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Chapter 11

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 other 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.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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