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Chapter 54

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

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As soon as they were gone, Elizabeth
walked out to recover her spirits; or in other words,
to dwell without interruption on those subjects that
must deaden them more.  Mr. Darcy’s behaviour
astonished and vexed her.

“Why, if he came only to be
silent, grave, and indifferent,” said she, “did
he come at all?”

She could settle it in no way that gave her pleasure.

“He could be still amiable,
still pleasing, to my uncle and aunt, when he was
in town; and why not to me?  If he fears me, why
come hither?  If he no longer cares for me, why
silent?  Teasing, teasing, man!  I will think
no more about him.”

Her resolution was for a short time
involuntarily kept by the approach of her sister,
who joined her with a cheerful look, which showed her
better satisfied with their visitors, than Elizabeth.

“Now,” said she, “that
this first meeting is over, I feel perfectly easy. 
I know my own strength, and I shall never be embarrassed
again by his coming.  I am glad he dines here
on Tuesday.  It will then be publicly seen that,
on both sides, we meet only as common and indifferent
acquaintance.”

“Yes, very indifferent indeed,”
said Elizabeth, laughingly.  “Oh, Jane,
take care.”

“My dear Lizzy, you cannot think
me so weak, as to be in danger now?”

“I think you are in very great
danger of making him as much in love with you as ever.”

They did not see the gentlemen again
till Tuesday; and Mrs. Bennet, in the meanwhile, was
giving way to all the happy schemes, which the good
humour and common politeness of Bingley, in half an
hour’s visit, had revived.

On Tuesday there was a large party
assembled at Longbourn; and the two who were most
anxiously expected, to the credit of their punctuality
as sportsmen, were in very good time.  When they
repaired to the dining-room, Elizabeth eagerly watched
to see whether Bingley would take the place, which,
in all their former parties, had belonged to him, by
her sister.  Her prudent mother, occupied by the
same ideas, forbore to invite him to sit by herself. 
On entering the room, he seemed to hesitate; but Jane
happened to look round, and happened to smile: 
it was decided.  He placed himself by her.

Elizabeth, with a triumphant sensation,
looked towards his friend.  He bore it with noble
indifference, and she would have imagined that Bingley
had received his sanction to be happy, had she not
seen his eyes likewise turned towards Mr. Darcy, with
an expression of half-laughing alarm.

His behaviour to her sister was such,
during dinner time, as showed an admiration of her,
which, though more guarded than formerly, persuaded
Elizabeth, that if left wholly to himself, Jane’s
happiness, and his own, would be speedily secured. 
Though she dared not depend upon the consequence,
she yet received pleasure from observing his behaviour. 
It gave her all the animation that her spirits could
boast; for she was in no cheerful humour.  Mr.
Darcy was almost as far from her as the table could
divide them.  He was on one side of her mother. 
She knew how little such a situation would give pleasure
to either, or make either appear to advantage. 
She was not near enough to hear any of their discourse,
but she could see how seldom they spoke to each other,
and how formal and cold was their manner whenever
they did.  Her mother’s ungraciousness,
made the sense of what they owed him more painful to
Elizabeth’s mind; and she would, at times, have
given anything to be privileged to tell him that his
kindness was neither unknown nor unfelt by the whole
of the family.

She was in hopes that the evening
would afford some opportunity of bringing them together;
that the whole of the visit would not pass away without
enabling them to enter into something more of conversation
than the mere ceremonious salutation attending his
entrance.  Anxious and uneasy, the period which
passed in the drawing-room, before the gentlemen came,
was wearisome and dull to a degree that almost made
her uncivil.  She looked forward to their entrance
as the point on which all her chance of pleasure for
the evening must depend.

“If he does not come to me,
then,” said she, “I shall give him
up for ever.”

The gentlemen came; and she thought
he looked as if he would have answered her hopes;
but, alas! the ladies had crowded round the table,
where Miss Bennet was making tea, and Elizabeth pouring
out the coffee, in so close a confederacy that there
was not a single vacancy near her which would admit
of a chair.  And on the gentlemen’s approaching,
one of the girls moved closer to her than ever, and
said, in a whisper: 

“The men shan’t come and
part us, I am determined.  We want none of them;
do we?”

