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Chapter 10

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 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, that 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 meditated 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 sure 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 get
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.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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