.  Her brother,
whose eye she feared to meet, scarcely recollected
her interest in the affair, and the very circumstance
which had been designed to turn his thoughts from
Elizabeth seemed to have fixed them on her more and
more cheerfully.

Their visit did not continue long
after the question and answer above mentioned; and
while Mr. Darcy was attending them to their carriage
Miss Bingley was venting her feelings in criticisms
on Elizabeth’s person, behaviour, and dress. 
But Georgiana would not join her.  Her brother’s
recommendation was enough to ensure her favour; his
judgement could not err.  And he had spoken in
such terms of Elizabeth as to leave Georgiana without
the power of finding her otherwise than lovely and
amiable.  When Darcy returned to the saloon, Miss
Bingley could not help repeating to him some part
of what she had been saying to his sister.

“How very ill Miss Eliza Bennet
looks this morning, Mr. Darcy,” she cried; “I
never in my life saw anyone so much altered as she
is since the winter.  She is grown so brown and
coarse!  Louisa and I were agreeing that we should
not have known her again.”

However little Mr. Darcy might have
liked such an address, he contented himself with coolly
replying that he perceived no other alteration than
her being rather tanned, no miraculous consequence
of travelling in the summer.

“For my own part,” she
rejoined, “I must confess that I never could
see any beauty in her.  Her face is too thin; her
complexion has no brilliancy; and her features are
not at all handsome.  Her nose wants character ­there
is nothing marked in its lines.  Her teeth are
tolerable, but not out of the common way; and as for
her eyes, which have sometimes been called so fine,
I could never see anything extraordinary in them. 
They have a sharp, shrewish look, which I do not like
at all; and in her air altogether there is a self-sufficiency
without fashion, which is intolerable.”

Persuaded as Miss Bingley was that
Darcy admired Elizabeth, this was not the best method
of recommending herself; but angry people are not always
wise; and in seeing him at last look somewhat nettled,
she had all the success she expected.  He was
resolutely silent, however, and, from a determination
of making him speak, she continued: 

“I remember, when we first knew
her in Hertfordshire, how amazed we all were to find
that she was a reputed beauty; and I particularly recollect
your saying one night, after they had been dining at
Netherfield, ’She a beauty! ­I
should as soon call her mother a wit.’  But
afterwards she seemed to improve on you, and I believe
you thought her rather pretty at one time.”

“Yes,” replied Darcy,
who could contain himself no longer, “but that
was only when I first saw her, for it is many months
since I have considered her as one of the handsomest
women of my acquaintance.”

He then went away, and Miss Bingley
was left to all the satisfaction of having forced
him to say what gave no one any pain but herself.

Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth talked
of all that had occurred during their visit, as they
returned, except what had particularly interested them
both.  The look and behaviour of everybody they
had seen were discussed, except of the person who
had mostly engaged their attention.  They talked
of his sister, his friends, his house, his fruit ­of
everything but himself; yet Elizabeth was longing
to know what Mrs. Gardiner thought of him, and Mrs.
Gardiner would have been highly gratified by her niece’s
beginning the subject.

 

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