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Chapter 45

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 the servants with cold meat, cake, and a variety
of all 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 she 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 know 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 acquaintances."

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.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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