Darcy had walked away to another part
of the room.  She followed him with her eyes,
envied everyone to whom he spoke, had scarcely patience
enough to help anybody to coffee; and then was enraged
against herself for being so silly!

“A man who has once been refused! 
How could I ever be foolish enough to expect a renewal
of his love?  Is there one among the sex, who would
not protest against such a weakness as a second proposal
to the same woman?  There is no indignity so abhorrent
to their feelings!”

She was a little revived, however,
by his bringing back his coffee cup himself; and she
seized the opportunity of saying: 

“Is your sister at Pemberley still?”

“Yes, she will remain there till Christmas.”

“And quite alone?  Have all her friends
left her?”

“Mrs. Annesley is with her. 
The others have been gone on to Scarborough, these
three weeks.”

She could think of nothing more to
say; but if he wished to converse with her, he might
have better success.  He stood by her, however,
for some minutes, in silence; and, at last, on the
young lady’s whispering to Elizabeth again,
he walked away.

When the tea-things were removed,
and the card-tables placed, the ladies all rose, and
Elizabeth was then hoping to be soon joined by him,
when all her views were overthrown by seeing him fall
a victim to her mother’s rapacity for whist
players, and in a few moments after seated with the
rest of the party.  She now lost every expectation
of pleasure.  They were confined for the evening
at different tables, and she had nothing to hope,
but that his eyes were so often turned towards her
side of the room, as to make him play as unsuccessfully
as herself.

Mrs. Bennet had designed to keep the
two Netherfield gentlemen to supper; but their carriage
was unluckily ordered before any of the others, and
she had no opportunity of detaining them.

“Well girls,” said she,
as soon as they were left to themselves, “What
say you to the day?  I think every thing has passed
off uncommonly well, I assure you.  The dinner
was as well dressed as any I ever saw.  The venison
was roasted to a turn ­and everybody said
they never saw so fat a haunch.  The soup was
fifty times better than what we had at the Lucases’
last week; and even Mr. Darcy acknowledged, that the
partridges were remarkably well done; and I suppose
he has two or three French cooks at least.  And,
my dear Jane, I never saw you look in greater beauty. 
Mrs. Long said so too, for I asked her whether you
did not.  And what do you think she said besides? 
’Ah!  Mrs. Bennet, we shall have her at
Netherfield at last.’  She did indeed. 
I do think Mrs. Long is as good a creature as ever
lived ­and her nieces are very pretty behaved
girls, and not at all handsome:  I like them prodigiously.”

Mrs. Bennet, in short, was in very
great spirits; she had seen enough of Bingley’s
behaviour to Jane, to be convinced that she would get
him at last; and her expectations of advantage to
her family, when in a happy humour, were so far beyond
reason, that she was quite disappointed at not seeing
him there again the next day, to make his proposals.

“It has been a very agreeable
day,” said Miss Bennet to Elizabeth.  “The
party seemed so well selected, so suitable one with
the other.  I hope we may often meet again.”

Elizabeth smiled.

“Lizzy, you must not do so. 
You must not suspect me.  It mortifies me. 
I assure you that I have now learnt to enjoy his conversation
as an agreeable and sensible young man, without having
a wish beyond it.  I am perfectly satisfied, from
what his manners now are, that he never had any design
of engaging my affection.  It is only that he is
blessed with greater sweetness of address, and a stronger
desire of generally pleasing, than any other man.”

“You are very cruel,”
said her sister, “you will not let me smile,
and are provoking me to it every moment.”

“How hard it is in some cases to be believed!”

“And how impossible in others!”

“But why should you wish to
persuade me that I feel more than I acknowledge?”

“That is a question which I
hardly know how to answer.  We all love to instruct,
though we can teach only what is not worth knowing. 
Forgive me; and if you persist in indifference, do
not make me your confidante.”

 

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